Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Certain delightful English towns, with glimpses of the pleasant country between
Author: Howells, William Dean
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Certain delightful English towns, with glimpses of the pleasant country between" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



produced from images available at The Internet Archive)



                          Certain delightful
                             English Towns


                             W. D. Howells

                 [Illustration: WESTGATE, SOUTHAMPTON]



                          CERTAIN DELIGHTFUL
                             ENGLISH TOWNS

                     WITH GLIMPSES OF THE PLEASANT
                            COUNTRY BETWEEN

                             W. D. HOWELLS

                              ILLUSTRATED

                            [Illustration]

                     HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
                          NEW YORK AND LONDON
                                 1906



                Copyright, 1906, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

                        _All rights reserved._

                       Published October, 1906.



CONTENTS


CHAP.                                                               PAGE

   I. THE LANDING OF A PILGRIM AT PLYMOUTH                             1

  II. TWENTY-FOUR HOURS AT EXETER                                     22

 III. A FORTNIGHT IN BATH                                             39

  IV. A COUNTRY TOWN AND A COUNTRY HOUSE                              83

   V. AFTERNOONS IN WELLS AND BRISTOL                                103

  VI. BY WAY OF SOUTHAMPTON TO LONDON                                122

 VII. IN FOLKESTONE OUT OF SEASON                                    143

VIII. KENTISH NEIGHBORHOODS, INCLUDING CANTERBURY                    173

  IX. OXFORD                                                         193

   X. THE CHARM OF CHESTER                                           219

  XI. MALVERN AMONG HER HILLS                                        237

 XII. SHREWSBURY BY WAY OF WORCESTER AND HEREFORD                    257

XIII.  NORTHAMPTON AND THE WASHINGTON COUNTRY                        275



ILLUSTRATIONS


WESTGATE, SOUTHAMPTON                                      _Frontispiece_

“THE PROMENADE ... A PROMONTORY PUSHED WELL
OUT INTO THE SOUND”                                        _Facing p._ 4

LOOKING DOWN FROM THE HOE                                          "   8

A GROUP OF PUBLIC EDIFICES, MODERN PLYMOUTH                        "  10

OLD HOUSES ALOOF FROM THE WATER                                    "  16

A BIT OF COUNTRY BETWEEN PLYMOUTH AND EXETER                       "  22

“IN EXETER OUR FIRST CATHEDRAL WAS WAITING US”                     "  24

THE CASTLE OF ROUGEMONT                                            "  26

“THE CATHEDRAL ... A SOFT GRAY BLUR OF AGE-WORN CARVING”           "  28

GREAT PULTENEY STREET                                              "  42

THE RED-TILED HOUSE-ROOFS AND CHURCH SPIRES OF BATH                "  48

CIRCUS FROM BENNET STREET                                          "  50

THE GUINEA-PIG MAN                                                 "  80

SAXON CHAPEL AT BRADFORD                                           "  84

KINGSTON HOUSE, BRADFORD                                           "  88

SUTTON COURT, ONE OF ENGLAND’S HISTORIC HOUSES                     "  94

WELLS CATHEDRAL, FROM SOUTHEAST                                    "  106

MARKET-PLACE, WELLS                                                "  110

BRISTOL HARBOR AND DRAWBRIDGE                                      "  112

CLIFTON, FROM ASHTON MEADOWS                                       "  116

GORGE OF THE AVON, WITH ST. VINCENT’S ROCKS                        "  120

THE SOUTH SHORE, SOUTHAMPTON                                       "  126

“THE PIER WAS A PRIVATE ENTERPRISE                                 "  128

THE  OLD  TOWER  WALL

“THE TRAM’S COURSE WAS LARGELY THROUGH UMBRAGEOUS AVENUES”         "  140

THE BEACH, FOLKESTONE                                              "  144

THE PIER WITH ITS PAVILION                                         "  146

THE SHELTER UNDER THE LEAS                                         "  148

THE FISH-MARKET AT FOLKESTONE                                      "  150

THE ANCIENT CHURCH AT HYTHE                                        "  156

ST. MARTIN’S CHURCH, CANTERBURY                                    "  184

THE NORMAN STAIRCASE IN THE  CLOSE--CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL           "  186

MAGDALEN TOWER                                                     "  194

“A BUMP”                                                           "  200

OXFORD--LOOKING UP THE ISIS                                        "  216

WATER-TOWER AND ROMAN REMAINS                                      "  220

KING CHARLES’S TOWER                                               "  224

CHESTER CASTLE                                                     "  230

MALVERN--THE TOWN                                                  "  240

THE PRIORY CHURCH--NORTH VIEW                                      "  242

BRITISH CAMP, SHOWING ROMAN INTRENCHMENTS                          "  250

PRIORY CHURCH--SWAN POOL IN FOREGROUND                             "  254

WORCESTER CATHEDRAL, FROM SOUTHWEST                                "  258

WORCESTER FROM THE RIVER                                           "  260

THE ENGLISH BRIDGE                                                 "  272

THE WASHINGTON HOUSE AT LITTLE BRINGTON                            "  278

THE BUSINESS CENTRE OF NORTHAMPTON                                 "  280

THE CHURCH AT GREAT BRINGTON                                       "  286



CERTAIN DELIGHTFUL ENGLISH TOWNS CERTAIN DELIGHTFUL ENGLISH TOWNS



I

THE LANDING OF A PILGRIM AT PLYMOUTH


No American, complexly speaking, finds himself in England for the first
time, unless he is one of those many Americans who are not of English
extraction. It is probable, rather, that on his arrival, if he has not
yet visited the country, he has that sense of having been there before
which a simpler psychology than ours used to make much of without making
anything of. His English ancestors who really were once there stir
within him, and his American forefathers, who were nourished on the
history and literature of England, and were therefore intellectually
English, join forces in creating an English consciousness in him.
Together, they make it very difficult for him to continue a new-comer,
and it may be that only on the fourth or fifth coming shall the illusion
wear away and he find himself a stranger in a strange land. But by that
time custom may have done its misleading work, and he may be as much as
ever the prey of his first impressions. I am sure that some such result
in me will evince itself to the reader in what I shall have to say of my
brief stay with the English foster-mother of our American Plymouth; and
I hope he will not think it altogether to be regretted.

       *       *       *       *       *

My first impressions of England, after a fourth or fifth visit, began
even before I landed in Plymouth, for I decided that there was something
very national in the behavior of a young Englishman who, as we neared
his native shores, varied from day to day, almost from hour to hour, in
his doubt whether a cap or a derby hat was the right wear for a
passenger about landing. He seemed also perplexed whether he should or
should not speak to some of his fellow-passengers in the safety of
parting, but having ventured, seemed to like it. On the tender which
took us from the steamer to the dock I fancied another type in the
Englishman whom I asked which was the best hotel in Plymouth. At first
he would not commit himself; then his humanity began to work in him, and
he expressed a preference, and abruptly left me. He returned directly to
give the reasons for his preference, and to excuse them, and again he
left me. A second time he came back, with his conscience fully roused,
and conjured me not to think of going elsewhere.

I thought that charming, and I afterwards found the hotel excellent, as
I found nearly all the hotels in England. I found everything delightful
on the way to it, inclusive of the cabman’s overcharge, which brought
the extortion to a full third of the just fare of a New York cabman. I
do not include the weather, which was hesitating a bitter little rain,
but I do include the behavior of the customs officer, who would do not
more than touch, with averted eyes, the contents of the single piece of
baggage which he had me open. When it came to paying the two hand-cart
men three shillings for bringing up the trunks, which it would have
cost me three dollars to transport from the steamer to a hotel at home,
I did not see why I should not save money for the rest of my life by
becoming naturalized in England, and making it my home, unless it was
because it takes so long to become naturalized there that I might not
live to economize much.

It was with a pleasure much more distinct than any subliminal intimation
that I saw again the office-ladies in our hotel. Personally, they were
young strangers, but officially they were old friends, and quite as I
had seen them first forty years ago, or last a brief seven; only once
they wore bangs or fringes over their bright, unintelligent eyes, and
now they wore Mamie loops. But they were, as always, very neatly and
prettily dressed, and they had the well-remembered difficulty of
functionally differencing themselves to the traveller’s needs, so that
which he should ask for a room and which for letters and which for a
candle and which for his bill, remains a doubt to the end. From time to
time with an exchange of puzzled glances, they unite in begging him to
ask the head porter, please, for whatever it is he wants to know. They
all seem of equal authority, but suddenly and quite casually the real
superior appears among them. She is the manageress, and I never saw a
manager at an English hotel except once, and that was in Wales. But the
English theory of hotel-keeping seems to be house-keeping enlarged; a
manageress is therefore more logical than a manager, and practically the
excellence of English hotels attests that a manager could not be more
efficient.

One of the young office-ladies, you never can know which it will be,
gives you a little disk of pasteboard with the number and sometimes the
price of your room on it, but the key is an after-thought of your own.
You apply for it on going down to dinner, but in nearly all provincial
hotels it is safe to leave your door unlocked. At any rate I did so with
impunity. This was all new to me, but a greater novelty which greeted us
was the table d’hôte, which has nearly everywhere in England replaced
the old-time dinner off the joint. You may still have that if you will,
but not quite on the old imperative terms. The joint is now the roast
from the table d’hôte, and you can take it with soup and vegetables and
a sweet. But if you have become wonted to the superabundance of a German
steamer you will not find all the courses too many for you, and you will
find them very good. At least you will at first: what is it that does
not pall at last? Let it be magnanimously owned at the outset then,
while one has the heart, that the cooking of any English hotel is better
than that of any American hotel of the same grade. At Plymouth, that
first night, everything in meats and sweets, though simple, was
excellent; in vegetables there were green things with no hint of the can
in them, but fresh from the southerner parts of neighboring France. As
yet the protean forms of the cabbage family were not so insistent as
afterwards.

Though we dined in an air so cold that we vainly tried to warm our
fingers on the bottoms of our plates, we saw, between intervening heads
and shoulders, a fire burning blithely in a grate at the farther side of
the room. It was cold there in the dining-room, but after we got into
the reading-room, we thought of it as having been warm, and we hurried
out for a walk under the English moon which we found diffusing a
mildness over the promenade on the Hoe, in which the statue of Sir
Francis Drake fairly basked on its pedestal. The old

[Illustration: “THE PROMENADE ... A PROMONTORY PUSHED WELL OUT INTO
THE SOUND”]

sea-dog had the air of having lifted himself from the game of bowls in
which the approach of the Spanish Armada had surprised him, and he must
have already arrived at that philosophy which we reached so much later.
In England it is chiefly inclement in-doors, but even out-doors it is
well to temper the air with as vigorous exercise as time and occasion
will allow you to take. Another monument, less personally a record of
the Armada, balanced that of Drake at the farther end of the Hoe, and on
top of this we saw Britannia leading out her lion for a walk: lions
become so dyspeptic if kept housed, and not allowed to stretch their
legs in the open air. We had no lion to lead out; and there was no
chance for us at bowls on the Hoe that night, but we walked swiftly to
and fro on the promenade and began at once to choose among the mansions
looking seawards over it such as we meant to buy and live in always.
They were all very handsome, in a reserved, quiet sort; but we had no
hesitation in fixing on one with a balcony glassed in, so that we could
see the sea and shore in all weathers; and I hope we shall not incommode
the actual occupants.

The truth is we were flown with the beauty of the scene, which we
afterwards found as great by day as by night. The promenade, which may
have other reasons for calling itself as it does besides being shaped
like the blade of a hoe, is a promontory pushed well out into the sound,
with many islands and peninsulas clustered before it, or jutting towards
it and forming a safe roadstead for shipping of all types. Plymouth is
not a chief naval station of Great Britain without the presence of
war-ships in its harbor; and among the peaceful craft at anchor with
their riding-lights showing in the deeps of the sea and air one could
distinguish the huge kraken shapes of modern cruisers and destroyers,
and what not. But like the embattled figures of the marine and
land-going soldiery, flirting on the benches of the promenade with
females as fearless as themselves, or jauntily strolling up and down
under the moon, the ships tended to an effect of subjective
peacefulness, as if invented merely for the pleasure of the appreciative
stranger. We were, at any rate, very glad of them, and appreciated the
municipal efforts in our behalf as gratefully as the imperial
fortifications of the harbor. It must be confessed at once, if I am ever
to claim any American superiority in these “trivial, fond records,”
which I shall never be able to help making comparative, that in what is
done by the public for the public, we are hardly in the same running
with England. It is only when we reflect upon our greater municipal
virtue, and consider how the economies of our civic servants in the
matter of beauty enable them to spend the more in good works, that we
can lift up our heads and look down on what England has everywhere
wrought for the people in such unspiritual things as parks and gardens,
and terraces and promenades and statues. I could have wished that first
evening, before I committed myself to any wrong impression or
association, that I had known something more, or even anything at all,
of the history of Plymouth. But I did not even know that from the Hoe,
and possibly the very spot where I stood, the brave Trojan Cirenæus
hurled the giant Goemagot into the sea. I was quite as far from
remembering any facts of the British civilization which has always
flourished so splendidly in the fancy of the native bards, and which has
mingled its relics with those of the Roman, not only in the neighborhood
of Plymouth, but all over England. As for the facts that Plymouth had
been harried throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries by the
incursions of the French; that it was the foremost English port in the
time of Elizabeth; that Drake sailed from it in 1585 to bring back the
remnant of Raleigh’s colony from Virginia; that one hundred and
twenty-seven English ships waited in its waters to meet the Spanish
Armada; that it stood alone in the West of England for the Parliament in
the Civil War; that Charles II. had signified his displeasure with it
for this by building to overawe it the entirely useless fortress in the
harbor; and that it was the first town to declare for William of Orange
when he landed to urge the flight of the last Stuart: I do not suppose
there is any half-educated school-boy but has the facts more about him
than I had that first night in Plymouth when I might have found them so
serviceable. I could only have matched him in my certainty that this was
the Plymouth from which the _Mayflower_ sailed to find, or to found,
another Plymouth in the New World; but he could easily have alleged more
proofs of our common conviction than I.

At sunset, which they have in Plymouth appropriately late for the spring
season and the high latitude, there had been a splotch of red about six
feet square in the watery west, promising the fine weather which the
morning brought. It also brought more red coats and swagger-sticks in
company with the large hats and glaring costumes which had not had so
good a chance the night before, whether we saw them in our walk on the
Hoe, or met them in the ramble through the town into which we prolonged
it. Through the still Sunday morning air there came a drumming and
bugling of religious note from the neighboring fortifications, and while
we listened, a general officer, or perhaps only a colonel, very tight in
the gold and scarlet of his uniform, passed across the Hoe, like a
pillar of flame, on his way to church. But I do not know that he was a
finer bit of color, after all, than the jet-black cat with a vivid red
ribbon at her neck, which had chosen to crouch on the ivied stone-wall
across the way from our hotel, in just the spot where the sun fell
earliest and would lie longest. There was more ivy than sun in Plymouth,
that is the truth, and this cat probably knew what she was about. There
was ivy, ivy everywhere, and there were subtropical growths of laurel
and oleander and the like, which made a pleasant confusion of earlier
Italy and later Bermuda in the brain, and yet was so characteristic of
that constantly self-contradictory England.

Many things of it that I had known in flying and poising visits during
fifty years of the past began to steal back into my consciousness. The
nine-o’clock breakfast, of sole and eggs and bacon, and heavy bread and
washy coffee, was of the same moral texture as the sabbatical silence in
the pale sunny air, which now I remembered so well, with some weird
question whether I was not all the while in Quebec, instead of Plymouth,
and the strong conviction at the same time that this was the absurdest
of obsessions. The Hoe was not Durham Terrace, but it looked down on a
sort of Lower Town from a height almost as great, and the spread of the
harbor, with a little help, recalled the confluence of the St. Lawrence
and the St. Charles. But the rows of small houses that sent up the smoke
of their chimney-pots were of yellow brick, not of wood or gray stone,
and their red roofs were tiled in dull weather-worn tints, and not
brilliantly tinned.

Why, I wonder, do we feel such a pleasure in finding different things
alike? It is rather stupid, but we are always trying to do it and
fatiguing ourselves with the

[Illustration: LOOKING DOWN FROM THE HOE]

sterile effect. At Plymouth there was so much to remind me of so much
else that it was a relief to be pretty promptly confronted on the Hoe
with something so positive, so absolute as a Bath chair, which at the
worst could only remind me of something in literature. A stubby old man
was tugging it over the ground slowly, as if through a chapter of
Dickens; and a wrathful-looking invalid lady sat within, just as if she
had got into it from a book. There was little to recall anything else in
the men strolling about in caps and knickerbockers, with short pipes in
their mouths, or, equally with short pipes, wheeling back and forth on
bicycles. There were a few people in top-hats, who had unmistakably the
air of having got them out for Sunday; though why every one did not wear
them every day in the week was the question when we presently saw a
shop-window full of them at three and sixpence apiece.

This was when we had gone down into the town from the Hoe, and found its
quiet streets of an exquisite Sunday neatness. They were quite empty,
except for very washed-up-looking worshippers going to church, among
whom a file of extremely little boys and girls, kept in line and kept
moving by a black-gowned church-sister, gave us, with their tender pink
cheeks and their tender blue eyes, our first delight in the wonderful
West-of-England complexion. The trams do not begin running in any
provincial town till afternoon on Sundays, and the loud-rattling
milk-carts, bearing bright brass-topped cans as big as the ponies that
drew them, seemed the only vehicles abroad. The only shops open were
those for the sale of butter and eggs and fruit and flowers; but these
necessaries and luxuries abounded in many windows and doorways,
especially the flowers, which had already begun to arrive everywhere by
tons from the Channel Islands, though it was then so early in March. It
is not the least of the advantages which England enjoys that she has her
Florida at her door; she has but to put out her hand and it is heaped
with flowers and fruits from the Scilly Isles, while the spring is
coming slowly up our way at home by fast-freight, through Georgia and
the Carolinas and Virginia.

So many things were strange to me that I might have thought I had never
been in Plymouth before, and so many things familiar that I might have
fancied I had always been there. The long unimpressive stretches of
little shops might have been in any second-class American city, which
would likewise have shown the same exceptional number of large
department stores. What it could not have shown were the well-kept
streets, the reverently guarded heritage from the past in here and there
a bit of antique architecture amid the prosperous newness; the presence
of lingering state in the mansions peering over their high garden wall,
or standing withdrawn from the thoroughfares in the quiet of wooded
crescents or circles.

I doubt if any American city, great or small, has the same number of
birds, dear to poetry, singing in early March, as Plymouth has. That
morning as we walked in the town, and that afternoon as we rode on our
tram-top into the country, they started from a thousand lovely lines of
verse, finches and real larks, and real robins, and many a golden-billed
blackbird, and piped us on our way. Overhead, in the veiled sun, circled
and swam the ever-cawing rooks, as they jarred in the anxieties of the
nesting then urgent with them. They were no better than our birds; I
will never own such a recreant thing. If I do not quite prefer a crow to
a rook, I am free to say that one oriole or redbird or

[Illustration: A GROUP OF PUBLIC EDIFICES, MODERN PLYMOUTH]

hermit-thrush is worth all the English birds that ever sang. Only, the
English birds sing with greater authority, and find an echo in the
mysterious depths of our ancestral past where they and we were
compatriots.

Viewed from the far vantage of some rising ground the three towns of
Plymouth, Stonehouse, and Devonport, which have grown together to form
one Plymouth, stretch away from the sea in huge long ridges thickly
serried with the gables, and bristling with the chimney-pots of their
lines of houses. They probably look denselier built than they are
through the exaggerative dimness of the air which lends bulk to the
features of every distant prospect in England; but for my pleasure I
would not have had the houses set any closer than they were on the
winding, sloping line of the tram we had taken after luncheon. It was
bearing us with a leisurely gait, inconceivable of an American trolley,
but quite swiftly enough, towards any point in the country it chose; and
after it had carried us through rows and rows of small, low, gray stone
cottages, each with its pretty bit of garden at its feet, it bore us on
where their strict contiguity ceased in detached villas, and let us have
time to look into the depths of their encompassing evergreenery, their
ivy, their laurel, their hedges of holly, all shining with a pleasant
lustre. So we came out into the familiar provisionality of half-built
house-lots, and at last into the open country quite beyond the town,
with green market-gardens, and brown ploughed fields, patching the sides
of the gentle knolls, laced with white winding roads, that lost their
heads in the haze of the horizon, and with woodlands calling themselves
“Private,” and hiding the way to stately mansions withdrawn from the
commonness of our course.

When the tram stopped we got down, with the other civilian persons of
our tram-top company, and with the soldiers and the girls who formed
their escort, and hurried beyond hearing of the loud-cackling,
hard-mouthed, red-cheeked, black-eyed young woman, whom one sees
everywhere in some form, and in whose English version I saw so many an
American original that I was humbled with the doubt whether she might
not have come out on the _Mayflower_. There were many other people more
inoffensive coming and going, or stretching themselves on the damp new
grass in a defiance of the national rheumatism which does not save them
from it. At that time, though, I did not know but it might, and I
enjoyed the picturesqueness of their temerity with an untroubled mind. I
noted merely the kind looks which prevail in English faces of the
commoner sort, and I thought the men better and the women worse dressed
than Americans of the same order. Then, after I had realized the
prevalence of much the same farming tradition as our own, in the
spreading fields, and holloed my fancy up and away over the narrow lines
climbing between them to the sky, there was nothing left to do but to go
to town by a different tram-line from that which brought us. The man I
asked for help in this bold enterprise had a face above the ordinary in
a sort of quickness, and he seemed to find something unusual in my
speech. He answered civilly and fully, as all the English do when you
ask them a civil question, without the friendly irony with which
Americans often like to visit the inquiring stranger. Then he stopped
short, checking the little boy he was leading by the hand, and said,
abruptly, “You’re not English!”

“No,” I said, “we’re Americans,” and I added, “From New York.”

“Ah, from New York!” he said, with a visible rush of interest in the
fact that it never afterwards brought to another English face, so far as
I could see. “From New York! Americans!” and he stood clutching the hand
of the little boy, while I felt myself in the presence of a tacit drama,
which I have not yet been able to render explicit. Sometimes I have
thought it not well to try. It might have been the memory of sad
experiences which had left a rancor for our country in his heart, and
held him in doubt whether he might not fitly wreak it upon the first
chance American he met. Again I fancied it might have been the stirring
of some long-deferred hope, some defeated ambition, or the rapture of
some ideal of us which had never had the opportunity to disappoint
itself. I only know that he looked like a man above his class: an
unhappy man anywhere, and probably in England most unhappy. I stupidly
hurried on, and after some movement to follow me he let me leave him
behind. Whoever he was or whatever his emotion, I hope he was worthy of
the sympathy which here offers itself too late. If I could I would
perhaps go back to him, and tell him that if he sailed for New York he
might never find the America of his vision, but only a hard workaday
world like the one he was leaving, where he might be differently
circumstanced, but not differently conditioned. I dare say he would not
believe me; I am not sure that I should believe myself, though I might
well be speaking the truth.

The next day being Monday, it was quite fit that we should go to work
with the rest of the world in Plymouth, and we set diligently about the
business of looking up such traces of the Pilgrim Fathers as still exist
in the town which was so kind to them in their great need of kindness. I
will not pretend that the pathetic story recurred to me in full
circumstance during our search for the exact place from which the
_Mayflower_ last sailed, when after she had come with her sister ship,
the _Speedwell_, from Holland to Southampton, and then started on the
voyage to America, she had been forced by the unseaworthiness of the
_Speedwell_ to put back as far as Plymouth. Mr. W. E. Griffin, in his
very agreeable and careful little book, _The Pilgrims in their Three
Homes_, is able only to define the period of their stay there as “some
time,” but he tells us that the disappointed voyagers “were treated very
kindly by the people of the Free Church, forming what is now the Grange
Street Chapel, the _Mayflower_ meanwhile lying off the Barbican.” The
weather was good while the two ships stayed, but when they sailed again
the _Speedwell_ returned to London with some twenty of the homesick or
heart-sick, while all her other people stowed themselves with their
belongings in the little _Mayflower_ as best they could, and she once
more put out to sea: a prison where the brutal shipmen were their
jailers; a lazar where the seeds of death were planted in many that were
soon to fill the graves secreted under the snow of the savage shore they
were seeking.

I believe it was the visiting association of American librarians who
caused, a few years ago, a flag-stone in the pavement of the quay where
the _Mayflower_ lay to be inscribed with her name and the date 1620, as
well as a more explicit tablet to be let into the adjacent parapet.
Perhaps our driver could have found these records for us, or we could
have found them for ourselves, but I am all the same grateful for the
good offices of several unoccupied spectators, especially a friendly
matron who had disposed of her morning’s stock of fish, and had now the
leisure for indulging an interest in our search. She constituted herself
the tutelary spirit of the neighborhood, which smelt of immemorial
catches of fish, both from the adjacent market and from the lumpish,
quaintly rigged craft crowding one another in the docks and composing in
an insurpassable picturesqueness; and she directed us wherever we wanted
to go.

The barbican of the citadel from which the _Mayflower_ sailed, before
there was either citadel or barbican, is no great remove from the Hoe,
which may justly enough boast itself “the first promenade in England,”
but it is quite in another world: a seventeenth-century world of narrow
streets crooking up hill and down, and overhung by the little bulging
houses which the pilgrims must have seen as they came and went on their
affairs with the ship, scarcely bigger than the fishing-boats now nosing
at the quay where she then lay. Whatever it was in the _Mayflower’s_
time, it is not a proud neighborhood in ours, nor has it any reason to
be proud; for it is apparently what is indefinitely called a purlieu. At
one point where I climbed a steep thoroughfare to look at what no doubt
unwarrantably professed to be a remnant of “Cromwell’s castle,” I met an
elderly man, who was apparently looking up truant school-children, and
who said, quite without prompting, “This used to be ’ell upon earth,”
with something in his tone implying that it might still be a little like
it. We could not get into the ruin, the solitary who tenanted its one
habitable room being away on a visit, as a neighbor put her head out of
a window opposite to tell us.

Probably the traveller who wishes for a just impression of the Plymouth
of 1620 will get it more reliably somewhat away from the immediate scene
of the _Mayflower’s_ departure. There are old houses abundantly
overhanging their first stories, after the seventeenth-century fashion,
in the pleasanter streets which keep aloof from the water. If he is
more bent upon a sense of modern Plymouth he will do best to visit her
group of public edifices, the Guild Hall, the Law Courts, the Library,
and see all that I did not see of the vast shipping which constitutes
her one of the greatest English ports, and the government works which
magnify her importance among the naval stations of the world.

It is always best to leave something for a later comer, and I may seem
almost to have left too much by any one whom I shall have inspired to
linger in Plymouth long enough after landing to get his sea-legs off.
But really I was continually finding the most charming things. The very
business aspects of Plymouth had their charm. I saw a great prosperity
around me, but there was no sense of the hustle which is supposed alone
to create prosperity with us. I dare say that below the unruffled
surface of life there is sordid turmoil enough, but I did not perceive
it, and I prefer still to think of Plymouth as the first of the many
places in England where the home-wearied American might spend his last
days in the repose of a peaceful exile, with all the comforts, which
only much money can buy with us, cheaply about him. He could live like a
gentleman in Plymouth for about half what the same state would cost him
in his own air, unless he went as far inland as the inexpensive Middle
West, and then it would be dearer in as large a town. He could keep his
republican self-respect in his agreeable banishment by remembering how
Plymouth had held for the Commonwealth in Cromwell’s time, and the very
name of the place would bring him near to the heroic Plymouth on the
other shore of the Atlantic. I speak from experience, for even in my two
days’ stay with the mother Plymouth I had now and then a vision of the
daughter Plymouth, on the elm-shaded slopes of

[Illustration: OLD HOUSES ALOOF FROM THE WATER]

her landlocked bay, filially the subordinate in numbers and riches with
which she began her alien life. Still of wood, as the English Plymouth
is still of stone, and newer by a thousand years, she has an antiquity
of her own precious to Americans, and a gentle picturesqueness which I
found endearing when I first saw her in the later eighteen-sixties, and
which I now recalled as worthy of her lineage. Perhaps it was because I
had always thought the younger Plymouth would be a kind dwelling-place
that I fancied a potential hospitality in the elder. At any rate I
thought it well, while I was on the ground, to choose a good many
eligible residences, not only among the proud mansions overlooking the
Hoe, but in some of the streets whose gentility had decayed, but which
were still keeping up appearances in their fine roomy old houses, or
again in the newer and simpler suburban avenues, where I thought I could
be content in one of the pretty stone cottages costing me forty pounds a
year, with my holly hedge before me belting in a little garden of all
but perennial bloom.

We had chanced upon weather that we might easily have mistaken for
climate. There was the lustre of soft sunshine in it, and there was the
song of birds in the wooded and gardened pleasaunces which opened in
several directions about the Hoe, and seemed to follow the vagarious
lines of ancient fortifications. Whether weather or climate, it could
not have been more suitable for the excursion we planned our last
afternoon across that stretch of water which separates Plymouth from the
seat of the lords who have their title from the great estate. The
mansion is not one of the noble houses which are open to the public in
England, and even to get into the grounds you must have leave from the
manor-house. This will not quite answer the raw American’s expectation
of a manor-house; it looks more like a kind of office in a Plymouth
street; but if you get from it as guide a veteran of the navy with an
agreeable cast in his eye, and an effect of involuntary humor in his
rusty voice, you have not really so much to complain of. In our own case
the veteran’s intelligence seemed limited to delivering us over at gates
to gardeners and the like, who gave us back to his keeping after the
just recognition of their vested interests, and then left him to walk us
unsparingly over the whole place, which had grown as large at least as
some of our smaller States, say Connecticut or New Jersey, by the time
we had compassed it. We imagined afterwards that he might have led us a
long way about, not from stupidity, but from a sardonic amusement in our
protests; and we were sure he knew that the bird he called a nightingale
was no nightingale. It was as if he had said to himself, on our asking
if there were none there, “Well, if they want a nightingale, let ’em
have it,” and had chosen the first songster we heard. There were already
songsters enough in the trees about to choose any sort from, for we were
now in Cornwall, and the spring is very early in Cornwall. There were
primroses growing at the roots of the trees in the park; in the garden
closes were bamboos and palms, and rhododendrons in bloom, with
cork-trees and ilexes, springing from the soaked earth which the sun
damply shining from the spongy heavens could never have dried. The
confusion of the tropical and temperate zones in this air, which was
that of neither or both, was somewhat heightened by the first we saw of
those cedars of Lebanon which so abound in England that you can hardly
imagine any left on Lebanon. It was a dark, spreading tree, with a
biblical seriousness and an oriental poetry of aspect, under whose low
shelving branches one might think to find the scripturalized childhood
of our race. The gardens, whether English or French or Italian, appealed
to a more sophisticated consciousness; but it had all a dim, blurred
fascination which words refuse to impart, and the rooks, wheeling in
their aërial orbits overhead, seemed to deepen the spell with the
monotony of their mystical incantations. There were woodland spaces
which had the democratic friendliness of American woods, as if not
knowing themselves part of a nobleman’s estate, and which gave the foot
a home welcome with the bedding of their fallen leaves. But the rabbits
which had everywhere broken the close mossy turf with their burrowing
and thrown out the red soil over the grass, must have been consciously a
part of the English order. As for the deer, lying in herds, or posing
statuesquely against the sky on some stretch of summit, they were as
absolutely a part of it as if they had been in the peerage. A flag
floated over the Elizabethan mansion of gray stone (rained a fine
greenish in the long succession of springs and falls), to intimate that
the family was at home, and invite the public to respect its privacy by
keeping away from the grounds next about it; and in the impersonal touch
of exclusion which could be so impersonally accepted, the sense of
certain English things was perfected. You read of them all your life,
till you imagine them things of actual experience, but when you come
face to face with them you perceive that till then they have been as
unreal as anything else in the romances where you frequented them, and
that you have not known their true quality and significance. In fiction
they stood for a state as gracious as it was splendid, and welcomed the
reader to an equal share in it; but in fact they imply the robust
survival, in commercial and industrial times, of a feudal condition so
wholly obsolete in its alien admirer’s experience that none of the
imitations of it which he has seen at home suggest it more than by a
picturesqueness almost as provisional as that of the theatre.

What the alien has to confess in its presence is that it is an essential
part of a system which seems to work, and in the simpler terms, to work
admirably; so that if he has a heart to which the ideal of human
equality is dear, it must shrink with certain withering doubts as he
looks on the lovely landscapes everywhere in which those who till the
fields and keep the woods have no ownership, in severalty or in common.
He must remember how persistently and recurrently this has been the
history of mankind, how, while democracies and republics have come and
gone, patrician and plebeian, sovereign and subject, have remained, or
have returned after they had passed. If he is a pilgrim reverting from
the new world to which the outgoing pilgrims sailed, there to open from
the primeval woods a new heaven and a new earth, his dismay will not
justly be for the persistence of the old forms which they left behind,
but for the question whether these forms have not somehow fixed
themselves as firmly and lastingly in his native as in his ancestral
country. I do not say that any such anxieties spoiled the pleasure of my
afternoon. I was perhaps expecting to see much more perfect instances of
the kind, and I was probably postponing the psychological effect to
these. It is a fault of travel that you are always looking forward to
something more typical, and you neglect immediate examples because they
offer themselves at the outset, or you reject them as only approximately
representative to find that they are never afterwards surpassed. That
was the case with our hotel, which was quite perfect in its way: a way
rather new to England, I believe, and quite new to my knowledge of
England.

It is a sort of hotel where you can live for as short or as long a time
as you will at an inclusive rate for the day or week, and always in
greater comfort for less money than you can at home, except in the mere
matter of warmth. Warm you cannot be in-doors, and why should not you go
out-doors for warmth, when the subtropical growths in the well-kept
garden, which never fails to enclose that kind of hotel, are flourishing
in a temperature distinctly above freezing? They always had the long
windows, that opened into the garden, ajar when we came into the
reading-room after dinner, and the modest little fire in the grate
veiled itself under a covering of cinders or coal-siftings, so that it
was not certain that the first-comer who got the chair next to it was
luckiest. Yet around this cold hearth the social ice was easily broken,
and there bubbled up a better sort of friendly talk than always follows
our diffidence in public places at home. Without knowing it, or being
able to realize it at that moment, we were confronted with a social
condition which is becoming more and more general in England, where in
winter even more than in summer people have the habit of leaving town
for a longer or a shorter time, which they spend in a hotel like ours at
Plymouth. There they meet in apparent fearlessness of the consequences
of being more or less agreeable to one another, and then part as
informally as they meet. But as yet we did not know that there was that
sort of hotel or that we were in it, and we lost the earliest occasion
of realizing a typical phase of recent English civilization.



II

TWENTY-FOUR HOURS AT EXETER


The weather, on the morning we left Plymouth, was at once cloudy and
fair, and chilly and warm, as it can be only in England. It ended by
cheering up, if not quite clearing up, and from time to time the sun
shone so brightly into our railway carriage that we said it would have
been absurd to supplement it with the hot-water foot-warmer which, in
many trains, still embodies the English notion of car-heating. The sun
shone even more brightly outside, and lay in patches much larger than
our compartment floor on the varied surface of that lovely English
country with which we rapturously acquainted and reacquainted ourselves,
as the train bore us smoothly (but not quite so smoothly as an American
train would have borne us) away from the sea and up towards the heart of
the land. The trees, except the semitropical growths, were leafless yet,
with no sign of budding; the grass was not so green as at Plymouth; but
there were primroses (or cowslips: does it matter which?) in bloom along
the railroad banks, and young lambs in the meadows where their elders
nosed listlessly among the chopped turnips strewn over the turf. Whether
it was in mere surfeit, or in an invincible distaste for turnips, or an
instinctive repulsion from their frequent association at table, that the
sheep everywhere showed this apathy, I cannot make so sure

[Illustration: A BIT OF COUNTRY BETWEEN PLYMOUTH AND EXETER]

as I can of such characteristic features of the landscape as the gray
stone cottages with thatched roofs, and the gray stone villages with
tiled roofs clustering about the knees of a venerable mother-church and
then thinning off into the scattered cottages again.

As yet we were not fully sensible of the sparsity of the cottages; that
is something which grows upon you in England, as the reasons for it
become more a part of your knowledge. Then you realize why a far older
country where the land is in a few hands must be far lonelier than ours,
where each farmer owns his farm, and lives on it. Mile after mile you
pass through carefully tilled fields with no sign of a human habitation,
but at first your eyes and your thoughts are holden from the fact in a
vision of things endeared by association from the earliest moment of
your intellectual nonage. The primroses, if they are primroses and not
cowslips, are a pale-yellow wash in the grass; the ivy is creeping over
the banks and walls, and climbing the trees, and clothing their wintry
nakedness; the hedge-rows, lifted on turf-covered foundations of stone,
change the pattern of the web they weave over the prospect as your train
passes; the rooks are drifting high or drifting low; the little streams
loiter brimful through the meadows steeped in perpetual rains; and all
these material facts have a witchery from poetry and romance to
transmute you to a common substance of tradition. The quick transition
from the present to the past, from the industrial to the feudal, and
back again as your train flies through the smoke of busy towns, and then
suddenly skirts some nobleman’s park where the herds of fallow deer lie
motionless on the borders of the lawn sloping up to the stately mansion,
is an effect of the magic that could nowhere else bring the tenth and
twentieth centuries so bewilderingly together. At times, in the open, I
seemed to be traversing certain pastoral regions of southern Ohio; at
other times, when the woods grew close to the railroad track, I was
following the borders of Beverly Farms on the Massachusetts shore, in
either case recklessly irresponsible for the illusion, which if I had
been in one place or the other I could have easily reversed, and so been
back in England.

The run from Plymouth to Exeter is only an hour and a half, but in that
short space we stopped four or five minutes at towns where I should have
been glad to have stopped as many days if I had known what I lost by
hurrying on. I do not know it yet, but I know that one loses so greatly
in every sort of high interest at all the towns one does not stop at in
England that one departs at last a ruined, a beggared man. As it was we
could only avert our faces from the pane as we drew out of each tempting
station, and sigh for the certainty of Exeter’s claims upon us. There
our first cathedral was waiting us, and there we knew, from the words
which no guide-book fails to repeat, that we should find “a typical
English city ... alike of Briton, Roman, and Englishman, the one great
prize of the Christian Saxon, the city where Jupiter gave way to Christ,
but where Christ never gave way to Wodin.... None other can trace up a
life so unbroken to so remote a past.” Whether, when we found it, we
found it equal to the unique grandeur imputed to it, I prefer to escape
saying by saying that the cathedral at Exeter is more than equal to any
expectation you can form of it, even if it is not your first cathedral.
A city of scarcely forty thousand inhabitants may well be forgiven if it
cannot look an unbroken life from so remote a past as Exeter’s.

[Illustration: “IN EXETER OUR FIRST CATHEDRAL WAS WAITING US”]

Chicago herself, with all her mythical millions, might not be able to do
as much in the like case; when it comes to certain details I doubt if
even New York would be equal to it.

I will not pretend that I was intimately acquainted with her history
before I came to Exeter. I will frankly own that I did not drive up to
the Butt of Malmsey in the hotel omnibus quite aware that the castle of
Exeter was built on an old British earthwork; or that many coins, vases,
and burial-urns dug up from such streets as I passed through prove the
chief town of Devonshire to have been built on an important Roman
station. To me it did not at once show its Romano-British origin in the
central crossing of its principal streets at right angles; but the
better-informed reader will recall without an effort that the place was
never wholly deserted during the darkest hours of the Saxon conquest.
The great Alfred drove the Danes out of it in 877, and fortified and
beautified it, and Athelstan, when he came to Exeter in 926, discovered
Briton and Saxon living there on terms of perfect amity and equality.
Together they must have manned the walls in resisting the Northmen, and
they probably united in surrendering the city to William the Conqueror
after a siege of eighteen days, which was long for an English town to
hold out against him. He then built the castle of Rougemont, of which a
substantial ruin yet remains for the pleasure of such travellers as do
not find it closed for repairs; and the city held for Matilda in the
wars of 1137, but it was finally taken by King Stephen. In 1469 it was
for the Red Rose against the White when the houses of Lancaster and York
disputed its possession, and for the Old Religion against the New in the
time of Henry VIII.’s high-handed reforms, when the Devonshire and
Cornish men fought for the ancient faith within its walls against his
forces without. The pretender Perkin Warbeck (a beautiful name, I always
think, like a bird-note, and worthy a truer prince) had vainly besieged
it in 1549; and in the Civil War it was taken and retaken by King and
Parliament. At some moment before these vicissitudes, Charles’s hapless
daughter Henrietta, who became Madame of France, was born in Exeter; and
in Exeter likewise was born that General Monk who brought the Stuarts
back after Cromwell’s death.

The Butt of Malmsey had advertised itself as the only hotel in the
cathedral close, and as we had stopped at Exeter for the cathedral’s
sake we fell a willing prey to the fanciful statement. There is of
course no hotel in the cathedral close, but the Butt of Malmsey is so
close to the cathedral that it may have unintentionally confused the
words. At any rate, it stood facing the side of the beautiful pile and
getting its noble Norman towers against a sky, which we would not have
had other than a broken gray, above the tops of trees where one nesting
rook the less would have been an incalculable loss. One of the rooms
which the managers could give us looked on this lovely sight, and if the
other looked into a dim court, why, all the rooms in a cathedral close,
or close to a cathedral, cannot command views of it.

We had of course seen the cathedral almost before we saw the city in our
approach, but now we felt that the time spent before studying it would
be time lost and we made haste to the great west front. To the first
glance it is all a soft gray blur of age-worn carving, in which no point
or angle seems to have failed of the touch which has blent all the
archaic sanctities and royalties of the glorious screen in a dim
sumptuous harmony of figures and faces. Whatever I had sceptically
read,

[Illustration: THE CASTLE OF ROUGEMONT]

and yet more impatiently heard, of the beauty of English cathedrals was
attested and approved far beyond cavil, and after that first glance I
asked nothing but submissively to see more and more of their gracious
splendor. No wise reader will expect me to say what were the sculptured
facts before me or to make the hopeless endeavor to impart a sense of
the whole structure in descriptions or admeasurements. Let him take any
picture of it, and then imagine something of that form vastly old and
dark, richly wrought over in the stone to the last effects of tender
delicacy by the miracles of Gothic art. So let him suppose the edifice
set among leafless elms, in which the tattered rooks’-nests swing
blackening, on a spread of close greensward, under a low welkin, where
thin clouds break and close in a pallid blue, and he will have as much
of Exeter Cathedral as he can hope to have without going there to see
for himself; it can never otherwise be brought to him in words of mine.

Neither, without standing in that presence or another of its kind, can
he realize what the ages of faith were. Till then the phrase will remain
a bit of decorative rhetoric, but then he will live a meaning out of it
which will die only with him. He will feel, as well as know, how men
built such temples in an absolute trust and hope now extinct, but
without which they could never have been built, and how they continued
to grow, like living things, from the hearts rather than the hands of
strongly believing men. So that of Exeter grew, while all through the
tenth and eleventh centuries the monks of its immemorial beginning were
flying from the heathen invasions, but still returning, till the Normans
gave their monastery fixity in the twelfth century, and the long English
succession of bishops maintained the cathedral in ever-increasing
majesty till the rude touch of the Tudor stayed the work that had
prospered under the Norman and Plantagenet and Lancastrian kings. If the
age of faith shall extend itself to his perception, as he listens to the
afternoon service in the taper-starred twilight, far back into the times
before Christ, he may hear in the chanting and intoning the voice of the
first articulate religions of the world. The sound of that imploring and
beseeching, that wailing and sighing, which drifts out to him through
the screen of the choir will come heavy with the pathos of the human
abasing itself before the divine in whatever form men may have imagined
God, and seeking the pity and the mercy of which Christianity was not
the first to feel the need. Then, if he has a sense of the unbroken
continuity of ceremonial, the essential unity of form, from Pagan to
Roman and from Roman to Anglican, perhaps he will have more patience
than he otherwise might with the fierce zeal of the fanatics who would
at last away with all ceremonial and all form, and would stand in their
naked souls before the eternal justice and make their appeal direct, and
if need be, through their noses, to Him who desireth not the death of a
sinner.

Unless the visitor to Exeter Cathedral can come into something of this
patience, he will hardly tolerate the thought of the Commonwealth’s-men
who deemed that they were doing God’s will when they built a brick wall
through it, and listened on one side to an Independent chaplain, and on
the other to a Presbyterian minister. It is said that they “had great
quiet and comfort” in their worship on each side of their wall, which
was of course taken down directly after the Restoration. For this no one
can reasonably grieve; and one may of course rejoice that Cromwell’s
troopers did not stable

[Illustration: “THE CATHEDRAL ... A SOFT GRAY BLUR OF AGE-WORN
CARVING”]

their horses in Exeter Cathedral. They forbore to do so in few other old
churches in England, but we did not know how to value fully its
exemption from this profanation in our first cathedral. We took the fact
with an ignorant thanklessness from our guide-book, and we acquiesced,
with some surprise, in the lack of any such official as a verger to
instruct us in the unharmed monuments. The printed instructions which we
received from the placard overhanging a box at the gate to the choir did
not go beyond the elementary precept that we were each to put sixpence
in it; after that we were left free to look about for ourselves, and we
made the round of the tombs and altars unattended.

The disappointment which awaits one in English churches, if one’s
earlier experience of churches has been in Latin countries, is of course
from the want of pictures. Color there is and enough in the stained
windows which Cromwell’s men sometimes spared, but the stained windows
in Exeter are said to be indifferent good. In compensation for this,
there are traces of the frescoing which once covered the walls, and
which Cromwell’s men neglected to whitewash. They also heedlessly left
unspoiled that wonderful Minstrel’s Gallery stretching across the front
of the choir, with its fourteen tuneful angels playing forever on as
many sculptured instruments of stone. For the rest the monuments are of
the funereal cast to which the devout fancy is pretty much confined in
all sacred edifices. There is abundance of bishops lying on their tombs,
with their features worn away in the exposure from which those of many
crusaders have been kept by their stone visors. But what was most
expressive of the past, which both bishops and crusaders reported so
imperfectly, was the later portrait statuary, oftenest of Elizabethan
ladies and their lords, painted in the colors of life and fashion, with
their ruffs and farthingales worn as they were when they put them off,
to rest in the tombs on which their effigies lie. It is not easy to
render the sense of a certain consciousness which seemed to deepen in
these, as the twilight of the closing day deepened round them in the
windows and arches. If they were waiting to hold converse after the
night had fallen, one would hardly have cared to stay for a share in
their sixteenth-century gossip, and I could understand the feeling of
the two dear old ladies who made anxiously up to us at one point of our
common progress, and asked us if we thought there was any danger of
being locked in. I did my poor best to reassure them, and they took
heart, and were delightfully grateful. When we had presently missed them
we found them waiting at the door, to thank us again, as if we had saved
them from a dreadful fate, and to shake hands and say good-bye.

If it were for them alone, I should feel sensibly richer for my
afternoon in our first cathedral. But I think my satisfaction was
heightened just before we left, by meeting a man with a wheelbarrow full
of coal which he was trundling through “the long-drawn aisle and fretted
vault” to the great iron stoves placed on either side of the nave to
warm the cathedral, and contribute in their humble way to that perfect
balance of parts which is the most admired effect of its architectural
symmetry. As he stopped before each stove and noisily stoked it from a
clangorous shovel, the simple sincerity of this bit of necessary
house-keeping in the ancient fane seemed to strike a note characteristic
of the English civilization, and to suggest the plain outrightness by
which it has been able to save itself sound through every age and
fortune. The English have reared a civic edifice more majestic than any
the world has yet seen, but in the temple of their liberty and their
loyalty a man with a wheelbarrow full of coal has always been frankly
invited to appear when needed. It is this mingling of the poetical ideal
and the practical real which has preserved them at every emergency, and
but for his timely ministrations church and state would alike have fared
ill in the past. He has kept both habitable, and to any one who visits
cathedrals with a luminous mind the man with the wheelbarrow of coal
will remain as distinctly a part of the impression as the processioning
and recessioning celebrants coming and going in their white surplices,
with their red and black bands; or even the singing of the angel-voiced
choir-boys, who as they hurry away at the end of the service do not all
look as seraphic as they have sounded. There is often indeed something
in the passing regard of choir-boys less suggestive of the final state
of young-eyed cherubim than of evil provisionally repressed.

I do not say that I thought all this before leaving the cathedral in
Exeter, or till long afterwards. I was at the time rather bent upon
seeing more of the town, in which I felt a quality different from that
of Plymouth though it pleased me no better. The manageress of the Butt
of Malmsey had boasted already of the numbers of nobility and gentry
living in the neighborhood of the little city, where, she promised, we
should see ten private carriages for every one in Plymouth. I did not
keep count, but I dare say she was right. What was more to my crude
pleasure was the sight of the many Tudor, and earlier than Tudor, houses
in the High Street and the other streets of Exeter, with their second
stories overhanging their first, to that effect of baffle in the leaded
casements of their gables which we fancy in the eyes of stout gentlemen
who try to catch sight of their feet over the intervening bulge of their
waistcoats. They are incomparably picturesque, those Tudor houses, and
as I had afterwards occasion to note from some of their interiors, they
mark a beginning of domestic comfort, which, if not modern on the
American terms, is quite so on the English.

To the last, I had always to make my criticisms of the provision for the
inner house in England, but my conviction that the English had little to
learn of us in providing for the inner man began quite as early as in my
first walks about Exeter, where the most perverse American could not
have helped noting the abundance and variety of the fruits and
vegetables at the green-grocers’. Southern Europe had supplied these
better than Florida and California supply them with us at the same
season in towns the size of Exeter, or indeed in any less luxurious than
our great seaboard cities. Counting in the apples and oranges from South
Africa and the Pacific colonies of Great Britain, we are far out of it
as to cheapness and quality. Then, no place in England is so remote from
one sea or another as not always to have the best and freshest fish,
which as the dealers arrange them with an artistic eye for form and
color, make, it must be owned, a more appetizing show than the thronging
shapes of carnage which start from the butchers’ doors and windows, and
bleed upon the sidewalk, and gather microbes from every passing gust.
There is something peculiarly loathsome in these displays of fresh meat
carcases all over England, which does not affect the spectator from the
corded and mounded ham and bacon in the grocers’ shops, though when one
thinks of the myriads of eggs needed to accompany these at the forty
million robust English breakfasts every morning, it is with doubt and
despair for the hens. They seem equal to the demand upon them, however,
like every one and everything else English, and they always lay eggs
enough, as if every hen knew that England expected her to do her duty.

We sauntered through Exeter without a plan, and took it as it came in a
joy which I wish I could believe was reciprocal, and which was at no
moment higher than when we found at the corner of the most impressive
old place in Exeter the office of a certain New York insurance company.
As smiling fate would have it, this was the very company in which I was
myself insured, and I paused before it with effusion, and shook hands
with the actuary in the spirit. In the flesh, if he was an Englishman,
he might not have known what to do with my emotion, but with Englishmen
in the spirit the wandering American always finds himself cordially at
home. One must not say that the longer they have been in the spirit the
better; some of them who are actually still in the flesh are also in the
spirit; but a certain historical remove is apt to relieve friends of
that sort of stiffness which keeps them at arm’s-length when they meet
as contemporaries. At the other end of Bedford Circus, where I had my
glad moment with the insurance actuary, I found myself in the presence
of that daughter of Charles I., the Princess Henrietta, who was born
there near three hundred years ago, and whose life I had lately followed
with pathos for her young exile from England, through her girlhood in
France, and through her unhappy marriage with the King’s brother
Monsieur, to the afternoon of her last day when she lay so long dying in
the presence of the court, as some thought, of poison. I could not feel
myself an intrusive witness at that strange scene, which now
represented itself in Bedford Circus, with the courtiers coming and
going, and the doctors joining their medical endeavors with the
spiritual ministrations of the prelates, and the poor princess herself
taking part in the speculations and discussions, and presently in the
midst of all incontinently making her end.

I suppose it would not be good taste to boast of the intimacy I enjoyed
with the clergy in the neighborhood of the cathedral, by favor of their
translation into a region much remoter than the past. Without having the
shadow of acquaintance with them and without removing them for an
instant from their pleasant houses and gardens in the close at Exeter, I
put them back a generation, and met them with familiar ease in the
friendly circumstance of Trollope’s many stories of cathedral towns. I
am not sure they would have liked that if they had known it, and
certainly I should not have done it if they had known it; but as it was
I could do it without offence. When we could rend ourselves from the
delightful company of those deans, and canons, and minor canons, and
prebendaries, with whom we really did not pass a word, we went a long
idle walk to an old-fashioned part of the town overlooking the Exe from
the crest of a hill, where certain large out-dated mansions formed
themselves in a crescent. We instantly bought property there in
preference to any more modern neighborhood, and there our subliminal
selves remain, and stroll out into the pretty park and sit on the
benches, and superintend the lading and unlading of the small craft from
foreign ports in the old ship-canal below: the oldest ship-canal in the
world, indeed, whose beginnings Shakespeare was born too late to see. We
do not find the shipping is any the less picturesque for being much
entangled in the net-work of railroad lines (for Exeter is a large
junction), or feel the sticks and spars more discordant with the smoke
and steam of the locomotives through which they pierce, than with the
fine tracery of the trees farther away.

I was never an enemy of the confusion of the old and new in Europe when
Italy was all Europe for me, and now in England it was distinctly a
pleasure. It is something we must accept, whether we like it or not, and
we had better like it. The pride of the old custodian of the Exeter
Guildhall in the coil of hot-water pipes heating the ancient edifice was
quite as acceptable as his pride in the thirteenth-century carvings of
the oaken door and the oak-panelled walls, the portraits of the Princess
Henrietta and General Monk, and the swords bestowed upon the faithful
city by Edward IV. and Henry VII. I warmed my chilly hands at the
familiar radiator while I thawed my fancy out to play about the medieval
facts, and even fly to that uttermost antiquity when the Roman
Præetorium stood where the Guildhall stands now. Still, I was not so
warm all over but that I was glad to shun the in-doors inclemency to
which we must have returned in the hotel, and to prolong our stay in the
milder air outside by going a drive beyond the city into the charming
country. I do not say that the country was more charming than about
Plymouth, but it had its pleasant difference, which was hardly a
difference in the subtropical types of trees and shrubs. There were the
same evergreens hedging and shading, too deeply shading, the stone
cottages of the suburbs as we had seen nearer the sea; but when we were
well out of the town, we had climbed to high, rolling fields, which
looked warm even when the sun did not shine upon them; there were brown
bare woods cresting the hills, and the hedge-rows ran bare and brown
between the ploughed fields and the verdure of the pastures and the
wheat. Behind and below us lay the town, clustering about the cathedral
which dwarfed its varying tops to the illusion of one level.

We had driven out by a handsome avenue called, for reasons I did not
penetrate, Pennsylvania Road. Stately houses lined the way, and the
wealth and consequence of the town had imaginably transferred themselves
to Pennsylvania Road from the fine old crescent where we had perhaps
rashly invested; though I shall never regret it. But we came back
another way, winding round by the first English lane I had ever driven
through. It was all, and more, than I could have asked of it in that
quality, for it was so narrow between the tall hedges, which shut
everything else from sight, that if we had met another vehicle, I do not
know what would have happened. There was a breathless moment when I
thought we were going to meet a market-cart, but luckily it turned into
an open gateway before the actual encounter. There must be tacit
provision for such a chance in the British Constitution, but it is not
for a semi-alien like an American to say what it is.

We were apparently the first of our nation to reach Exeter that spring,
for as we came in to lunch we heard an elderly cleric, who had the air
of lunching every day at the Butt of Malmsey, say to his waiter, “The
Americans are coming early this year.” We had reasons of our own for
thinking we had come too early; probably in midsummer the
old-established cold of the venerable hostelry is quite tolerable. If I
had been absolutely new to the past, I could not have complained, even
in March, of its reeling floors and staggering stairways and dim
passages; these were as they should be, and I am not saying anything
against the table. That again was better than it would have been at a
hotel in an American town of the size of Exeter, and it had a personal
application at breakfast and luncheon that pleased and comforted; the
table d’hôte dinner was, as in other English inns, far preferable to the
indiscriminate and wasteful superabundance for which we pay too much at
our own. It is of the grates in the Butt of Malmsey that I complain, and
I do not know that I should have cause to complain of these if I had not
rashly ordered fire in mine. To give the grate time to become glowing,
as grates always should be in old inns, I passed an hour or two in the
reading-room talking with an elderly Irish gentleman who had come to
that part of England with his wife to buy a place and settle down for
the remnant of his days, after having spent the greater part of his life
in South Africa. He could not praise South Africa enough. Everything
flourished there and every one prospered; his family had grown up and he
had left seven children settled there; it was the most wonderful country
under the sun; but the two years he had now passed in England were worth
the whole thirty-five years that he had passed in South Africa. I agreed
with him in extolling the English country and climate, while I accepted
all that he said of South Africa as true, and then I went up to my room.

With the aid of the two candles which I lighted I discovered the grate
in the wall near the head of the bed, and on examining it closely I
perceived that there was a fire in it. The grate would have held quite a
double-handful of coal if carefully put on; the fire which seemed to be
flickering so feebly had yet had the energy to draw all the warmth of
the chamber up the chimney, and I stood shivering in the temperature of
a subterranean dungeon. The place instantly gave evidence of being
haunted, and the testimony of my nerves on this point was corroborated
by the spectral play of the firelight on the ceiling, when I blew out my
candles. In the middle of the night I woke to the sense of something
creeping with a rustling noise over the floor. I rejected the hypothesis
of my bed-curtain falling into place, though I remembered putting it
back that I might have light to read myself drowsy. I knew at once that
it was a ghost walking the night there, and walking hard. Suddenly it
ceased, and I knew why: it had been frozen out.



III

A FORTNIGHT IN BATH


The American who goes to England as part of the invasion which we have
lately heard so much of must constantly be vexed at finding the Romans
have been pretty well everywhere before him. He might not mind the
Saxons, the Danes, the Normans so much, or the transitory Phœnicians,
and, of course, he could have no quarrel with the Cymri, who were there
from the beginning, and formed a sort of subsoil in which conquering
races successively rooted and flourished; but it is hard to have the
Romans always cropping up and displacing the others. He likes well
enough to meet them in southern Europe; he enjoys their ruins in Italy,
in Spain, in France; but the fact of their presence in Britain forms too
great a strain for his imagination. By dint of having been there such a
long time ago they seem to have anticipated any novelty there is in his
own coming, and by having remained four hundred years they leave him
little hope of doing anything very surprising in a stay of four months.
He is gnawed by a secret jealousy of the Romans, and when he lands in
Liverpool, as he commonly does, and discovers them in possession of the
remote antiquity of Chester, where he goes for a little comfortable
mediævalism before pushing on to wreak himself on the vast modernity of
London, he can hardly govern his impatience. Their vestiges are less
intrusive at Plymouth and Exeter than at Chester, but still I think the
sort of American I have been fancying would have been incommoded by a
sense of them in the air of either place, and, if he had followed on
with us to Bath, would have found no benefit from the springs which they
frequented two thousand years earlier, so fevered must have been his
resentment.

The very beginnings of Bath were Roman, for I suppose Prince Bladud is
not to be taken as serious history, though he is poetically important as
the putative prototype of King Lear (I believe he had also the personal
advantage of being a giant), and he is interesting as one of the few
persons who have ever profited by the example of the pigs. Men are
constantly warned against that, in every way, but Prince Bladud, who
went forth from his father’s house a leper, and who observed the swine
under his charge wallowing in the local waters and coming out cured from
his infection, immediately tried them himself, and recovered and lived
to be the father of an unnatural family of daughters. By inspiring
Shakespeare with the theme of his great tragedy, he was the first to
impart the literary interest to Bath which afterwards increased there
until it fairly rivalled its social and pathological interest. But the
Romans have undoubtedly a claim to the honor of building a city on the
site of the present town; under their rule it became the favorite resort
of the gayety which always goes hand in hand with infirmity at medicinal
springs, and if you dig anywhere in Bath, now, you come upon its
vestiges. A little behind and below the actual Pump Room, these are so
abundant that, if you cannot go to Herculaneum or Pompeii, you can still
have a fair notion of Roman luxury from the vast tanks for bathing, the
stone platforms, steps, and seats, the vaulted roofs and columns, the
furnaces for heating the waters, and the system of pipes for conveying
it from point to point. The plumbing, in its lavish use of material,
attests the advance of the Romans in the most actual and expensive of
the arts; and the American invader must recognize, with whatever of gall
and bitterness, that his native plumbers would have little to teach
those of the conquerors who possessed Britain two thousand years before
him.

If he had been coming with us from Exeter the morning we arrived, he
might, indeed, have triumphed over the Romans in the comfort of his
approach, for, after all, there are few trains like the English trains
to give you a sense of safety, snugness, and swiftness. I like getting
into them from the level of the platform, instead of climbing several
steps to reach them, as we do with ours, and I like being followed into
my compartment by one of those amiable porters who abound in English
stations, and save your arms from being pulled out of their sockets by
your hand-baggage. They are the kindest and carefullest of that class
whom Lord Chesterfield nobly called his unfortunate friends, and who in
England are treated with a gentle consideration almost equal to their
own, and as porters they are so grateful for the slightest recompense of
their service. I have seen people give them twopence, for some slight
office, or nothing when they were people who could not afford something;
but I never saw an English porter’s face clouded by the angry resentment
which instantly darkens the French porter’s brow if he thinks himself
underpaid, as he always seems to do. It did not perceptibly matter to
the English porter whether he followed me into a first-class or a
third-class carriage, and it was from a mere love of luxury and not from
the hope of gratifying any sense of superiority to the fellow-being
with my hand-baggage that I ended by travelling first-class for short
hauls in England. On the expresses, like those from London to Edinburgh,
you can make the journey third-class in perfect comfort, and with no
great risk of overcrowding, but not, I should say, in the way-trains.

We had come third-class from Plymouth to Exeter in a superstition
preached us before leaving home, that everybody now went third-class in
England, that to go first-class was sinfully extravagant, and that to go
second-class was to chance travelling with valets and lady’s-maids. But
in coming on from Exeter we thought we would risk this contamination,
and, not realizing that the first-class rate was no greater than ours
with the cost of a Pullman ticket added, I boldly “booked” second-class.
But so far from finding ourselves in a compartment with valets and
lady’s-maids, in whose company I hope we should have avouched our
quality by promptly perishing, we were quite alone, except for the
presence of a lady who sat by the window knitting, knitting, knitting.
She did not look up, but from time to time she looked out, till our
interchanges of joy in the landscape seemed to win upon her, and then
she looked round. Her glance at the member of our party whose sex seemed
to warrant her in the overture was apparently reassuring. She asked if
we would like the window closed, and we pretended that we would not, but
she closed it, and then she arranged her needles in her knitting, and
folded her knitting up, and put it firmly away in her bag, and began to
talk. Evidently she liked talking, but evidently she liked listening,
too, and she let us do our share of both in confirming the tacit treaty
of amity between our nations. She spoke

[Illustration: GREAT PULTENEY STREET]

of the Americans, not as cousins, but as brothers and sisters; and I
began to be sorry for all the unkind things I had said of the English,
and mutely to pray that she might never see them, however just they
were. She had been in America, as well as most other parts of the world,
and we tried hard for some mutual acquaintance. Our failure did not
matter; we were friends for that trip and train at least, and when we
came to Bristol, where our own party was to change, we were fain to run
away from our tea in the restaurant to take the hand held out to us from
the window of her parting train.

It was very pretty, and we said, If the English were all going to be
like that! I do not say that they actually were, and I do not say they
were not; but no after-experience could affect the quality of that
charming incident, and all the way from Bristol to Bath we turned again
and again from the landscape, that lay soaking in the rains of the year
before, and celebrated our good-fortune. We were still in its glamour
when our train drew into Bath; and in our wish to be pleased with
everything in the world to which it rapt us, we were delighted with the
fitness of the fact that the largest buildings near the station should
be, as their signs proclaimed, corset-manufactories. We read afterwards
that corset-making was, with the quarrying of the Bath building-stone,
the chief business interest of the place, as such a polite industry
should be in a city which was for so long the capital of fashion. Our
pleasure in it was only less than our joy in finding that our hotel was
in Pulteney Street, where the Allens of “Northanger Abbey” had their
apartment, and where Catherine Morland had so often come and gone with
the Tilneys and the Thorpes, and round the farthest corner of which the
dear, the divine, the only Jane Austen herself had lived for two years
in one of the large, demure, self-respectful mansions of the
neighborhood.

Our hotel scarcely distinguished, and it did not at all detach itself
from the rank of these handsome dwellings; and everything in our happy
circumstance began at once to breathe that air of gentle association
which kept Bath for a fortnight the Bath of our dreams. There was a
belief with one of us that he had come to drink the waters, but an early
consultation with possibly the most lenient of the medical authorities
of the place, who make the doctors of German springs seem such tyrannous
martinets, disabused him. Since he had brought no rheumatism to Bath,
his physician owned there was a chance of his taking some away; but in
the mean time he might go once a day to the Pump Room, for a glass of
the water lukewarm, and be a little careful of his diet. A little
careful of his diet, he who had been furiously warned on his peril at
Carlsbad that everything which was not allowed was forbidden! But he
found that the Bath medical men said the same thing to the patients whom
he saw around him, at the hotel, doubled up with rheumatism, and eating
and drinking whatever their stiffened joints could carry to their
mouths. All the greater was the miraculous virtue of the waters, for the
sufferers seemed to make rapid recovery in spite of themselves and their
doctors. There were no lepers among them, and since Prince Bladud’s day
few are noted as having resorted to Bath; but there is rheumatism enough
in England to make up the defect of leprosy, and the American, who had
come with only a mild dyspepsia, found himself quite out of the running,
or limping, with his fellow-invalids.

He had apparently not even brought an American accent with his malady,
and that was a disappointment to one of the worst sufferers, who
constantly assured him, in a Scotch burr so thick that he had to be
begged to speak twice before he could be understood, that he was the
only American without a twang whom he had ever met. The twangless
dyspeptic wished at times to pretend that he was only twangless in
British company, and that when his party went to their rooms they talked
violently through their noses till they were out of breath, as a slight
compensation for their self-denial in society. But, upon the whole, the
Scotch gentleman was so kind and sweet a soul, and seemed, for all his
disappointment, to value the American so much as a phenomenon that he
forebore, and in the end he was not sorry.

He would have been sorry to have put himself at odds with any of the
pleasant people at that hotel, who seemed to regard their being thrown
together as a circumstance that justified their speaking to one another
much more than the wont is in American hotels. They were more
conversible even than those at the Plymouth hotel; the very women talked
to other women without fear; and the Americans, if they had been
nationally vainer than they were, might have fancied a specially
hospitable consideration of their case. In hotels of that agreeable type
there is, besides the more formal drawing-room, a place called the
lounge, where there are writing-desks and stationery, and a large table
covered with the day’s papers, and a comfortable fire (or, at least, the
most comfortable in the house) burning in the grate; and here people
drop in before breakfast and after dinner, and chat or read or write, as
they please. It is all very amiably informal and uncommitting, and in
our Bath hotel there were only two or three kept at a distance in which
they were not molested. There was all the while a great nobleman in the
house who was apparently never seen even by those superior people. He
came, sojourned, and departed in as much secrecy as a great millionaire
would at home, and I could not honestly say that he psychologically
affected the others any more than the presence of a great millionaire
would have affected the same number of Americans. Perhaps they were less
excited, being more used to being avoided by great noblemen in the
course of many generations. What I know is that they were very friendly
and intelligent, and, if their talk began and ended with the weather,
there was plenty of weather to talk about.

There was almost as much weather and as various as the forms of cabbage
at dinner, which here first began to get in their work on the
imagination, if not the digestion. Whatever else there was of vegetable
fibre, there was always some form of cabbage, either cabbage in its
simple and primitive shape, or in different phases of cauliflower,
brussels sprouts, broccoli, or kale. It was difficult to escape it, for
there was commonly nothing else but potatoes. But one night there came a
dish of long, white stems, delicately tipped with red, and looking like
celery that had grown near rhubarb. We recognized it as something we had
admired, longingly, ignorantly, at the green-grocers’, and we eagerly
helped ourselves. What was it? we had asked; and before the waiter could
answer that it was sea-kale we had fallen a prey to something that of
the whole cabbage family was the most intensely, the most passionately
cabbage.

Apart from the prevalence of this family, the table was very good and
well-imagined, as I should like to say once for all of the table at
every English hotel of our experience. Occasionally the ideal was
vitiated by an attempted conformity to the raw American appetite, as it
arrived unassorted and ravenous from the steamers. In a moist cold that
pierced to the marrow you were offered ice-water, and sometimes the
“sweets” included an ice-cream of the circumference and thickness of a
dollar, which had apparently been put into the English air to freeze,
but had only felt its well-known relaxing effect. One drinks, of course,
a great deal of the excellent tea, and, indeed, the afternoon that
passes without it is an afternoon that drags a listless, alexandrine
length along till dinner, and leaves one to learn by experience that a
thing very essential to the local meteorology has been omitted. With us,
tea is still a superfluity and in some cases a naughtiness; with the
English it is a necessity and a virtue; and so apt is man to take the
color of his surroundings that in the rare, very rare, occasions when he
is not offered tea in an English house, the American comes away
bewildered and indignant. I suppose nothing could convey the feelings of
an equally defrauded Englishman, who likes his tea, and likes it good
and strong; in fact, tea cannot be good without being strong. While I am
about this business of noting certain facts which are so essential to
the observer’s comfort, but which I really disdain as much as any reader
can, I will say that the grates of the hotel in Bath were distinctly
larger than those at Plymouth and were out of all comparison with those
at Exeter. They did not, indeed, heat our rooms, even at Bath, but if
they had been diligently tended I think they would have glowed. In the
corridors there were radiators, commonly cold, but sometimes perceptibly
warm to the touch. The Americanization of the house was completed by the
elevator, which, being an after-thought, was crowded into the well of
the staircase. It was a formidable matter to get the head porter, in
full uniform, to come and open the bottom of the well with a large key,
but it could be done; I saw rheumatic old ladies, who had come in from
their Bath chairs, do it repeatedly.

When, however, you considered the outside of our hotel, you would have
been sorry to have it in any wise Americanized. The front of it was on
Pulteney Street, where it leaves that dear Laura Place which blossomed
to our fancy with the fairest flowers of literary association; but at
the back of it there was a real garden, and the gardens of other houses
backing upon it, and the kitchen doors of these houses had pent-roofs
which formed sunny exposures for cats of the finest form and color. When
there was no sun there were no cats; but they could not take the rest of
the prospect into the warm kitchens (I suppose that even in England the
kitchens must be warm) with them, and so we had it always before our
eyes. With gardens and little parks, and red-tiled house-roofs,
bristling with chimney-pots and church-spires, it rose to a hemicycle of
the beautiful downs, in whose deep hollows Bath lies relaxing in her
faint air; and along the top the downs were softly wooded, or else they
carried deep into the horizon the curve of fields and pastures, broken
here and there by the stately bulk of some mansion set so high that no
Bath-chairman could have been induced by love or money to push his chair
to it. All round Bath these downs (a contradiction in terms to which one
resigns one’s self with difficulty in the country where they abound)
rise, like the walls of an immense scalloped cup, and the streets climb
their slope, and can no otherwise escape in the guise of country roads,
except along the bank of the lovely Avon. By day, except when a

[Illustration: THE RED-TILED HOUSE-ROOFS AND CHURCH SPIRES OF BATH]

fog came down from the low heaven and took them up into it, the form of
the downs was a perpetual pleasure to the eye from our back windows, and
at night they were a fairy spectacle, with the electric lamps starring
their vague, as if they were again part of the firmament.

When, later, we began to climb them, either on foot or on tram-top, we
found them in command of prospects of Bath which could alone have
compensated us for the change in our point of view. The city then showed
large out of all proportion to its modest claim of population, which is
put at thirty or forty thousand. But in the days of its prosperity it
was so generously built that in its present decline it may really be no
more populous than it professes; in that case each of its denizens has
one of its stately mansions to himself. I never like to be extravagant,
and so I will simply say that the houses of Bath are the handsomest in
the world, and that if one must ever have a whole house to one’s self
one could not do better than have it in Bath. There one could have it in
a charming quiet square or place, or in the shallow curve of some
high-set crescent, or perhaps, if one were very, very good, in that
noblest round of domestic edifices in the solar system--I do not say
universe--The King’s Circus. This is the triumph of the architect Wood,
famous in the architectural annals of Bath, who built it in such beauty,
and with such affectionate mastery of every order for its adornment,
that his ghost might well (and would, if I were it) come back every
night and stand glowing in a phosphorescent satisfaction till the
dreaming rooks, in the tree-tops overhead, awoke and warned him to fade
back to his reward in that most eligible quarter of the sky which
overhangs The King’s Circus. I speak of him as if he were one, and so he
is, as a double star is one; but it was Wood the elder who, in the
ardor of his youth at twenty-three, imagined the Circus which his son
realized. Together, or in their succession, they wrought the
beautification of Bath from an amateur meanness and insufficiency to the
effect for which the public spirit of their fellow-citizens supplied the
unstinted means, and they left the whole city a monument of their glory,
without a rival in unity of design and completeness of execution.

In the fine days when Bath was the resort of the greatness to which such
greatness as the Woods’ has always bowed, every person of fashion
thought he must have some sort of lodgment of his own, and, if he were a
greater person than the common run of great persons, he must have a
house. He might have it in some such select avenues as Milsom Street and
Great Pulteney Street, or in St. James’s Square or Queen’s Square, or in
Lansdowne Crescent or the Royal Crescent, but I fancy that the ambition
of the very greatest could not have soared beyond a house in the Circus.
As I find myself much abler to mingle with rank and fashion in the past
than in the present, I was always going back to the Circus after I found
the way, and making believe to ring at the portals set between pillars
of the Ionic or Corinthian orders, and calling upon the disembodied
dwellers within, and talking the ghostly scandal which was so abundant
at Bath in the best days. In that way one may be a ghost one’s self
without going to the extreme of dying, and then may walk comfortably
back to dinner at one’s hotel in the flesh. In my more merely tourist
moments I went and conned all the tablets let into the walls of the
houses to record the memorable people who once lived in them. In my
quality of patriot I lingered longest before that where

[Illustration: CIRCUS FROM BENNET STREET]

the great Earl of Chatham had lived: he who, if he had been an American
as he was an Englishman, while a foreign foe was landed on his soil
would never had laid down his arms--never, never, never! The eloquent
words filled my own throat to choking, and the long struggle fought
itself through there on the curbstone with an obstinate valor on the
American side that could result only in the independence of the revolted
colonies. Then, in a high mood of impartial compassion, I went and paid
the tribute of a sigh at that other house of the Circus, so piteously
memorable for us Americans, where Major André had once sojourned. Was it
in Bath, and perhaps while he dwelt in the Circus, that he loved Honora
Sneyd? Almost anything tender or brave or fine could have been there;
and I was not surprised to find that Lord Clive of India and
Gainsborough of all the world were in their times neighbors of Lord
Chatham and Major André. What other famous names were inscribed on those
simple tablets (so modestly that it was hard to read them), I do not now
recall, but when one is reminded, even by his cursory and laconic
Baedeker, that not only the first but the second Pitt was a sojourner in
Bath with other such sojourners as Burke, Nelson, Wolfe, Lawrence,
Smollett, Fielding, Sheridan, Goldsmith, Fanny Burney, Jane Austen,
Southey, Landor, Wordsworth, Cowper, Scott, and Moore, and a whole
nameless herd of titles and royalties, one perceives that many more
celebrities than I have mentioned must have lived in the Circus.

Many very nice people must live there yet, but it has somewhat gone off
into business of the quieter professional type, and I would not swear
that behind the tracery of a transom here or there I did not find a
lurking suggestion of Apartments. I am quite ready to make oath to at
least one such suggestion in the very centre of Lansdowne Crescent,
where I was about buying property because of its glorious site and its
high, pure air. I instantly transferred my purchase to the Royal
Crescent, where I now have an outlook forever over the new Victoria Park
and down into the valley of the Avon, with the river running as of old
between fields and pastures in a landscape of insurpassable loveliness.

But you cannot anywhere get away from the beautiful in Bath. For the
temperate lover of it, the soft brownish tone of the architecture is in
itself almost of a delicate sufficiency; but if one is greedier there is
an inexhaustible picturesqueness in the winding and sloping streets, and
the rounding and waving downs which they everywhere climb as roads when
they cease to be streets. I do not know that Bath gives the effect of a
very obvious antiquity; a place need not, if it begins in the age of
fable, and descends from the earliest historic period with the tradition
of such social splendor as hers. She has a superb mediæval abbey for her
principal church which is a cathedral to all æsthetical intents and
purposes; for it is not less beautiful and hardly less impressive than
some cathedrals. Mostly of that perpendicular Gothic, which I suppose
more mystically lifts the soul than any other form of architecture, it
is in a gracious sort of harmony with itself through its lovely
proportions; and from the stems of its clustered columns, the tracery of
their fans spreads and delicately feels its way over the vaulted roof as
if it were a living growth of something rooted in the earth beneath. The
abbey began with a nunnery founded by King Osric in 676 and rose through
a monastery founded later by King Offa to be an abbey in 1040, attached
to the bishopric of Wells; but it waited its final grandeur and glory
from Bishop Oliver King, who while visiting Bath in 1499 saw in a dream
angels ascending and descending by a ladder set between the throne of
God and an olive-tree, wearing a crown, and heard a voice saying, “Let
an Olive establish the crown, and a King restore the church.” Moved by
this vision, which was as modest as most dreams of charges delivered
from on high, the bishop set vigorously about the work, but before it
was perfected, the piety of Henry VIII. being alarmed by the pope’s
failure to bless his divorces, the monastery was with many others
suppressed, and the church stripped of everything that could be detached
and sold. The lands of the abbey fell into private hands, and houses
were built against the church, of which an aisle was used as a street
for nearly a hundred years, even after it had been roofed in and
restored, as it was early in the seventeenth century, by another bishop
who had not been authorized in a dream.

The failure of Cromwell’s troopers to stable their horses in it is
another of those conspicuous instances of their negligence with which I
was destined to be confronted in the sacred edifices so conscientiously
despoiled by Henry VIII. But among the most interesting monuments of the
interior is one to that Lady Waller, wife of the Parliamentary general,
Sir William Waller which more than repairs the oversight of the Puritan
soldiery. Her epitaph is of so sweet and almost gay a quaintness that I
will frankly transfer it to my page from that of the guide-book, though
I might easily pretend I had copied it from the tomb.

    “Sole issue of a matchless paire,
     Both of their state and virtues heyre;
     In graces great, in stature small,
     As full of spirit as voyd of gall;
     Cheerfully grave, bounteously close,
     Holy without vain-glorious showes;
     Happy, and yet from envy free,
     Learn’d without pride, witty, yet wise,
     Reader, this riddle read with mee,
     Here the good Lady Waller lies.”

There is almost an exultant note in this, and in its rendering of a most
appreciable personality is a hint of the quality of all Bath annals.
These are the history less of events than characters, marked and wilful,
and often passing into eccentricity; and in the abbey is the municipal
monument of the chiefest of such characters, that Beau Nash--namely, who
ruled the fashion of Bath for forty or fifty years with an absolute sway
at a period when fashion was elsewhere a supreme anarchic force in
England. The very sermon which I heard in the abbey (and it was a very
good and forcible homily), was of this personal quality, for taking as
his theme the divine command to give, the preacher enlarged himself to
the fact that the flag of England was then flying at half-mast on the
abbey, and that all the court would presently be going into mourning for
the death of the Duke of Cambridge, in obedience to the King’s command;
and “How strange,” the preacher reflected, “that men should be so prompt
to obey an earthly sovereign, and so slow to obey the King of Kings, the
lord of lords.” But he did not reflect as I did for him, though I had
then been only a week in England, and was very much less fitted to do
it, that in the close-knit system which he himself was essentially part
of, there was such a consciousness of social unity, identity, as has
never been anywhere else on earth, much less spiritually between the
human and divine, since Jehovah ceased conversing with the fathers of
the children of Israel. I do not report it as a message, then and there
delivered to me in round terms, but I had in my cheap sympathy with the
preacher, a sense of the impossibility of his ideal, for between any
decently good King of England and his subjects there is such affiliation
through immemorial law and custom as never was between a father and his
children, any more than between a God and his creatures. When the King
wills, in beautiful accordance with the laws and customs, it is health
for the subjects to obey, as much as for the hands or feet of a man’s
body when he wishes to move them, and it is disease, it is disorder, it
is insanity for them to disobey, whereas it is merely sin to disregard
the divine ordinances, and is not contrary to the social convention or
the ideals of loyalty. But I could not offer this notion to the preacher
in the Abbey of Bath, and I am not sure that my readers here will
welcome it with entire acceptance.

From time to time, in those first days the sense of England (not the
meaning, which heaven forbid I should attempt to give) sometimes came
upon me overwhelmingly; and I remember how once when I sat peacefully at
dinner, a feeling of the long continuity of English things suddenly rose
in a tidal wave and swept me from my chair, and bore me far away from
the soup that would be so cold before I could get back. There, like one

    “Sole sitting by the shores of old romance,”

I visualized those mostly amiable and matter-of-fact people in their
ancestral figures of a thousand years past, and foresaw them
substantially the same for a thousand years to come. Briton and
Phœnician and Roman and Saxon and Dane and Norman, had come to a result
so final in them that they would not change, if they could, and for my
pleasure I would not have had them change, though in my American
consciousness I felt myself so transient, so occasional, so merely
provisional beside them. Such as I then saw them, passing so serenely
from fish to roast, from salad to sweets, or as I could overhear them,
talking of the weather with an effect of bestowing novelty upon the
theme by their attention to it, they had been coming to Bath for untold
generations with the same ancestral rheumatism which their humid
climate, their inclement houses, and their unwholesome diet would enable
them to hand down to a posterity remote beyond any horizons of the
future. In their beautiful constancy, their heroic wilfulness, their
sublime veracity, they would still be, or believe themselves, the first
people in the world; and as the last of the aristocracies and monarchies
they would look round on the classless equalities of the rest of the
world with the pity which being under or over some one else seems always
to inspire in master and man alike. The very gentleness of it all,
testified to the perfection of their ultimation, and the universally
accepted form by which the servant thanked the served for being served,
and the served thanked the servant for serving, realized a social ideal
unknown to any other civilization. There was no play of passion; the
passions in England mean business; no voice rose above the high chirpy
level, which all the voices reached; not a laugh was heard; the
continental waiters who were there to learn the English language had
already learned the English manner, which is a supreme self-containment;
but the result was not the gloom which Americans achieve when they mean
to be very good society in public places; far less was it a Latin
gayety, or a Germanic fury of debate. The manner was such indeed that in
spite of my feeling of their unity of nature and their continuity of
tradition, I could scarcely believe that the people I saw in these
psychological seizures of mine were one with the people who had been
coming to Bath from their affairs in the towns, or from their pleasures
in the country, ever since the English character had evolved itself from
the blend of temperaments forming the English temperament. Out of what
they had been how had they come to be what they were now, and yet not
essentially changed? None of the causes were sufficient for the effect;
the effect was not the logic of the causes.

History is rather darkling after the day of Prince Bladud and his pigs,
and the Romans testify of their resort to the healing waters by the mute
monuments left of the ancient city, still mainly buried under the modern
town, rather than by any written record, but after the days of Elizabeth
the place begins to have a fairly coherent memory of its past. In those
days the virtue of the waters was superior to such material and moral
tests as the filth of streets where the inhabitants cast the sewage of
their houses and the butchers slaughtered their cattle and left the
offal to rot, and the kine and swine ran at large, and the bathers of
both sexes wallowed together in the springs, after the manner of their
earliest exemplars, and were pelted with dead cats and dogs by the
humorous spectators. This remained much the condition of Bath as late as
the first quarter of the seventeenth century, and it was not till well
into the eighteenth that the springs were covered and enclosed. Even
then they were not so covered and enclosed but that the politer public
frequented them to see the bi-sexual bathing which was not finally
abolished till the reign of the good Beau Nash.

If any one would read all about Nash and the customs (there were no
manners) which he amended, I could not do better than commend such a one
to the amusing series of sketches reprinted from the _Bath Chronicle_,
by William Tyte, with the title of _Bath in the Eighteenth Century, its
Progress and Life described_. It is only honest (but one is honest with
so much effort in these matters) to confess my indebtedness to this most
amusing and very valuable book, and to warn the reader that a great deal
of the erudition which he will note in my page can be finally traced to
Mr. Tyte’s. He will learn there at large why I call Beau Nash good
though he was a reprobate in so many things, a libertine and gambler,
and little better than a blackguard when not retrieving and polishing
others. It seems to be essential to the civic and social reformer that
he should more or less be of the quality of the stuff he deals with; we
have seen that more than once in our municipal experience; and Nash, who
reformed Bath, might in turn have asked a like favor of Bath. He was, in
the English and the eighteenth century terms, that familiar phenomenon
which we know as the Boss; and his incentive was not so much the love of
virtue as the love of rule. By the pull on the reins he knew just how
close he might draw them, and when and where he must loose the curb. He
could refuse to allow the royal Princess Amelia a single dance after the
clock struck eleven; he could personally take off the apron of the
Duchess of Queensbury and tell her that “none but Abigails appeared in
white aprons,” as he threw it aside; he could ask a country squire who
wore his spurs to the ball, if he had not forgotten his horse; he could
forbid ladies coming in riding-hoods; he could abolish the wearing of
swords; he could cause the arrest of any one giving or accepting a
challenge; but he could not put down gaming or drinking, and he did not
try, either by the irony of the written rules for the government[A] of
Bath Society, or by the sarcastic by-laws which he orally added on
occasions. He was one of those Welshmen who, at all periods have
invaded England so much less obviously than the Scotch, and have come so
largely into control of the Sassenach, while seeming to merge and lose
themselves in the heavy mass. He had the hot temper of his race; but he
was able to cool it to a very keen edge, and he cut his way through
disorder to victory. He wished to establish an etiquette as severe as
that of the French or English court, and he succeeded, in a measure. But
though not an easy Boss, he was a wise one and he really moulded the
rebellious material to a form of propriety if not of beauty. When he
passed to his account, insolvent both morally and financially, it lapsed
again under the succeeding Masters of Ceremony to its elemental
condition, and social anarchy followed; a strife raged between the old
and new assembly rooms for primacy, and at a ball, where the partisans
of two rival candidates for the mastership met in force, a free fight
followed the attempt of a clergyman’s wife to take precedence of a
peer’s daughter; “the gentlemen fought and swore; the ladies, screaming,
tore each other’s garments and headgear; the floor was strewn with
fragments of caps, lappets, millinery, coat-tails and ruffles. The
non-combatants hurried to the exits, or mounted the chairs near the
walls to be out of danger or to watch the foes mauling and bruising each
other.” Before the fight ended the Mayor of the city had to appear and
read the Riot Act three times.

Of course matters could not go on so. Both the contestants for the
Master of the Ceremonies retired and a third was chosen. The office
though poorly paid, and wholly unremunerative except in hands so skilled
as those of Nash (who died poor by his own fault, but who lived rich),
was honored in him by a statue in the Pump Room and a monument in the
Abbey. This to be sure was after his death, but the place was always of
such dignity that in 1785 Mr. J. King, “who had highly distinguished
himself in the British army during the American war,” by no means
disdained to take it. His distinction does not form any ornament of our
annals as I recall them, but that is perhaps because it was achieved to
our disadvantage. He had indeed the rare honor of introducing Jane
Austen’s most charming hero to her sweetest and simplest heroine; but
though he could fearlessly present Henry Tilney to Catherine Morland,
his courage was apparently not equal to upholding his general authority
with the satirical arrogance of Nash. Where Nash would have laid down
the law and enforced it if need be with his own hands, King “humbly
requested,” though in the matter of wearing hats “at the cotillions or
concerts or dress balls,” our distinguished enemy plucked up the spirit
to warn any lady who should “through inattention or any other motive
infringe this regulation, that she must not take it amiss if she should
be obliged to take off her hat or quit the assembly.”

From Nash’s time onward several Masters of Ceremonies were scandalized
by people’s giving tickets for the entertainments to their domestics,
and one of them took public notice of the evil. “Servants,
hair-dressers, and the improper persons who every night occupy some of
the best seats, and even presume to mix with the company, are warned to
keep away, and to spare themselves the mortification of being desired to
withdraw, a circumstance which will inevitably happen if they continue
to intrude themselves where decency, propriety and decorum forbid their
entrance.”

Apparently in spite of all the efforts of all the Masters of Ceremonies,
society in Bath was not only very fast, which society never minds
being, but a good deal mixed, which it professes not to like, though it
was at the same time always very gay. When at last the respective nights
of the New Assembly Rooms and the Old Assembly Rooms were ascertained,
the fashionable week began on Monday with a Dress Ball at the New Rooms;
it continued on Tuesday with Public Tea and Cards at the New Rooms; on
Wednesday with a Cotillion Ball at the Old Rooms; on Thursday with a
Cotillion Ball at the New Rooms, and Tea and Cards at the Old Rooms; on
Friday with a Dress Ball at the Old Rooms; on Saturday with Public Tea
and Cards at the Old Rooms; and it ended on Sunday with Tea and Walking,
alternately at the New Rooms and the Old Rooms. The cost of all these
pleasures either to the person or the pocket, was not so great as might
be imagined from their abundance. The hours were early, and except for
the gaming, and the drinking that slaked the dry passion of chance, the
fun was over by eleven o’clock. Then the last note was sounded, the last
step taken, the last sigh or the last look exchanged, so that those who
loved balls might not only tread the stately measures of that time with
far less fatigue than the more athletic figures of our period cost, but
might be at home and in bed at the hour when the modern party is
beginning. For their pleasure they paid in the proportion of a guinea
for twenty-six dress balls, and half a guinea for thirty fancy balls.
Two guineas supplied two tickets for twelve concerts, and sixpence
admitted one to the Rooms for a promenade and a cup of tea.

It will be seen that with that “large acquaintance” which Mrs. Allen so
handsomely but hopelessly desired for Catherine Morland at her first
ball, where they had no acquaintance at all, one could have a very good
time at Bath for a very little money, and every one apparently who had
the money could have the good time. There were many public gardens,
where all sorts of people went for concert-breakfasts, and for tea and
for supper, at a charge of a shilling, or the classic one-and-six. Jane
Austen writes in one of her charming letters that she liked going to the
concerts of Sydney Gardens because, having no ear for music, she could
best get away from it there; but there were besides the Villa Gardens,
the Bagatelle, and the Grosvenor Gardens, which were most resorted to
because they were so convenient to the Pump Rooms. Some of the lawns, if
not the groves of these gardens still remains, and hard by the Avon
babbles still, rushing under the walls and bridges of the town, with a
busy air of knowing more than it has time to tell of the old-time
picnics on its grassy shores, and the water-parties on its tumultuous
bosom, as well as the fireworks and illuminations in its bowers. The
river indeed is one of the chief beauties of Bath, winding into it
through a valley of the downs, and curving through it with a careless
grace which leaves nothing to be asked.

The highest moment of fashion in Bath seems to have been when the
Princess Amelia, daughter of George II., came to drink its waters and
partake its pleasures in 1728. She was rather a plain body, no longer
young, very stout, and with a simple taste for gambling, fishing,
riding, and beer. “Her favorite haunt,” says Mr. Tyte, “was a
summer-house by the riverside in Harrison’s Walk, where she often was
seen attired in a riding-habit and a black velvet postilion-cap tied
under her chin.” But she also liked to wear when on horseback “a
hunting-cap and a laced scarlet coat,” which must have set off her red
face and portly bulk to peculiar advantage. Her particular friend was a
milliner in the abbey church-yard who wrote verses in praise of the
princess and of Bath, but she seems to have been friendly enough with
people of every kind and she went freely to the dress balls, the fancy
balls, the teas, the walks, the breakfast-concerts, the gardens, and
whatever else there was of elegant or amusing in the place. One of the
customs of Bath was the ringing of the abbey bells to welcome visitors
of distinction, who were expected to pay the vergers in proportion to
the noise made for them. This custom was afterwards abused to include
any comer from whom money could reasonably or unreasonably be hoped for,
as the supposed writer in the _New Bath Guide_ records. But the custom
has long been obsolete, and no American invader arriving by train need
fear being honored and plundered through it.

It would be idle to catalogue the princes and princesses, dukes and
duchesses, lords and ladies, and titles of all degrees who resorted to
Bath both before and after the good Amelia, and if one began with the
other and real celebrities, the adventurers, and authors, and artists,
and players, there would be no end, and so I will not at least begin
yet. We were first of all concerned in looking up the places which the
divine Jane Austen had made memorable by attributing some scene or
character of hers to them, or more importantly yet by having dwelt in
them herself. I really suppose that it was less with the hope of being
helped with the waters that I went regularly to the Pump Room and sipped
my glass of lukewarm insipidity, than with the insensate expectation of
encountering some of her people, or perhaps herself, a delicate elusive
phantom of ironical observance, in a place they and she so much
frequented. I cannot say that I ever did meet them, either the
characters or the author, though it was here that Catherine Morland
first met the lively but unreliable Isabel Thorpe, and vainly hoped to
meet Henry Tilney after dancing with him the night before. “Every
creature in Bath except himself was to be seen in the room at different
periods of the fashionable hours; crowds of people were every moment
passing in and out, up the steps and down.”

I reconciled myself to a disappointment numerically greater than
Catherine’s for there was not only no Tilney, but no crowd. At mid-day
there would be two or three score persons scattered about the stately
hall, so classically Palladian in its proportions, and so fitly heavy
and rich in decoration, all a dimness of dark paint and dull gold, in
which the sufferers sat about at little tables where they put their
glasses, and read their papers, after they became so used to coming that
they no longer cared to look at the glass cases full of Roman and Saxon
coins and rings and combs and bracelets. There was nothing to prevent
people talking except the overwhelming tradition of the talk that used
to flow and sparkle in that place a century ago. But they did not talk;
and in the afternoon they listened with equal silence to the music in
the concert-room. In the Pump Room there was the largest and warmest
fire that I saw in England, actually lumps of coal, openly blazing in a
grate holding a bushel of them; in the withdrawal of the others from it
one might stand and thaw one’s back without infringing anybody’s
privileges or preferences. Under the Pump Room were the old Roman Baths
with the old Romans represented in their habits of luxury by the
goldfish that swam about in the tepid waters, and, as I was advised by a
guide who started up out of the past and accepted a gratuity, liked it.

I visited these baths as a tourist, but as a patient whose prescription
did not include bathing I saw nothing of the modern baths. There the
sexes no longer bathe together, and in their separation and seclusion
you have no longer the pleasure enjoyed by the spectator in the days of
the _New Bath Guide_, when--

    “’Twas a glorious sight to behold the fair sex
      All wading with gentlemen up to their necks.”

The modern equipment of the baths is such that the bathers are not now
put into baize-lined sedan-chairs and hurried to their lodgings and sent
to bed there to perspire and repose; and the chances of seeing a pair of
rapacious chairmen settling the question of a disputed fare by lifting
the lid of the box, and letting the cold air in upon the reeking lady or
gentleman within, are reduced to nothing at all. In the ameliorated
conditions, unfavorable as they are to the lover of dramatic incident,
many and marvellous recoveries from rheumatism are made in Bath, and we
saw people blithely getting better every day whom we had known at the
beginning of the fortnight very gloomy and doubtful, and all but audibly
creaking in their joints as they limped by. This was in spite of a diet
which must have sent the uric acid gladly rioting through their systems,
and of a capricious variety of March weather which was everything that
wet and cold, and dry and raw, could be in an air notoriously relaxing
to the victim whom it never released from its penetrating clutch.

I put it in this way so as to be at ease in the large freedom of the
truth rather than bound in a slavish fidelity to the fact. The fact is
that in the succession of days that were all and more than here
suggested, there were whole hours of delicious warmth when one could
walk out or drive out in a sunny mildness full of bird-song and
bee-murmur, with the color of bloom in one’s eyes and the odor of
flowers in one’s nostrils. It is not from having so rashly bought
property right and left in every eligible and memorable quarter of Bath
the very first day that I now say I should like to live there always.
The reader must not suspect me of wishing to unload upon him, when I
repeat that I heard people who were themselves in the enjoyment of the
rich alternative say that you had better live in Bath if you could not
live in London. A large contingent of retired army and navy officers and
their families contribute to keep society good there, and it is a
proverb that the brains which have once governed India are afterwards
employed in cheapening Bath. Rents are low, but many fine large houses
stand empty, nevertheless, because the people who could afford to pay
the rents could not afford the state, the equipment of service and the
social reciprocity so necessary in England, and must take humbler
dwellings instead. Provisions are of a Sixth Avenue average in price,
and in the article of butcher’s meat of a far more glaring and offensive
abundance. I do not know whether it is the tradition of the Bath bun
which has inspired the pastry-shops to profuse efforts in
unwholesome-looking cakes and tarts, but it seemed to me that at every
third or fourth window I was invited by the crude display to make way
entirely with the digestion which the Bath waters were doing so little
to repair. When one saw everywhere those beautiful West of England
complexions, the wonder what became of that bilious superfluity of
pastry was a mystery from which the mind still recoils.

But this is taking me from the social conditions of Bath, of which I
know so little. I heard it said, indeed, that the wheels of life were
uncommonly well-oiled there for ladies who had to direct them unaided,
and it seemed to me that the widowed or the unwedded could not be more
easily placed in circumstances of refinement which might be almost
indefinitely simplified without ceasing to be refined. There are in fact
large numbers of single ladies living at Bath in the enjoyment of that
self-respectful civic independence which the just laws of Great Britain
give them; for they vote at all elections which concern the municipal
spending of their money, and are consequently not taxed without their
consent, as our women are. Such is their control in matters which
concern their comfort that it is said the consensus of feminine feeling
has had force with the imperial government to prevent the placing of a
garrison in Bath, on the ground that the presence of the soldiers
distracted the maids, and enhanced the difficulties of the domestic
situation.

The glimpse of the Bath world, which a happy and most unimagined chance
afforded, revealed a charm which brought to life a Boston world now so
largely of the past, and I like to think it was this rather than the
possession of untold real estate which made me wish to live there
always; and advise others to do so. Just what this charm was I should be
slower to attempt saying than I have been to boom Bath; but perhaps I
can suggest it as a feminine grace such as comes to perfection only in
civilizations where the brightness and alertness of the feminine spirit
is peculiarly valued. Bath could not have been so long a centre of
fashion and infirmity, of pleasure and pain, without evolving in the
finest sort the supremacy of woman, who is first in either. The
lingering tradition of intellectual brilliancy, which spreads a soft
afterglow over the literary decline of Boston, is of the same effect in
the gentle city where the mere spectacle of life became penetrated with
the quality of so many spritely witnesses. If the grace of their humor,
the gayety of their spirit, the sweetness of their intelligence have
remained to this time, when the spectacle of life has so dwindled that
the observed are less than the observers, it would not be wonderful, for
the essential part of what has been anywhere seems always to haunt the
scene, and to become the immortal genius of the place. In a more literal
sense Bath is haunted by the past, for it is the favorite resort of
numbers of interesting ghosts, whose characters are well ascertained and
whose stories are recounted to you, if you have so much merit, by people
who have known the spectres almost from childhood. Some of them have the
habit of preferably appearing to strangers; but perhaps they drew the
line at Americans.

I forget whether the almond-trees were in bloom or not when we came to
Bath, but I am sure they continued so throughout our stay, and I found
them steadily blossoming away elsewhere for a month afterwards. There is
no reason why they should not, for they have no work to do in the way of
ripening their nuts, and they lead a life as idle and unfinal as the
vines and fig-trees of Great Britain, which also blossom as cheerfully
and set their fruit, and carry it through the seasons in a lasting
immaturity. I never thought the almond in bloom as rare a sight as the
peach, whose pale elder sister it is; but in the absence of the peach, I
was always glad of it, in a dooryard or over a garden wall. Where the
walls were low enough to lean upon, as they sometimes were round the
vegetable gardens, it was pleasant to pause and contemplate the infinite
variety of cabbage held in a green arrest by the mild winter air, but
destined to an ultimation beyond the powers of the almond, the grape and
the fig. There seemed to be a good many of these gardened spaces in the
town, as well as in the outskirts where more new houses were going up,
in something of the long leisure of the vegetation. The famous Bath
building-stone is in fact so much employed elsewhere that there may not
be enough of it for home use, and that may account for the slow growth
of the place; but if I lived there I should not wish it to grow, and if
I were King of Bath, in due succession from Beau Nash, I would not
suffer one Bath-stone to be set upon the other within its limits. The
place is large enough as it is, and I should hate to have it restored to
its former greatness. There was indeed only too little decay in it, but
there was at least one gratifying instance in the stately mansion at the
end of our street,--falling or fallen to ruin, with its Italian style
rapidly antedating the rough classic of the Roman baths, in the effect
of a sorrowful superannuation,--which I could not have rescued from
dilapidation without serious loss. The hollow windows and broken doors
and toppled chimneys, the weather-stained walls and pillars painted
green with mould, were half concealed, half betrayed, by the neglected
growth of trees, and a wilding thicket had sprung up over the lawn,
penetrated by wanton paths in spite of warnings against trespassing by
severely worded sign-boards. Whose the house was, or why it was
abandoned I never learned, and I do not know that I wished to learn; it
was so satisfying as it was and for what it was. It stood on the borders
of Sydney Gardens, which the authorities were slowly, too slowly for
our pleasure, putting in order for some sort of phantasmal season.

We never got into them, though we longed to make out where it was that
Jane Austen need not hear the music when she went to the concerts. But
it was richly consoling, in these failures to come unexpectedly upon the
house in which she had lived two years with her mother, and to find it
fronting the ruining mansion and the tangled shrubbery that took our
souls with so sorrowful a rapture. At the moment we discovered it, there
was a young girl visible through the dining-room window feeding a quiet
gray cat on the floor, and a gray parrot in a cage. She looked kind and
good, and as if she would not turn two pilgrims away if they asked to
look in over the threshold that Jane Austen’s feet had lightly pressed,
but we could not find just the words to petition her in, and we had to
leave the shrine unvisited. It occurs to me now that we might have
pretended to mistake the tablet in the wall for a sign of apartments,
but we had not then even this cheap inspiration; and we could only note
with a longing, lingering look, that the house was very simple and
plain, like the other houses near.

The literary tradition of the neighborhood is supported in one of these
by the presence of a famous nautical novelist, who has often shipwrecked
and marooned me to my great satisfaction, on reefs and desolate islands,
or water-logged me in lonely seas. He lived even nearer the corner of
Pulteney Street where we were in our hotel, and where we much imagined
taking one of the many lodgings to let there, but never did. We looked
into some, and found them probably not very different from what they
were when the Allens went into theirs with Catherine Morland. We
decided that this was just across the way from our hotel, and that Mrs.
Allen saw us from her window whenever we went or came. We were sure also
that we met Lady Russell and Anne Elliot driving out of _Persuasion_
through Pulteney Street, when Anne noticed Captain Wentworth coming
towards them, and supposed from Lady Russell’s stare, that she was
equally moved by the vision, but found she was “looking after some
window curtains, which Lady Alicia and Mrs. Frankland were telling” her
of as “being the handsomest and best hung of any in Bath.”

Our hotel fronted not only on Pulteney Street, but also on Laura Place,
a most genteel locality indeed where we knew as soon as Sir Walter
Elliot that his cousin “Lady Dalrymple had taken a house for three
months and would be living in style.” I do not think we ever made out
the house, and we were more engaged in observing the behavior of the
wicked John Thorpe driving poor Catherine Morland through Laura Place
after he had deceived her into thinking Henry Tilney, whom she had
promised to walk with, had gone out of town, and whom she now saw
passing with his sister. On a happier day, as the reader will remember,
Catherine really went her walk with the Tilneys, and in sympathy and
emulation we too climbed the steep slopes of “Beechen Cliff, that noble
hill whose beautiful verdure and hanging coppice render it so striking
an object from almost every opening in Bath.” You now cross the railroad
to reach it, and pass through neighborhoods that were probably
pleasanter a hundred years ago; but the view of the town in the bottom
of its bowl must be as fine as ever, though we found no hanging coppice
from which to commend it. Still, as our wont was, we bought several
pieces of property that pleased us, and I still have a few suburban
houses in that quarter which I could offer the reader at a sacrifice.
The truth is that in spite of having the Tilneys and Catherine for
company we did not like the Beechen Cliff as well as its rival
acclivity, Sion Hill, which forms the opposite rim of Bath, and is not
so arduous of approach. A lady who lived not quite at the top, but above
the Bath chair line, declared it the third-best air in England, without
indicating the first or second. The air was at least more active than we
were in our climb, but with a driver who got down and helped his horses
walk up with us, we could enjoy there one of the loveliest prospects in
the world. The fineness of the air was attested probably by the growth
of ivy, which was the richest I saw in England, where the ivy grows so
richly in every place. It not only climbed all the trees on that down,
and clothed their wintry nakedness with a foliage perpetually green, but
it flung its shining mantles over the walls that shut in the mansions on
the varying slopes, and densely aproned the laps of the little hollows
of the lawns and woods. It had the air of feeling its life in every
leaf, and of lustily reaching out for other conquests, like the true
weed it is in Old England, and not the coddled exotic which people make
it believe it is in New England. I do not know that I ever lost the
surprise of it in its real character; I only know that this surprise was
greatest for me on those happy heights.

       *       *       *       *       *

The modern hand-book which was guiding our steps about Bath advised us
that if we would frequent Milsom Street about four o’clock we should
find the tide of fashion flowing through it; but the torrent must have
been very rapid indeed, for we always missed it, and were obliged to
fill the rather empty channel with the gayety of the past. There are
delightful shops everywhere in Bath, and so many places to buy old
family silver that it seems as if all the old families must have poured
all their old silver into them, till you visit other parts of England,
and find the same superabundance of second-hand plate everywhere. But it
is in Milsom Street that most of the fine shops are, and I do not deny
that you will see some drops of the tide of fashion clustered about
their windows. Other drops have percolated to the tea-rooms, where at
five o’clock there is a scene of dissipation around the innocent cups.
But there was no reason why we should practise the generous self-deceit
of our hand-book regarding the actual Milsom Street, when we had its
former brilliancy to draw upon. Even in the time of Jane Austen’s people
it was no longer “residential,” though it was not so wholly gone to
shops as now. The most eligible lodgings were in it, and here General
Tilney sojourned till he insisted on carrying Catherine off to
Northanger Abbey with his children. “His lodgings were taken the very
day after he left them, Catherine,” said Mrs. Allen, afterwards. “But no
wonder; Milsom Street, you know.” Still, the finest shops prevailed
there, then, and when Isabella Thorpe wished to punish the two young men
who had been so impertinently admiring her, by following them, she
persuaded Catherine that she was taking her to a shop-window in Milsom
Street to see “the prettiest hat you can imagine ... very like yours,
with coquelicot ribbons instead of green.” In Milsom Street, sweet Anne
Elliot first meets Captain Wentworth after he comes to Bath, and he is
much confused. But it is no wonder that so many things happen in or
through Milsom Street in Bath fiction, for it leads directly, or as
directly as a street in Bath can, from the New Assembly to the Old
Assembly which were called, puzzlingly enough for the after-comer, the
Upper Rooms and the Lower Rooms, as if they were on different floors of
the same building, instead of separated a quarter of a mile by a rise of
ground. The street therefore led also to the Pump Room and to the divers
parades and walks and gardens, and was of prime topographical
importance, as well as literary interest.

We could not visit the Lower Rooms because they were burned down a great
while ago, but for the sake of certain famous heroines, and many more
dear girls unknown to fame, we went to the Upper Rooms, and found them
most characteristically getting ready for the Easter Ball which the
County Club was to give, and which promised to relume for one night at
least the vanished splendors of Bath. The Ballroom was really noble, and
there were sympathetic tea-rooms and cloakrooms, and the celebrated
octagonal room in the centre, where workmen were hustling the pretty and
gallant ghosts of former dances with their sawing and hammering, and
painting and puttying, and measuring the walls for decorations. I do not
know that I should have minded all that, though I hate to have the
present disturbing the past so much as it must in England; but something
very tragical happened to me at the Upper Rooms which branded that visit
in my mind. A young fellow civilly detached himself from the other
artisans and showed us through the place, and though we could have
easily found the way ourselves, it seemed fit to return his civility in
silver. Sixpence would have been almost too much, but in my pocket there
was a sole coin that enlarged itself to my dismay to the measure of a
full moon. I appealed to my companion, but when did ever a woman have
money unless she had just got it from a husband or father? The thought
struck me that for once I might behave as shabbily as I should always
like to do; but I had not the courage. Slowly, with inward sighs, I drew
forth my hand and bestowed upon that most superfluous youth, for five
minutes’ disservice, a whole undivided half-crown, received his brief
“Thankyesir,” rendered as if he took half-crowns every day for that sort
of thing, and tottered forth so bewildered that I quite forgot the
emotion proper to the place where Catherine Morland went to her first
ball, and Anne Elliot first met Captain Wentworth after coming to Bath.
It was there that Catherine had to sit the whole evening through without
dancing or speaking with a soul, and was only saved by overhearing two
gentlemen speak of her as “a pretty girl.” Such words had their due
effect; she immediately thought the evening pleasanter than she had
found it before, her humble vanity was contented; she ... went to her
chair in good humor with everybody, and perfectly satisfied with her
share of public attention.

I should have liked immensely to look on at the County Ball which was to
assemble all the quality of the neighborhood on something like the old
terms, and I heard with joy the story of ten gay youths who returned
from one of the last balls in Bath chairs, drawn through the gray dawn
in Milsom Street by as many mettlesome chairmen. Only when one has
studied the Bath chair on its own ground, and seen the sort of gloomy
veteran who pulls it, commonly with a yet gloomier old lady darkling
under its low buggy-top, can one realize the wild fun of such an
adventure. It might not always be safe, for the chairman sometimes
balks, and in case of sharp acclivities altogether refuses to go on, as
I have already told.

In paying our duty to the literary memories of the town we did not fail
to visit the church of St. Swithin, in the shadow of which Fanny Burney
lies buried with the gentle exile who made her Madame d’Arblay, and a
very happy wife after the glory of _Evelina_ and _Cecilia_ began to be
lost a little in the less merited success of _Camilla_ and _The
Wanderer_. The gate was locked and we were obliged to come away without
getting into the church-yard, but we saw “about where” one of the great
mothers of English fiction lay; and the pew-opener, found for us with
some difficulty and delay by an interested neighbor, let us into the
church, and there we revered the tablets of the kindly pair. They were
on the wall of the gallery, and I thought they might have been nearer
together, but hers was very fitly inscribed; and one could stand before
it, and indulge a pensive mood in thoughts of the brilliant girl’s first
novel, which set the London world wild and kept Dr. Johnson up all
night, mixed with fit reflections on her father’s ambition in urging her
into the service of the “sweet Queen” Charlotte, where she was summoned
with a bell like a waiting-maid, and the fire of her young genius was
quenched.

If one would have a merrier memory of literary Bath, let him go visit
the house, if he can find it, of the Reverend Dr. Wilson, in Alfred
Street, where the famous Mrs. Macaulay, the first English historian of
her name, presided as a species of tenth muse, and received the homage
of whatever was academic in the rheumatic culture of Bath. She was
apparently the idol of the heart as well as the head (it was thought to
have been partially turned) of the good man whose permanent guest she
was. He put up a marble statue to her as History in his London parish
church, and had a vault made near it to receive her remains when she
should have done with them. But before this happened, History fell in
love with Romance in the person of a young man many years her junior,
and on their marriage the reverend doctor irately removed her statue
from the chancel of St. Stephen’s, and sold her vault for the use of
some less lively body. Her new husband was the brother of a Dr. Graham
who had formerly travelled with Lord Nelson’s beautiful Lady Hamilton
and exhibited her “reclining on a celestial bed” as the Goddess of
Health and Beauty. On the night of Mrs. Macaulay’s birthday the
physician presented her with an address in which he claimed, by virtue
of his mud baths, “the supreme blessedness of removing under God, the
complicated and obstinate maladies your fair and very delicate frame was
afflicted with.” The company danced, played, and talked, and went out to
a supper of “syllabubs, jellies, creams, ices, wine-cakes, and a variety
of dry and fresh fruits, particularly grapes and pineapples.”

The literary celebrities who visited Bath, or sojourned, or lived there
were not to be outnumbered except in London alone, if in fact the
political capital exceeded in them. Mr. Tyte mentions among others De
Foe, who stopped at Bath in collecting materials for his _Tour of Great
Britain_; and who met Alexander Selkirk there, and probably imagined
Robinson Crusoe from him on the spot. Richard Steele came and wrote
about Bath in the _Spectator_. Gay, Pope and Congreve, Lady Mary Wortley
Montague, Fielding and Mrs. Radcliffe came and went; and Sheridan dwelt
there in his father’s house, and met the beautiful Miss Linley, woed,
won, went off to Paris with her and wedded her, and returned to fight
two duels in defence of her honor. Goldsmith and Johnson and Boswell
resorted to the waters; Lord Chesterfield wrote some of his letters from
a place where worldly politeness might be so well studied; Walpole some
of his where gossip so abounded. De Quincey was a school-boy in Bath;
Southey spent his childhood there, and Coleridge preached there, as he
did in many other Unitarian pulpits in England; Cowper wrote his “Verses
on finding the Heel of a Shoe at Bath” after coming to see his cousin,
Lady Hesketh, there; Burke met his wife there, and so did Beckford, who
wrote _Vathek_, meet his. Christopher Anstey, the author of that
humorous, that scandalous, that amusing satire, the _New Bath Guide_,
lived most of his life in the city he delighted to laugh at.

The list might be indefinitely prolonged, but the name which most
attracts, after the names of Jane Austen and Fanny Burney, is the name
of Charles Dickens. He must have come to Bath when he was very young,
and very probably on some newspaper errand; for when he wrote _The
Pickwick Papers_ he was still a reporter. His genius for boisterous
drollery was not just the qualification for dealing with the pathetic
absurdities of a centre of fashion which was no longer quite what it had
been. The earlier decades of the nineteenth century found Bath in a
social decline which all her miraculous waters could not medicine. But
the members of the Pickwick Club went to a ball at the Upper Rooms where
some noble ladies won a good deal of Mr. Pickwick’s money; and he had
already visited the Pump Room. Dickens derides the company at both
places with the full force of his high spirits and riots in the
description of Mr. Pickwick’s introduction to the Master of the
Ceremonies, Angelo Cyrus Bantam, Esq. The exaggerated caricature
preserves some traits of the M.C.’s, his illustrious predecessors; and
perhaps some such bold handling as Dickens could best render the
personal effect of a beau of the period. He “was a charming young man of
not more than fifty, dressed in a very bright-blue coat with resplendent
buttons, black trousers, and the thinnest possible pair of highly
polished boots. A gold eyeglass was suspended from his neck by a short,
broad black ribbon, a gold snuff-box was lightly clasped in his left
hand ... and he carried a pliant ebony cane with a heavy gold top. His
linen was of the very whitest, finest and stiffest; his wig of the
glossiest, blackest and curliest.... His features were contracted into a
perpetual smile. ‘Welcome to Ba-ath, sir. This is indeed an acquisition.
Most welcome to Ba-ath.... Never been in Ba-ath, Mr. Pickwick?... Never
in Ba-ath! He! he! Mr. Pickwick, you are a wag. Not bad, not bad. Good,
good. He! he! he! Re-mark-able!’”

This might have happened, but it does not seem as if it had happened,
and one sighs amid the horse-play for “the touch of a vanished hand,”
like Jane Austen’s, to give delicacy and precision to the picture. The
Pickwick Club first put up at the White Hart, just opposite the Pump
Room, but it was while living in “the upper portion of the Royal
Crescent,” that Mr. Winkle had his amusing adventure with Mrs. Dowler,
whose husband had fallen asleep after promising to sit up for her return
from a ball. The elderly reader will probably remember better than the
younger how Mr. Winkle went down-stairs in his bed-gown and slippers to
let the lady in, and then had the door blown to behind him, and was
obliged to plunge into her sedan-chair to hide himself from the
mockeries of a party coming into the

[Illustration: THE GUINEA-PIG MAN]

Crescent; how he fled to escape her infuriated husband, and in Bristol
found Mr. Dowler, who had also fled from Bath to escape Mr. Winkle and
the consequences of his own violent threats. It was at the house of the
Master of Ceremonies in Queen’s Square that “a select company of Bath
footmen” entertained Sam Weller at a “friendly swarry consisting of a
boiled leg of mutton and the usual trimmings,” but I am unable to give
the number where Sam’s note of invitation instructed him to ring at the
“airy bell.”

In fact, on going back to the Bath episode of the _Pickwick Papers_, one
finds so much make-believe required of him that the remembrance of one’s
earlier delight in it is a burden and a hindrance rather than a help.
You could get on better with it if you were reading it for the first
time, and even then it would not seem very like what he probably saw.
You would be sensible of the elemental facts, but in the picture they
are all jarred out of semblance to life. The effect is quite that of a
Cruikshank illustration, abounding in impossible grotesqueness, yet
related here and there to reality by an action, an expression, a figure.
It is screaming farce, or it is shrieking melodrama; the mirror is held
up to nature, but nature makes a face in it. Nevertheless, on an earlier
visit to England, I had once seen a water-side character getting into a
Thames steam-boat who seemed to me exactly like a character of Dickens;
and in Bath I used often to meet a little, queer plinth of a man, whose
nationality I could not make out, but every inch of whose five feet was
full of the suggestion of Dickens. His face, topped by a frowzy cap, was
twisted in a sort of fixed grin, and his eyes looked different ways,
perhaps to prevent any attempt of mine to escape him. He carried at his
side a small wicker-box which he kept his hand on; and as he drew near
and halted, I heard a series of plaintive squeaks coming from it. “Make
you perform the guinea-pig?” he always asked, and before I could answer,
he dragged a remonstrating guinea-pig from its warm shelter, and
stretched it on the cage, holding it down with both hands. “Johnny die
queek!” he commanded, and lifted his hands for the instant in which
Johnny was motionlessly gathering his forces for resuscitation. Then he
called exultantly, “Bobby’s coming!” and before the police were upon
him, Johnny was hustled back into his cosy box, woefully murmuring to
its comfort of his hardship; and the queer little man smiled his triumph
in every direction. The sight of this brief drama always cost me a
penny; perhaps I could have had it for less; but I did not think a penny
was too much.



IV

A COUNTRY TOWN AND A COUNTRY HOUSE


There were so many pleasing places within easy reach of Bath that it was
hard to choose among them, and Bath itself was so constantly pleasing
that it was a serious loss to leave it for a day, for an hour. I do not
know, now, why we should have gone first, when we gathered force to
break the charm, to Bradford-on-Avon. If we did not go first to Wells it
was perhaps because we balanced the merits of an eighth-century Saxon
Chapel against those of a twelfth-century Cathedral, and felt that the
chapel had prior claim. Possibly, spoiled as we were by the
accessibility of places in England, and relaxed as we were by the air of
Bath, we shrank from spending five or six hours in the run to Wells when
we could get to and from Bradford in little or no time. Wells is one of
the exceptions to the rule that in England everything is within easy
reach from everywhere, or else Bath is an exception among the places
that Wells is within easy reach of. At any rate we were at Bradford
almost before we knew it, or knew anything of its history, which there
is really a good deal of.

The best of this history seems to be that when in the year 652 the Saxon
King of Wessex overcame the Britons in a signal victory, he did not
exterminate the survivors, but allowed them to become the
fellow-subjects of their Saxon conquerors under his rule. Just how
great a blessing this was it would not be easy to say at the actual
distance of time, but it seems to have been thought a good deal of a
blessing for a King of Wessex to bestow. To crown it, some fifty years
later, a monastery was founded in Bradford, by St. Aldhelm, a nephew of
the King. A chapel was built on the site of the uncle’s battle with the
Britons, and such as it was then such we now saw it, the vicar of the
parish having not long ago rescued it from its irreligious uses as a
cottage dwelling and a free school, and restored it spiritually and
materially to its original function. It is precious for being the only
old church in England which is wholly unchanged in form, and though very
small and very rude it is pathetically interesting. It seemed somehow
much older than many monuments of my acquaintance which greatly
antedated it; much older, say, than the Roman remains at Bath, for it is
a relic of the remote beginning of an order of things, and not the
remnant of a fading civilization. No doubt the Saxons who built it on
the low hill slope where it stands, in a rude semblance of the Roman
churches which were the only models of Christian architecture they could
have seen, thought it an edifice of the dignity since imparted to it by
the lapse of centuries. Without, the grass grew close to its
foundations, in the narrow plot of ground about it, and the sturdy
little fabric showed its Romanesque forms in the gray stone pierced by
mere slits of windows, which gave so faint a light within that, after
entering, one must wait a moment before attempting to move about in the
cramped, dungeon-like space. With the simple altar, and the chairs set
before it for worshippers, it gave an awful sense of that English
continuity on which political and religious changes vainly

[Illustration: SAXON CHAPEL AT BRADFORD

Wholly unchanged in form since it was built in the eighth century]

break: the parts knit themselves together again, and transmit the
original consciousness from age to age. The type of beauty in the child
who sold us permits to see the chapel and followed us into it was in
like manner that of the Saxon maids whose hulking fathers had beaten in
battle the fierce, dark little Britons on that spot twelve hundred years
before: the same blazing red cheeks, the same blue, blue eyes, the same
sunny hair which has always had to make up for the want of other
sunniness in that dim clime, falling round the fair neck. No doubt the
snuffles with which the pretty creature suffered were also of the same
date and had descended from mother to daughter in the thirty generations
dwelling in just such stone-cold stone cottages as that where we found
her. It was one of a row of cottages near the chapel, of a red-tiled,
many-gabled, leaden-sashed, diamond-paned picturesqueness that I have
never seen surpassed out of the theatre, or a Kate Greenaway picture,
and was damp with the immemorial dampness that inundated us from the
open door when we approached. What perpetuity of colds in the head must
be the lot of youths in such abodes; how rheumatism must run riot among
the joints of age in the very beds and chimney-corners! Better, it
sometimes seemed, the greatest ugliness ever devised by a Yankee
carpenter in dry and comfortable wood than the deadly poetry of such
dwellings.

But there were actually some wooden houses in Bradford, or partially
wooden, which the driver of our fly took us to see when we had otherwise
exhausted the place. They had the timbered gables of the Tudor times
when the English seemed to build with an instinct for domestic comfort
earlier unknown and later lost; but otherwise Bradford was of stone,
stony. It studded the slopes of its broken uplands with warts and knots
of little dwellings, and had a certain foreignness, possibly imparted by
the long abode of the Flemish cloth-workers whom an enterprising
manufacturer invited to the place centuries before, and whose skill
established its ancient industry in a finer product and a greater
prosperity. Now, one reads, the competition of the same art in Yorkshire
has reduced the weavers of Bradford to a fifth of their number fifty
years ago. But the presence of the Flemings was so influential in the
seventeenth century that they had a quarter of their own, and altogether
there were intimations in Bradford so Continental, the raw rainy day of
our visit, that I thought if it could have had a little sun on it there
were moments when it might have looked Italian.

Perhaps not, and I do not mean that in its own way it was not
delightful. We wandered from the station into it by a bridge over the
Avon that was all a bridge could be asked to be by the most exacting
tourist, who could not have asked more, midway, than a guardhouse which
had become a chapel, and then a lock-up, and finally an object of
interest merely. When we had got well into the town, and wanted a
carriage, we were taken in charge by the kindest policeman that ever
befriended strangers. If not the only policeman in Bradford, he was the
only one on duty, and his duty was mainly, as it seemed, to do us any
pleasure he could. He told us where we could find a fly, and not content
with this, he went in person with us to the stable-yard, and did not
leave us till he had made a boy come out and promise us a fly
immediately. Never, even when girdled by the protecting arm of a blue
giant resolved to bring my gray hairs in safety to some thither side of
Fifth Avenue or Broadway, have I known such sweetness in a minister of
the law. We could only thank him again and again, and vainly wish that
we might do something for him in return. But what can one do for a
policeman except offer him a cigar? But if one does not smoke?

The stable-boy seemed a well-grown lad in that character, but when he
put on a metal-buttoned coat and a top-hat, and coachman’s boots in
honor of us, he shrank into the smallest-sized man. It seemed the
harder, therefore, that when he proposed to bow us into the fly with fit
dignity, and pulled open the door, it should come off its hinge and hang
by its handle from his grasp. But we did what we could to ignore the
mortifying incident, and after that we abetted him in always letting us
out on the other side.

His intelligence was creditable to him as a large boy, if not as a small
man, and but for him we should not have seen those timbered houses which
were in a street dreadfully called, with the English frankness which
never spares the sensibilities of strangers, The Shambles. With us
shambles are only known in tragic poetry; in real life they veil their
horror in delicate French and become _abattoirs_; but as that street in
Bradford was probably the Shambles in 652, the year of the great Saxon
victory over the Britons, it was still so called in the year of our
visit, 1904. We did not complain; the houses were not so wooden as we
could have wished for the sake of the rheumatism and snuffles within,
but they must have been drier than houses entirely of stone. Besides we
had just come warm from the Italian aspect of one of the most charming
houses I saw in England, and we did not really much mind the discomfort
of others. The house was that Kingston House, world-famous for having
been reproduced in papier-maché at the last Universal Exposition in
Paris, which a wealthy cloth-manufacturer had had built for himself
about 1600 by Giovanni of Padua, and it was full of beautiful Italian
feeling in an English environment. Masses of cold, cold evergreen shrubs
hide it from the street, but at the moment the rain was briefly
intermitting, and we surprised it, as it were, in a sort of reverie of
the South under an afternoon sky, hesitating from gray to blue. At this
happy instant the place was embellished by a peacock, sweeping with
outspread tail the farthest green of a long velvet lawn, and lending the
splendor of his color to a picture richly framed by a stretch of
balustrade. The house, with English shyness (which it surely might have
overcome after being shown as the most beautiful house in England),
faced away from the street, towards a garden which sloped downward from
it, towards a dove-cote with pigeons in red and mauve cooing about its
eaves and roofs, and mingling their deep-throated sighs with the murmur
of a mill somewhere beyond the Avon.

There were other beautiful and famous houses not far from Bradford, but
our afternoon was waning, and we consoled ourselves as we could with the
old Barton Barn, which was built two hundred years after King Etheldred
had given the manor to the abbess of Shaftesbury, and became locally
known as the tithe-barn from its use in receiving the dues of the church
in kind during the long simple centuries when they were so paid. It is a
vast, stately structure, and is now used for the cow-barn of a dairy
farmer, whose unkempt cattle stood about, knee-deep in the manure, with
the caked and clotted hides which the West of England cattle seem to
wear all winter. It did not look such a place as one would like to get
milk from in America, but if we could have that

[Illustration: KINGSTON HOUSE, BRADFORD

Built by Giovanni of Padua, about 1600]

old cow-barn, without the cows, at home, I think we might gainfully
exchange our neatest and wholesomest dairy for it. The rich
superabundance of the past in England is what always strikes one, and
the piety with which the past is preserved and restored promises more
and more of antiquity. I am sure the Barton Barn at Bradford is only
waiting for some public-spirited magnate who will yet drive the untidy
kine from its shelter, clean up, and sod and plant its yard, and with
the help of some reverent architect renew it in the image of its prime,
and stock it as a museum with the various kinds of tithes which in the
ages of faith the neighboring churls used to pay into it for the comfort
of the clergy here, and the good of their own souls hereafter.

When we got well away from the tithe-barn we felt the need of tea, and
we walked back from the station where our large boy, or little man, had
put us down, to the shop of a green-grocer, which is probably the most
twentieth-century building in Bradford. It is altogether of wood, and
behind the shop, where the vegetables vaunted themselves in all the
variety of cabbage, there is a clean little room, with the walls and
roof sheathed in matched and painted pine. In this cheerful place, two
rustics, a man and a boy, were drinking tea at the only table, but at
our coming they politely choked down all the tea that was in their cups,
and in spite of our entreaties hurried out with their cheeks bulged by
what was left of their bread and butter. It was too bad, we murmured,
but our hostess maintained that her late guests had really done, and she
welcomed us with a hospitality rendered precious by her dusting off the
chairs for us with her apron: I do not know that I had ever had that
done for me before, and it seemed very romantic, and very English. The
tea and butter were English too, and excellent, as they almost
unfailingly are in England, no matter how poor the place where they are
supplied, and the bread was no worse than usual. In a morsel of garden
under the window some gillyflowers were in bloom, and when we expressed
our surprise, the kind woman went out and gathered some for us: they
bloomed pretty well all the winter, there, she said; but let not this
give the fond reader too glowing an idea of the winter’s warmth in the
West of England. It only proves how sturdy the English flowers are, and
how much raw cold they can stand without turning a petal.

Before our train went, we had time to go a longish walk, which we took
through some pleasant, rather new, streets of small houses, each with
its gardened front-yard hedged about it with holly or laurel, and
looking a good, dull, peaceful home. It may really have been neither,
and life may have been as wild, and bad, and fascinating in those
streets as in the streets of any American town of the same population as
Bradford. There was everything in the charming old place to make life
easy; good shops, of all kinds, abundant provisions, stores, and not too
many licensed victuallers, mostly women, privileged to sell wine and
spirits. Yet, as the twilight began to fall, Bradford seemed very
lonely, and we thought with terror, what if we should miss our train
back to Bath! We got to the station, however, in time to cower half an
hour over a grate in which the Company had munificently had a fire early
in the day; and to correct by closer observation of an elderly pair an
error which had flattered our national pride at the time of our arrival.
In hurrying away to get the only fly at the station the lady had then
fallen down and the gentleman had kept on, leaving her to pick herself
up as she could, while he secured the fly. Perhaps he had not noticed
her falling, but we chose to think the incident very characteristically
middle-class English; for all we knew it might be a betrayal of the way
all the English treated their wives. Now the same couple arrived to take
the train with us for Bath, and we heard them censuring its retard in
accents unmistakably American! We fell from our superiority to our
English half-brothers instantly; and I think the little experience was
useful in confirming me in the resolution throughout my English travels
to practise that slowness in sentencing and executing offenders against
one’s native ideals and standards which has always been the conspicuous
ornament of English travellers among ourselves.

The day that we drove out from Bath to a certain charming old house
which I wish I could impart my sense of, but which I will at once own
the object of a fond despair, was apparently warm and bright, but was
really dim and cold. That is, the warmth and brightness were
superficial, while the cold and dimness were structural. The fields on
either side of the road were mostly level, though here and there they
dipped or rose, delicately green in their diaphanous garment of winter
wheat, or more substantially clad in the grass which the winter’s cold
had not been great enough to embrown. Here and there were spaces of
woodland, withdrawn rather afar from our course, except where the trees
of an avenue led up from the highway to some unseen mansion. To complete
the impression you must always, under the tender blue sky, thickly
archipelagoed with whity-brown clouds, have rooks sailing and dreamily
scolding, except where they wake into a loud clamor among the leafless
tops surrounding some infrequent roof. There are flights of starlings
suddenly winging from the pastures, where the cows with their untidily
caked and clotted hides are grazing, and the sheep are idling over the
chopped turnips, and the young lambs are shivering with plaintive cries.
Amid their lamentations the singing of birds makes itself heard; the
singing of larks, or the singing of robins, Heaven knows which, but
always angelically sweet. The bare hedges cross and recross the fields,
and follow the hard, smooth road in lines unbroken save near some
village of gray walls and red roofs, topped by an ancient church. In the
background, over a stretch of embankment or along the side of a low
hill, sweeps a swift train of little English cars, with a soft whirring
sound, as unlike the giant roar of one of our expresses as it is unlike
the harsh clatter of a French _rapide_. The white plumes of steam
stretch after it in vain; break, and float thinner and thinner over the
track behind.

There were, except in the villages, very few houses; and we met even
fewer vehicles. There was one family carriage, with the family in it,
and a sort of tranter’s wagon somewhere out of Hardy’s enchanted pages,
with a friendly company of neighbors going to Bath inside it. At one
exciting moment there was a lady in a Bath chair driving a donkey
violently along the side of the road. A man slashing and wattling the
lines of hedge, or trimming the turf beside the foot-path, left his
place in literature, and came to life as the hedger and ditcher we had
always read of. Beneath the hedges here and there very “rathe primroses”
peered out intrepidly, like venturesome live things poising between
further advance and retreat. The road was admirable, but it seemed
strange that so few people used it. The order in which it was kept was
certainly worthy of constant travel, and we noted that from point to
point there was a walled space beside it for the storage of road-mending
material. At home we should dump the broken stone in the gutter near
the place that needed mending, or on the face of the highway, but in
England, where everything is so static, and the unhurried dynamic
activities are from everlasting to everlasting, a place is specially
provided for broken stone, and the broken stone is kept there.

The drive from Bath to our destination was twelve miles, and the friend
who was to be our host for the day had come as far on his wheel to ask
us. It was the first of many surprises in the continued use of the
bicycle which were destined to confound strangers from a land whose
entire population seemed to go bicycle-mad a few years ago, and where
now they are so wholly recovered that the wheel is almost as obsolete as
the russet shoe. As both the wheel and the russet shoe are excellent
things in their way, though no American could now wear the one or use
the other without something like social suicide, the English continue to
employ them with great comfort and entire self-respect. They fail so
wholly to understand why either should have gone out with us that one
becomes rather ashamed to explain that it was for the same reason that
they came in, merely because everybody had them.

Our friend had given us explicit directions for our journey, and it was
well that he did so, for we had two turnings to take on that lonely
road, and there were few passers whom we could ask our way. We really
made the driver ask it, and he did not like to do it, for he felt, as we
did, that he ought to know it. I am afraid he was not a very active
intelligence, and I doubt if he had ever before been required to say
what so many birds and flowers were. I think he named most of them at
random, and when it came at last to a very common white flower, he
boldly said that he had forgotten what it was. As we drew near the end
of our journey he grew more anxiously complicated in the knowledge of
our destination which he acquired. But he triumphed finally in the
successive parleys held to determine the site of a house which had been
in its place seven or eight hundred years, and might, in that time have
ceased to be a matter of doubt even among the farther neighbors. It was
with pride on his part and pleasure on ours that suddenly and most
unexpectedly, when within a few yards of it, he divined the true way,
and drove into the court-yard of what had at times been the dower-house,
where we were to find our host and guide to the greater mansion.

As this house is a type of many old dower-houses I will be so intimate
as to say that you enter it from the level of the ground outside, such a
thing as under-pinning to lift the floor from the earth and to make an
air-space below being still vaguely known in England, and in former
times apparently unheard of. But when once within you are aware of a
charm which keeps such houses in the inviolate form of the past; and
this one was warmed for us by a hospitality which refined itself down to
the detail of a black cat basking before the grate: a black cat that
promptly demanded milk after our luncheon, but politely waited to be
asked to the saucer when it was brought. From the long room which looked
so much a study that I will not call it differently, the windows opened
on the shrubberies and lawns and gardens that surround such houses in
fiction, and keep them so visionary to the comer who has known them
nowhere else that it would be easy to transgress the bounds a guest must
set himself, and speak as freely of the people he met there as if they
were persons in a pleasant book. Two of them, kindred of the

[Illustration: SUTTON COURT, ONE OF ENGLAND’S HISTORIC HOUSES]

manor-house and of the great house near, had come from three or four
miles away on their wheels. Our host himself, the youngest son of the
great house, was a painter, by passion as well as by profession, and a
reviewer of books on art, such as plentifully bestrewed his table and
forbade us to think of the place in the ordinary terms as a
drawing-room. It seemed to me characteristic of the convenient insular
distances that here, far in the West, almost on the Welsh border, he
should be doing this work for a great London periodical, in as direct
touch with the metropolis as if he dwelt hard by the Park, and could
walk in fifteen minutes to any latest exhibition of pictures.

When he took us after luncheon almost as long a walk to his studio, I
fancied that I was feeling England under my feet as I had not before. We
passed through a gray hamlet of ten or a dozen stone cottages, where,
behind or above their dooryard hedges, they had gradually in the long
ages clustered near the great house, and a little cottage girl, who was
like a verse of Wordsworth, met us, and bidding us good-day, surprised
us by dropping a courtesy. It surprised even our friends, who spoke of
it as if it were almost the last courtesy dropped in England, and made
me wish I could pick it up, and put it in my note-book, to grace some
such poor page as this: so pretty was it, so shy, so dear, with such a
dip of the suddenly weakening little knees.

We were then on our way to see first the small gray church which had
been in its place among the ancient graves from some such hoary eld as
English churches dream of in like places all over the land, and make our
very faith seem so recent a thing. It was in a manner the family chapel,
but it was also the spiritual home of the lowlier lives of village and
farm, and was shared with them in the reciprocal kindness common in
that English world of enduring ties. There for ages the parish folk had
all been christened, and all married, and all buried, and there in due
time they had been or would be forgotten. The edifice was kept in fit
repair by the joint piety of rich and poor, with the lion’s share of the
expense rightfully falling to the rich, as in such cases it always does
in England; and within and without the church the affection of the
central family had made itself felt and seen, since the Christian
symbols were first rudely graven in the stone of the square
church-tower.

The name of the family always dwelling in that stately old house whither
we were next going had not always been the same, but its nature and its
spirit had been the same. An enlightened race would naturally favor the
humane side in all times, and the family were Parliamentarian at the
time England shook off the Stuart tyranny, and revolutionist when she
finally ridded herself of her faithless Jameses and Charleses. In the
archives of the house there are records of the hopes vainly cherished by
a son of it who was then in New York, that our own revolt against the
Georgian oppression might be composed to some peaceful solution of the
quarrel. It was not his fault that this hope was from the first moment
too late, but it must be one of his virtues in American eyes that he saw
from the beginning the hopelessness of any accommodation without a full
concession of the principles for which the colonies contended. In the
negotiation of the treaty at Versailles in 1783 he loyally did his
utmost for his country against ours at every point of issue, and
especially where the exiled American royalists were concerned. Our own
commissioners feared while they respected him, and John Adams wrote of
him in his diary, “He pushes and presses every point as far as it can
possibly go; he has a most eager, earnest, pointed spirit.”

This was the first baronet of his line, but the real dignity and honor
of the house has been that of a race of scholars and thinkers. Their
public spirit has been of the rarer sort which would find itself most at
home in the literary association of the place, and it has come to
literary expression in a book of singular charm. In the gentle wisdom of
sympathies which can be universal without transcending English
conditions, the _Talk at a Country House_, as the book modestly calls
itself, strays to topics of poetry, and politics, and economics, and
religion, yet keeps its allegiance to the old house we were about to see
as a central _motif_. It was our first English country house, but I do
not think that its claim on our interest was exaggerated by its novelty,
and I would willingly chance finding its charm as potent again, if I
might take my way to it as before. We came from the old church now by
the high-road, now through fringes of woodland, and now over shoulders
of pasturage, where the lesser celandine delicately bloomed, and the
primrose started from the grass, till at last we emerged from under the
sheltering boughs of the tall elms that screened the house from our
approach. There was a brook that fell noisily over our way, and that we
crossed on a rustic bridge, and there must have been a drive to the
house, but I suppose we did not follow it. Our day of March had grown
gray as it had grown old, and we had not the light of a day in June,
such as favored an imaginary visitor in _Talk at a Country House_, but
we saw the place quite so much as he did that his words will be better
than any of my own in picturing it.

“The air was resonant with rooks as they filled the sky with the circles
in which they wheeled to and fro, disappearing in the distance to
appear again, and so gradually reach their roosting trees.... I might
call them a coruscation of rooks.... On my left I saw ... the old
battlemented wall, and a succession of gables on either side ... and one
marked by a cross which I knew must be the chapel.... The old,
battlemented wall had a flora of its own: ferns, crimson valerian,
snap-dragons, and brier-roses ... and an ash and a yew growing on the
battlements where they had been sown no doubt by the rooks. And as I
passed through an archway of the road, the whole house came in view. It
was not a castle nor a palace, but it might be called a real though
small record of what men had been doing there from the time of the
Doomsday Book to our own.”

As we grew more acquainted with it, we realized that at the front it was
a building low for its length, rising gray on terraces that dropped from
its level in green, green turf. Some of the long windows opened down to
the grass, with which the ground floor was even. Above rose the
Elizabethan, earlier Tudor, and Plantagenet of the main building, the
wings, and the tower of the keep. The rear of the house was enclosed by
a wall of Edward II.’s time, and beyond this was a wood of elms, tufted
with the nests of that eternal chorus of coruscating rooks. At first we
noticed their multitudinous voices, but in a little while they lost all
severalty of sound, like waves breaking on the shore, and I fancied one
being so lulled by them that one would miss them when out of hearing,
and the sense would ache for them in the less soothing silence.

The family was away from home, and there were no reserves in the house,
left in the charge of the gardener, as there must have been if it were
occupied. But I do not hope to reproduce my impressions of it. I can
only say that a sense of intellectual refinement and of liberal thought
was what qualified for me such state as characterized the place. The
whole structure within as well as without was a record of successive
temperaments as well as successive tunes. Each occupant had built up or
pulled down after his fancy, but the changes had left a certain
physiognomy unchanged, as the mixture of different strains in the blood
still leaves a family look pure. The house, for all its stateliness, was
not too proud for domesticity; its grandeur was never so vast that the
home circle would be lost in it. The portraits on the walls were
sometimes those of people enlarged to history in their lives, but these
seemed to keep with the rest their allegiance to a common life. The
great Bess of Hardwicke, the “building Bess,” whose architectural
impulses effected themselves in so many parts of England, had married
into the line and then married out of it (to become, as Countess of
Shrewsbury, one of the last jailers of Mary Queen of Scots), and she had
left her touch as well as her face on its walls, but she is not a more
strenuous memory in it than a certain unstoried dowager. She, when her
son died, took half the house and left half to her daughter-in-law, whom
she built off from herself by a partition carried straight through the
mansion to the garden wall, with a separate gate for each.

In her portrait she looks all this and more; and a whole pathetic
romance lives in the looks of that lady of the first Charles’s time who
wears a ring pendent from her neck, and a true-lovers’ knot embroidered
on the back over her heart, and who died unwedded. There were other
legends enough; and where the pictures asserted nothing but lineage they
were still very interesting. They were of people who had a life in
common with the house, wives and mothers and daughters, sons and
husbands and fathers, married into it or born into it, and all receiving
from it as much as they imparted to it, as if they were of one substance
with it and it shared their consciousness that it was the home of their
race. We have no like terms in America, and our generations, which are
each separately housed, can only guess at the feeling for the place of
their succession which the generations of such an English house must
feel. It would be easy to overestimate the feeling, but in view of it I
began to understand the somewhat defiant tenderness with which the
children of such a house must cherish the system which keeps it
inalienably their common home, though only the first-born son may dwell
in it. If there were no law to transmit it to the eldest brother they
might well in their passion for it be a law unto themselves at any
sacrifice and put it in his hands to have and hold for them all.

In my own country I had known too much graceless private ownership to
care to offer the consecrated tenure of such an ancestral home the
violence of unfriendly opinions of primogeniture. But if I had been
minded to do so, I am not sure that this house and all its dead and
living would not have heard me at least tolerantly. In England, with the
rigid social and civic conformity, there has always been ample play for
personal character; perhaps without this the inflexible conditions would
be insufferable, and all sorts of explosions would occur. With full
liberty to indulge his whim a man does not so much mind being on this
level or that, or which side of the social barrier he finds himself. But
it is not his whim only that he may freely indulge: he may have his way
in saying the thing he thinks, and the more frankly he says it the
better he is liked, even when the thing is disliked. These are the
conditions, implicit in everything, by which the status, elsewhere
apparently so shaky, holds itself so firmly on its legs. They reconcile
to its contradictions those who suffer as well as those who enjoy, and
dimly, dumbly, the dweller in the cottage is aware that his rheumatism
is of one uric acid with the gout of the dweller in the great house.
Every such mansion is the centre of the evenly distributed civilization
which he shares, and makes each part of England as tame, and keeps it as
wild, as any other. He knows that hut and hall must stand or fall
together, for the present, at least; and where is it that there is any
longer a future?

It seems strange to us New-Worldlings, after all the affirmation of
history and fiction, to find certain facts of feudalism (mostly the
kindlier facts) forming part of the status in England as they form no
part of it with us. It was only upon reflection that I perceived how
feudal this great house was in its relation to the lesser homes about it
through many tacit ties of responsibility and allegiance. From eldest
son to eldest son it had been in the family always, but it had descended
with obligations which no eldest son could safely deny any more than he
could refuse the privileges it conferred. To what gentlest effect the
sense of both would come, the reader can best learn from the book which
I have already named. This, when I had read it, had the curious
retroactive power of establishing the author in a hospitable perpetuity
in the place bereft of him, so that it now seems as if he had been chief
of those who took leave of us that pale late afternoon of March, and
warned us of the chill mists which shrouded us back to Bath. As we
drove along between the meadows where the light was failing and the
lambs plaintively called through the gloaming, we said how delightful it
had all been, how perfectly, how satisfyingly, English. We tried again
to realize the sentiment which, as well as the law, keeps such places in
England in the ordered descent, and renders it part of the family faith
and honor that the ancestral house should always be the home of its
head. I think we failed because we conceived of the fact too
objectively, and imagined conscious a thing that tradition has made part
of the English nature, so that the younger brother acquiesces as
subjectively in the elder brother’s primacy as the elder brother
himself, for the family’s sake. We fancied that in their order one class
yielded to another without grudging and without grasping, and that this,
which fills England with picturesqueness and drama, was the secret of
England. In the end we were not so sure. We were not sure even of our
day’s experience; it was like something we had read rather than lived;
and in this final unreality, I prefer to shirk the assertion of a
different ideal, which all the same I devoutly hold.



V

AFTERNOONS IN WELLS AND BRISTOL


Even the local guide-book, which is necessarily optimistic, owns that
the railroad service between Bath and Wells leaves something to be
desired. The distance is twenty miles, and you can make it by the Great
Western in something over two hours, but if you are pressed for time,
the Somerset and Dorset line will carry you in two. As we were
nationally in a hurry, though personally we had time to spare, we went
and came by this line, mostly in a sort of vague rain, which favored the
blossoming of the primroses along the railroad bank. Not that any part
of the way needed rain; great stretches of the country lay soaking in
the rainfall of the year before, which had not had sun enough to
diminish its depth or breadth. In fact, on the eve of the sunniest and
loveliest summer which perhaps England ever saw, the whole West looked
in March as if wringing it out and hanging it up to dry in a
steam-laundry could alone get the wet out of it. The water lay in wide
expanses in the meadows, the plethoric streams swam chokeful; in the
ditches men were at work with short scythes cutting the rank weeds out
to give the flood a little course, but where it was to run was a
question which did not answer itself.

We were in a third-class compartment, and we had the advantage of the
simple life getting in and out of a train that seemed to stop oftener
than it started. Our ever-changing fellow-passengers were mostly mothers
of large little families: babies in arms, and babies slightly bigger,
sisters and brothers pendent at arm’s-length from the mother-hands, all
with flaring blue eyes and flaming red cheeks, and flaxen hair and mild,
sweet faces. Everybody was good, and helped these helpless families to
mount and dismount; the kindly porters came and went with their
impracticable bundles, and the passengers handed the brothers and
sisters after the baby-burdened mother, or took them from her so that
she might stumble into the carriage without falling upon her detached
offspring. They were beautifully polite in word and deed, so that it was
a consolation to hear and see them.

Shortly after our journey began, our tram was apparently run down by an
old man and his granddaughter who got in blown and panting from their
chase of half a mile before overtaking us. They were of the thin blond
type of some English country folks, with a milder color in their cheeks
than usual, and between his age and her youth they had about a third of
the natural allowance of teeth. Agriculture is apparently nowhere
favorable to the preservation of teeth; the rustic theory is that when a
tooth offends one should pluck it out; but in England they never expect
to replace it, while with us they pluck out all the others and replace
them with new ones from the dentist’s, so that when you see good teeth
in a country mouth you know where they come from. Their want of teeth
did not prevent the old man and the little girl from beginning to eat as
soon as they could get their breath. They were going on a visit to her
aunt, it seemed, and she was provisioned against the chances of famine
in the hour’s journey by a plentiful supply of oranges and apples and
cakes in a net bag. “Us ’ad a ’ard chase, didn’t us?” the old man asked
her, with a sociable glance round the place. The little girl nodded with
her mouth full, while her fingers explored the bag for more cakes to
fill it when it should be empty, and the old man leaned tenderly towards
her and suggested, “Couldn’t your little ’and find something for me,
too?” She drew forth an orange and a cake and gave them to him. Then
they munched on, he garrulously, she silently; with what teeth they had
between them they must have managed to masticate their food, and there
is every probability that they reached their journey’s end without
famishing.

We had only two changes to make in our twenty miles, and as we were on
the swift train that made the distance in two hours, we did not mind
some delay at each change. It was just lunch-time when we reached Wells,
and had ourselves driven in the hotel omnibus, a tremendously rackety
vehicle, to The Swan. This bird’s plumage was much disarranged by some
sort of Easter preparations, and there were workmen taking down and
hanging up decorations. But there was quiet in the coffee-room, where
over a cold, cold, luncheon we shivered in sympathy with the icy gloom
of the basement entrance of the inn, where an office-lady darkled behind
her office-window, apparently in winter-long question whether she would
be warmer with it shut or open. It was an inn of the old type, now
happily obsolescent, which if it cannot smell directly of a stable-yard,
does what it can by smelling of the stable-boy in its doorway. We had
not, however, come to Wells for the Swan, but for the cathedral, and as
we could look out at its loveliness from the window where we ate lunch,
we had really nothing to complain of. We had indeed something specially
to be glad of, for we could there get our first glimpse of the cathedral
through the Dean’s Eye, or if this is not quite honest, from over the
Dean’s Eyebrow, so to call the top of the fifteenth-century gate, which
commands the finest approach to the cathedral. When you have passed
through the Dean’s Eye it may not be quite as if you had passed through
the Needle’s Eye; but if I were an American millionaire who had my
doubts of the way I was going I might have fancied myself achieving a
feat even more difficult than the camel’s, and to be entering the
Kingdom as I crossed the lawn inside the gate, and moved in my rapture
towards the divine edifice. All the English cathedrals are beautiful,
but among those which are most beautiful the Wells cathedral is next to
the cathedral of Ely, in my memory. I am not speaking of stateliness or
grandeur, but of that more refined and exquisite something which makes a
supreme appeal in, say, the Church of St. Mark’s at Venice. I came away
from the Wells cathedral saying to myself that there was a loveliness in
it for which there was no word but feminine; and if this conveys any
notion to the reader’s mind, I shall be glad to leave him for the rest
to any pictures of it he can find.

Of course we followed the verger through it in the usual way, but I
could not make any one follow me with as much profit. It had its quaint
details, and its grotesque details, from the bursting fun of the ages of
faith, as well as its expressions of simple reverence, all blending to
the sort of tender beauty I have tried to intimate, and it had its great
wonder of an inverted arch, through which one looked at its glories as
with one’s head held upside down. I do not know but the 1325 clock of
Peter Lightfoot, monk of Glastonbury, is as great a wonder as the
inverted arch.

[Illustration: WELLS CATHEDRAL, FROM SOUTHEAST]

We were so fortunate as to be present when it struck the hour, and so we
saw the four knights on horseback go riding round, and the seated man
kick two small bells with his heels, as he has been doing every fifteen
minutes for nigh six hundred years. For the ordinary lay-mind on its
travels, I suppose, this active personage is one of the great
attractions of the cathedral next after the toothache-man in one of the
capitals who pulls his mouth open to show his aching tooth. He has been
much photographed, of course, but he is to be seen _in situ_ just above
that bishop’s tomb which is sovereign, through the bishop’s merits, for
the toothache. The verger, who told us this, left us to suppose that the
tomb had been too difficult of application to the tooth of the sufferer
above, and that this was why he was still appealing to the public
sympathy.

We offered him a mute condolence after we had sated ourselves with the
beauty of the most beautiful chapter-house in the world, ascending and
descending by the foot-worn wide crossing sweep of the unique stairway,
and then walking through into the Vicar’s Close, and the two rows of
Singers’ Houses, like cottages in a particularly successful stage
perspective. As we passed one of these histrionic habitations, each with
its lifelike dooryard and its practicable gate, three of the clerical
students, who have an immemorial right to lodge with the singers, came
out gayly challenging one another which way they should walk, and
deciding on Tor Hill, wherever that was, and then starting off at a good
round pace in the rain. The doubting day had sorrowed and sowed to that
effect, and when the verger had led us through the cloister aisle into
the gardens of the bishop’s palace the grounds were so much like waters
that there seemed no reason why the ducks should not have been sailing
on the lawn as well as the moat. This, with the embattled wall, is said,
and probably fabled, to have formed the defence of his house for a
certain bishop whose life was threatened by the monks of Bath, who if
they had waited five hundred years in the idea of suddenly descending
upon him by our swift train, would have found him prepared to give them
a warm reception. But the day of our visit there were no belligerent
monks; the place was almost peacefully picturesque, with no protection
needed but an umbrella against the rain heavily dripping from the ivy of
the ruined cloister arches, and goloshes against the water of the
sopping earth.

It was the idea of one of us who had found an ancient almshouse very
amusingly characteristic on a former English journey, that we could not
do better, after the cathedral, than go to one of the several
time-honored charitable foundations in Wells. We had our choice of
several, including one for six poor men, and one for twelve poor men and
two poor women. But we must have selected the largest, where both poor
men and poor women dwell. Such people do not end their days in the
snugness of such places with anything of the disgrace which attaches to
paupers with us. Their lot is rather a coveted honor, and on their level
is felt to add dignity to the decline of life. Each old woman has her
kitchen, and each old man his kitchen garden (always edged with simple
flowers); and they have a stated income, generally six or seven
shillings a week, with which they provision themselves as they please.

We did not find the matron of the place we chose without some
difficulty, or some apologetic delay for her want of preparation. But
she was really well enough, when she came, though it was charing-day,
and the whole house was even better prepared, which was the essential
thing. I cannot say that the inmates seemed especially glad to see their
poor American relations, but there was no active opposition to our
visit, and we did our best to win the favor of three old men shown as
specimens in the large common room where they were smoking by the
chimney, and, if I am any judge of human nature, criticising the
management down to the motives of the original benefactor in the
fourteenth century. We had some brief but not unfriendly parley, and
after offering a modest contribution towards the general tobacco-fund,
we said good-bye to these meritorious old men, who made a show of
standing up, but did not really do so, I think. The matron would have
left the door open, but I bethought me to ask if they would not rather
have it shut, and they said with one voice that they would. I closed it
with the conviction that they would instantly begin talking about us,
and not to our advantage, but I could not blame them. Age is censorious,
poverty is apt to be envious, infirmity is not amiable and we were not
praiseworthy. Upon the whole I hope they gave it us good and strong; for
I am afraid that the next pensioner whom we visited thought better of us
than we deserved. I got the notion that she was in some sort a show
pensioner, and that therefore we had not taken her unawares. Her room
was both parlor and kitchen, and was decorated no less with her cooking
apparatus than the china openly set about the wall on shelves. She was
full of smiles and little polite bobs, and most willing to have her room
admired, even to the bed that crowded her table towards her grate, and
left a very snug fit for her easy-chair. One could see that the matron
prized her, and expected us to do so, and we did so, especially when she
showed us a flower in a pot which her son had given her. Perhaps we
exaggerated the comforts of her room in congratulating her upon it, but
this was an error in the right direction, and we did what we could to
repair it by the offer of a shilling. If it is permitted to the spirits
of benefactors in heaven to take pleasure in their good deeds on earth,
it must have been a source of satisfaction for five hundred years (as
they count time here) to the founder of this charity when he thought of
how many humble fellow-creatures he had helped, and was helping. Perhaps
they do not care, up there; but the chance is worth the attention of
people looking about for a permanent investment. I think every one ought
to earn a living, and when past it ought to be pensioned by the state,
and let live in comfort after his own fancy; but failing this ideal, I
wish the rich with us would multiply foundations after the good old
English fashion, in which the pensioners, though they dwelt much in
common, could keep a semblance of family life and personal independence.

Of course Wells, as its name says, was once a watering-place, though
never of so much resort as Bath; but now its healing springs bubble or
ooze forth in forgottenness, with not a leper or even a rheumatic to
avail of them. It was very, very anciently a mining-town, and long
afterwards a shoe-town, with an interval of being a place of weavers,
but it was never an industrial centre. It has never even been very
historical, though Henry VII. stopped there in his campaign against the
Pretender Perkin Warbeck, and after centuries the followers of another
pretender--the luckless, worthless, but otherwise harmless bastard of
Charles II., the Duke of Monmouth, who was making war against his uncle,
James II.--occupied the city and stripped the lead from the

[Illustration: MARKET-PLACE, WELLS]

cathedral roof for bullets; they otherwise dishonored its edifice,
Cromwell’s soldiers having failed to do so. By the beginning of this
century the population of the town had dwindled to less than five
thousand. But these, in their flat streets of snug little houses, we
thought well supplied with good shops, and the other comforts of life,
and we found them of an indefatigable civility in telling and showing us
our way about. We had still some time to spare when finally their
kindness got us to the station of the Somerset and Dorset line, where,
as a friendly old man whom we found there before us justly remarked, “Us
must wait for the train; it won’t wait for we.”

There was another old man there, in a sort of farmer’s gayety of
costume, with leathern gaiters reaching well to his knees, and a jaunty,
low-crowned hat, who promptly made our acquaintance and told us that he
was eighty years old, and that he had lately led the singing of a
Methodist revival-meeting. “And every one said my voice was as strong in
the last note as the first.” He then sang us a verse from a hymn in
justification of the universal opinion, and in spite of his functional
piety was of an organic levity which, with his withered bloom and his
lively movement on his feet, recalled the type of sage eternized by Mr.
Hardy in Granfer Cantle. Upon the whole we were glad to be rid of him
when he quitted the train on which we started together, and left us to
the sadder society of a much younger man. He too was a countryman, and
he presently surprised me by owning that he had once been a
fellow-countryman. He had indeed lived two years in a part of Northern
Ohio where I once lived, and the world shrank in compass through our
meeting in the Somerset and Dorset line. “And didn’t you like it?” “Oh,
yes; _I_ liked it. After I came back I was the homesickest man! But my
wife couldn’t get her health there.” Privately, I thought I would have
preferred Glastonbury, where this kindly man got out, to Orwell,
Ashtabula County, Ohio; but we all have our tastes, and I made him a due
show of sympathy in his regret for my native land.

When our two hours of travel were rather more than up, we found
ourselves again in Bath after a day which I felt to have been full of
exciting adventure. But I ask almost as little of life as of literature
in the way of incident, and perhaps the reader will not think my visit
to Wells especially stirring. In that case I will throw in the fact of a
calf tied at one of the stations where we changed, and lamentably
bellowing in the midst of its fellow-passengers, but standing upon its
rights quite as if it had booked first-class. When I add that there was
a sign up at this station requiring all persons to cross the track by
the bridge, and that without exception we contumaciously trooped over
the line at grade, I think the cup of the wildest lover of romance must
run over.

Of our subsequent afternoon in Bristol, what remains after this lapse of
time except a pleasing impression? We chose a wet day because there were
no dry days to choose from. But a wet day of the English spring is
commonly better than it promises, and this one made several unexpected
efforts to be fine, and repeatedly succeeded. Bristol is no nearer Bath
than Wells is, but there are no changes, and we arrived in half an hour
and drove at once through the rather uninteresting streets to the
beautiful old church of St. Mary Redcliffe. There we found the verger
(or perhaps one should say the sexton) as ready to receive us, having
just finished mopping the floor, as if he had been expecting us from

[Illustration: BRISTOL HARBOR AND DRAWBRIDGE]

the foundation of the church in the thirteenth century. One has not
often such a welcome, even from a verger, and I make this occasion to
say that few things add more to the comfort of sight-seeing travel than
an appreciative verger. He imparts a quality of his church or cathedral
to the sight-seer, who feels himself Early English or at least
Perpendicular Gothic under his flattering ministrations, and he
supplements the dry facts of the guide-book with those agreeable touches
of fable which really give life to history.

St. Mary Redcliffe is so rich in charming associations, however, as
scarcely to need the play of the sacristan’s imagination for the
adornment of her past. She is easily, as Queen Elizabeth so
often-quotedly said, “the fairest, the goodliest, and most famous parish
church in England,” and is more beautiful and interesting than the
cathedral of her city, if not more graceful in form and lovely in detail
than any other church in Europe. One scarcely knows which of her claims
on the reader’s interest to mention first, but perhaps if the reader has
a feeling heart for genius and sorrow he will care most for St. Mary
Redcliffe because Chatterton lies buried in her shadow. Or, if he is not
buried there, but at St. Andrews, Holborn, in London, as Peter
Cunningham claims, there is at least his monument at St. Mary’s
Redcliffe to give validity to the verger’s favorite story. The bishop
forbade the poor suicide to be buried in the church-yard, and he was
interred in a space just outside; but later the vestry bought this lot
and enclosed it with the rest, and so beat the bishop on his own
consecrated ground. I could not give a just sense of how much the verger
triumphed in this legend, but apparently he could not have been prouder
of it if he had invented it. He pointed out, at no great remove, a house
in or near which Chatterton was born; and he must have taken it for
granted that we knew the boy had pretended to find the MS. of his poems
in an old chest in the muniment-room, over the beautiful porch of the
church, for he did not mention it. He was probably so absorbed in the
interest which Chatterton conferred upon St. Mary Redcliffe that he did
not think to remind us that both Coleridge and Southey were married in
the church. Southey was born in Bristol, and they both formed part of a
little transitory provincial literary centre, which flourished there
before the rise of the Lake School under the fostering faith of Joseph
Cottle, the publisher, himself an epic poet of no mean area.

But St. Mary Redcliffe has peculiar claims upon the reverence of
Americans from its monument of Admiral Penn, father of him who founded
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The formidable old sailor’s gauntlets,
cuirass, and helmet hang upon the wall above the monument, and near by
is the rib of a whale which John Cabot is said to have slain in
Labrador. Less endearing associations for us, and less honorable to the
city are those of the slave-trade which Bristol long carried on to her
great gain and shame. Slavery was common there, not only in the Saxon
and Norman days, but practically far down the centuries into the
eighteenth. In the earlier times youths and maidens were roped together
and offered for sale in the market; people sold their own children
abroad; and in the later times, Bristol prospered so greatly in the
exportation of young men and women to the colonies, that when this
slavery was finally put an end to, it was found just to compensate her
merchants and ship-owners in the sum of nearly a million dollars for
their loss in the redemptioners whom they used to carry out and sell for
their passage-money.

In the strange contemporaneity of the worst and the best things Bristol
grew in grace; beautiful churches rose, and then her people fought the
fight out of Romanism into Protestantism; in the civil war she held for
the Parliament against the King, and was taken by Rupert and retaken by
Cromwell. A hundred years after, the great religious awakening to be
known as Methodism, began in and about Bristol. Whitefield preached to
the miners at Kingswood, and then Wesley, whose help he had invoked,
came and preached to all classes, in the town and out, moving them so
powerfully to seek salvation, that many who heard him fell down in
swounds and fits, and “roared for the disquietness of their hearts,”
while tens of thousands were less dramatically saved from their sins.
Yet another hundred years and the spirit miraculously responded to the
constant prayer of George Müller for means to found the Orphanages,
which witness the wonder at this day to any tourist willing to visit
them. Without one specific or personal appeal, alms to the amount of
three million dollars flowed in upon him, and helped him do his noble
work.

Riches abounded more and more in Bristol, but the city continued almost
to the nineteenth century in a mediæval inconvenience, discomfort, and
squalor. A horse and cart could not pass through her tortuous streets,
and trucks drawn by dogs transported her merchandise; down to 1820 heavy
wagons were not permitted for fear of damaging the arches of the sewers,
and sledges were used. All the same, there was from the beginning a
vehement and powerful spirit of enterprise, and Bristol is connected
with our own history not only by the voyages of the Cabots to our savage
northern shores in the fifteenth century, but by the venture of the
_Great Western_, which, in 1838, made the first steam passage of the
Atlantic Ocean. In honor of the relations established by her mariners
between the old world and the new, I over-ruled our driver’s genteel
reluctance from the seafaring quarter of the town, and had him take us
to as much of the port of Bristol as possible. I am not sure that I
found the points from which either the _Matthew_ sailed for America in
1497, or the _Great Western_ in 1838, but I am sure that nothing more
picturesque could have rewarded my vague search. Among the craft
skirting the long quays there was every type of vessel except the
Atlantic liner which had originated there; but the steamers, which
looked coast-wise and river-going, contributed their full share to the
busy effect. This for the moment was intensified by the interest which a
vast crowd of people were taking in the raising of a sunken barge. Their
multitude helped to embarrass our progress through the heaps of
merchandise, and piles of fish, and coils of chain and cordage, and
trucks backing and filling; but I would not have had them away, and I
only wish I knew, as they must later have known, whether that barge was
got up in good shape.

On one shore were ranks of warehouses, and on the other, the wild
variety of taverns and haunts of crude pleasure, embracing many places
for the enjoyment of strong waters, such as everywhere in the world
attract the foot wandering ashore at the end of a sea-leg. Their like
may have allured that Anglicized Venetian, John Cabot, when he returned
from finding Newfoundland, and left his ship to enjoy the ten pounds
which Henry VII. had handsomely sent him for that purpose, as an
acknowledgment of his gift of a continent. It is not to be supposed that
there were then so many and so

[Illustration: CLIFTON, FROM ASHTON MEADOWS]

large shops as now intersperse the pleasure-resorts in the port of
Bristol; I question whether Cabot, if he had strained his eyes over-seas
by looking out for new hemispheres, could have found there a whole
building lettered over with the signs of an optician, and I do not yet
see just why such a semi-scientist should so abound there now. But I
shall always be sorry I did not go to him to replace the eye-glasses I
had broken, instead of poorly driving to the shop of an optician in one
of the best city streets. It was a very handsome street full of shops,
such as gave a due notion of the sufficiency of Bristol to all demands
of wealth and ease, and I got an excellent pair of glasses; but if I had
bought my glasses in the port, I might perhaps have seen the whole
strenuous past of the famous place through them, and even “stared at the
Pacific” with the earliest of her circumnavigating sons. However, we
cannot do everything, and we did not even see that day the cathedral
which St. Mary Redcliffe so much surpasses, for anything we know to the
contrary. We could and did see the beautiful Norman gateway of the
Abbey, which it is no treason to our favorite church to allow she has
none to equal, and passing under its sumptuously carven arches into the
cathedral we arrived at the side of the regretful verger. He bade us
note that the afternoon service was going on, and how the Elder Lady
Chapel with its grotesque sculptures in the mediæval taste, which used
to have fun in the decoration of sacred places with all sorts of mocking
fancies, was impossible to us at the moment.

But the Bristol cathedral is not one of the famous English cathedrals,
and our regret was tempered by this fact, though the verger’s was not. I
tried to appease him with a promise to come again, which I should like
nothing better than to keep, and then we drove off. We were visiting
almost without a plan this storied and noble city, which so much merited
to be carefully and intelligently seen, and it was by mere grace of
chance that we now happened upon one of the most interesting houses in
it. In the graveyard of St. Peter’s church the hapless poet, Richard
Savage, who was buried at the cost of the jailer of the debtors’ prison
where he died, and we must have passed the tablet to his memory in
finding our unheeding way to St. Peter’s Hospital behind the church.
This is one of the most splendid survivals of the statelier moods of the
past in that England which is full of its records. A noted alchemist
built it, whether for his dwelling or whether for the mystic uses of his
art, in the thirteen-hundreds, but it is gabled and timbered now in the
fashion of the sixteenth century, and serves as the official home of the
Bristol Board of Guardians. Once it belonged to a company of merchant
adventurers, and their ships used to float up to its postern-gate, and
show their spars through the leaden sash of its windows, still kept in
their primal picturesqueness. The whole place within is a wonder of
carven mantels and friezes and ceilings; and so sound that it might well
hold its own for yet five hundred years longer.

It was the first of those mediæval houses which gave us a sense of
English comfort hardly yet surpassed in modern English interiors; and
here first we noted the devotion of the English themselves to the
monuments of their past. The Americans who visit objects of interest on
the continent are apt to find themselves equalling in number, if not
outnumbering their fellow-Anglo-Saxons of English birth; but in England
they are a most insignificant minority. The English are not merely
globe-trotters, they are most incessant travellers in their own island.
They are always going and coming in it, and as often for pleasure as
business, apparently. At any rate the American who proposes coming into
a private heritage of the past when he visits his ancestral country
finds himself constantly intruded upon by the modern natives, who seem
to think they have as good right to it as he. This is very trying when
he does not think them half so interesting as himself, or half so
intelligently appreciative. He may be the most dissident of dissenters,
the most outrageously evangelical of low-churchmen, but when he is
pushed by a clerical-looking family of English country folk, father,
mother, sister-in-law, and elderly and younger daughters, almost out of
hearing of the vergeress’s traditions of St. Peter’s Hospital, he cannot
help feeling himself debarred of most of the rights established by our
Revolution. It is perhaps a confusion of emotions; but it will be a
generous confusion if he observes, amidst his resentment, the listless
inattention of the young girl, dragged at the heels of her family, and
imaginably asking herself if _this_ is their notion of the promised
holiday, the splendid gayety of the long-looked-for visit to Bristol!

Before my own visit to that city my mind was much on a young Welsh girl
whose feet used to be light in its streets, more than a hundred years
ago, and who used in her garb of Quaker grandmother to speak of her
childhood days there. She had come an orphan from Glamorganshire, to the
care of an aunt and uncle at Bristol, and there she grew up, and one day
she met a young Welshman from Breconshire who had come on some affair of
his father’s woollen-mills to the busy town. She was walking in the
fields, and when they passed, and she looked back at him, she found he
was looking back at her; and perhaps if it were not for this surprising
coincidence, some other hand than mine might now be writing this page.
In her Bristol days she did not wear the white kerchief crossed at her
neck above the gown of Quaker drab, nor the cap hiding the gray hair,
but some youthful form of the demure dress in which one could better
fancy her tripping across the field and looking back, in the path where
she still pauses, in a dear and gentle transmutation of girlhood and
grandmotherhood.

It might have been over the very field where she walked that we drove
out to the suburb of Clifton, where Bristol mostly lives. It is the more
beautiful Allegheny City of a less unbeautiful Pittsburg, but otherwise
it bears the same relation to Bristol as the first of these American
towns bears to the last. Nobody dwells in Bristol who can dwell in
Clifton, and Clifton has not only the charm of pleasant houses and
gardens, with public parks and promenades, and schools and colleges, and
museums and galleries, as well as almost a superabundance of attractive
hotels, but it is in the midst of nature as grand as that of the Niagara
River below the falls. The Avon’s currents and tides flow between
cliffs, spanned by Brunel’s exquisite and awful suspension-bridge, that
rise thickly and wildly wooded on one side, and on the other, built over
to its stupendous verge with shapes of the stately and dignified
architecture, civic and domestic, which characterizes English towns. The
American invader draws a panting breath of astonishment in the presence
of scenery which eclipses his native landscape in savage grandeur as
much as in civilized loveliness, and meekly wonders, on his way through
that mighty gorge of the Avon, how he could have come to England with
the notion that she was soft and tame in her most spectacular moods. He
does not call upon the

[Illustration: GORGE OF THE AVON, WITH ST. VINCENT’S ROCKS]

hills to hide his shame, lest the cliffs that beetle dizzyingly above
him should only too complaisantly comply. But he promises himself, if he
gets back to Bath alive, to use the first available moment for taking a
reef in his national vanity where it has flapped widest. Of course it
will not do in Bath to wound the local susceptibilities by dwelling upon
the surviving attractions of Clifton as a watering-place, but he may
safely and modestly compare them with those of Saratoga.



VI

BY WAY OF SOUTHAMPTON TO LONDON


We left Bath on the afternoon of a day which remained behind us in doubt
whether it was sunny or rainy; but probably the night solved its doubt
in favor of rain. It was the next to the last day of March, and
thoughtful friends had warned us to be very careful not to travel during
the impending Bank holidays, which would be worse than usual (all Bank
holidays being bad for polite travellers), because they would also be
Easter holidays. We were very willing to heed this counsel, but for one
reason or another we were travelling pretty well all through those
Easter Bank holidays, and except for a little difficulty in finding
places in the train up from Southampton to London, we travelled without
the slightest molestation from the holiday-makers. The truth is that the
leisure classes in England are so coddled by the constitution and the
by-laws that they love to lament over the slightest menace of discomfort
or displeasure, and they go about with bated breath warning one another
of troubles that never come.

Special trains are run on all lines at Bank holiday times, and very
particularly special trains were advertised for those Easter Bank
holidays in the station at Bath, but as we were taking a train for
Southampton on the Saturday before the dread Monday which was to begin
them, we seemed to have it pretty much to ourselves. The Midland road
does not run second-class cars, and so you must go first or third, and
we being as yet too proud to go third, sought a first-class non-smoking
compartment. The most eligible car we could find was distinctly lettered
“Smoking,” but the porter said he could paste that out, and by this
simple device he changed it to non-smoking, and we took possession.

We were soon running through that English country which is always
pretty, and seems prettiest wherever you happen to be, and though we did
not and never can forget Bath, we could not help tricking our beams a
little, in response to the fields smiling through the sunny rain, or the
rainy sun. It was mostly meadowland, with the brown leafless hedges
dividing pasture from pasture, but by-and-by there began to be ploughed
fields, with more signs of habitation. Yet it was as lonely as it was
lovely, like all the English country, to which the cheerfulness of our
smaller holdings is wanting. What made it homelike, in spite of the
solitude, was the occurrence in greater and greater number of wooden
buildings. We conjectured stone villages somewhere out of sight, huddled
about their hoary churches, but largely the gray masonry of the West of
England had yielded to the gray weather-boarding of the more
southeasterly region, where at first only the barns and out-buildings
were of wood; but soon the dwellings themselves were frame-built.

Was it at otherwise immemorable Shapton we got tea, running into the
cleanly, friendly station from the slopes of the shallow valleys? It
must have been, for after that the sky cleared, and nature in a cooler
air was gayer, as only tea can make nature. They trundled a little cart
up to the side of the train, and gave us our cups and sandwiches,
bidding us leave the cups in the train, as they do all over England, to
be collected at some or any other station. After that we were in plain
sight of the towers and spires of Salisbury, the nearest we ever came,
in spite of much expectation and resolution, to the famous cathedral;
and then we were in the dear, open country again, with white birches,
like those of New England, growing on the railroad banks; and presently
again we were in sight of houses building, and houses of pink brick
already built, and then, almost without realizing it, we were in the
suburbs of Southampton, and driving in a four-wheeler up through the
almost American ugliness of the main business street, and out into a
residence quarter to the residential hotel commended to us.

It was really very much a private house, for it was mainly formed of a
stately old mansion, which with many modern additions, actual and
prospective, had been turned to the uses of genteel boarding. But it had
a mixed character, and was at moments everything you could ask a hotel
to be; if it failed of wine or spirits, which could not be sold on the
premises, these could be brought in from some neighboring bar. The
transients, as our summer hotels call them, were few, and nearly all the
inmates except ourselves were permanent boarders, in the scriptural and
New England proportion of seven women to one man. It was a heterogeneous
company of insular and colonial English, but always English, whether
from the immediate neighborhood, or Canada, or South Africa, or
Australia. At separate small tables in an older dining-room, cooled by
the ancestral grate, or in a newer one, warmed by steam-radiators just
put in, we were served abundant breakfasts of bacon and eggs and tea and
toast, and table d’hôte luncheons and dinners, with afternoon tea and
after-dinner coffee in the drawing-room. For all this, with rooms and
lights and service, we paid ten shillings a day, and I dare say the
permanents paid less. Bedroom fires were of course extra, but as they
gave out no perceptible heat, they ought not to be counted, though they
had a certain illuminating force, say a five candle-power, and rendered
the breath distinctly visible.

We had come down to Southampton in a superstition that, being to the
southward, it would be milder than Bath, where the spring was from time
to time so inclement, but finding it rather colder and bleaker, we
experimented a little farther to the southward, a day or two after our
arrival, and went to the Isle of Wight. The sail across the Solent, or
whatever water is was we crossed, was beautiful, but it was not balmy,
and when we reached Cowes, after that dinner aboard which you always get
so much better in England than in like conditions with us, we found it
looking not so tropical as we could have liked, but doubtless as
tropical as it really was. The pretty town curved round its famous yacht
harborage in ranks of summer hotel-like houses, with green lattices and
a convention of out-door life in their architecture, such as befitted a
mild climate; but we were keeping on to the station where you take train
for Ventnor, on the southern shore of the island, which has to support
the reputation of being the English Riviera. We did not know then how
bad the Italian Riviera could be, and doubtless we blamed the English
one more than we ought. We ought, indeed, to have been warmed for it by
the sort of horseback exercise we had on the roughest stretch of railway
I can remember, in cars whose springs had been broken in earlier service
on some mainland line of the monopoly now employing them on the Isle of
Wight, and defying the public to do anything about it, as successfully
as any railroad of our own republic. We had a hope and an intention of
seeing flowers, which we fulfilled as we could with the unprofitable
gayety of the blossomed furze by the waysides; and more and more we
fancied a forwardness in the spring which was doubtless mainly of our
invention. From our steamer we had a glimpse of Osborne Castle, the
favorite seat of the good queen who is gone, and we wafted our thoughts
afar to Carisbrooke, where the hapless Charles I. was for a time
captive, playing fast and loose, in feeble bad faith, with the
victorious Parliament, when it would have been willing to treat with
him. But you cannot go everywhere in England, especially in one day,
though home-keeping Americans think it is so small, and we had to leave
Newport and its Carisbrooke castle aside in our going and coming between
Ryde and Ventnor.

It was well into the afternoon when we reached Ventnor, and took a fly
for the time left us, which was largely tea-time, by the reckoning of
the girl in the nice pastry-shop where we stopped for refreshment. She
said that the season in Ventnor was July and August, but the bathing was
good into October, and we could believe the pleasant Irishman in our
return train who told us that it was terribly hot in the summer at
Ventnor. The lovely little town, which is like an English water-color,
for the rich, soft blur of its grays, and blues and greens, has a sea at
its feet of an almost Bermudian variety of rainbow tints, and a milky
horizon all its own, with the sails of fishing-boats, drowning in it,
like moths that had got into the milk. The streets rise in
amphitheatrical terraces from the shore, and where they cease to have
the liveliness of watering-place

[Illustration: THE SOUTH SHORE, SOUTHAMPTON]

shops, they have the domesticity of residential hotels and summer
boarding-houses, and private villas set in depths of myrtle and holly
and oleander and laurel; some of the better-looking houses were
thatched, perhaps to satisfy a sentiment for rusticity in the summer
boarder or tenant. The intelligent hunchback who drove our fly, and
instructed us in things of local interest far beyond our capacity, named
prices at these houses which might, if I repeated them, tempt an
invasion from our own resorts, if people did not mind suffering in July
and August for the sake of the fine weather in November. Doubtless there
are some who would not mind being shut southward by the steep and lofty
downs which prevent the movement of air as much in summer as in winter
at Ventnor. The acclivities are covered with a short, wiry grass, and on
the day of our visit the boys of Ventnor were coasting down them on a
kind of toboggans. Besides this peculiar advantage, Ventnor has the
attraction, common to so many English towns and villages, of a Norman
church, and of those seats and parks of the nobility and gentry which
one cannot long miss in whatever direction one goes, in a land where the
nobility and gentry are so much cherished.

The day had been hesitating between rain and sun as usual, but it had
decided for rain when we left Ventnor, where we had already found it
very cold in-doors, over the tea and bread and butter, which they gave
us so good. By the time we had got back to Ryde, the frigidity of the
railway waiting-room, all the colder for the fire that had died earlier
in the day, was such that it seemed better to go out and walk up and
down the platform, in the drive of the rain, as hard and fast as one
could, than to stay within. In these conditions the boat appeared to be
longer in coming than it really was, and when it came it was almost too
well laden with the Bank-holiday folk whom we had been instructed to
dread. At Cowes, more young men and young girls of a like sort came on
board, but beyond favoring us with their loud confidences they did us no
harm, and it was quite practicable to get supper. They were of the
chorus-girl level of life, apparently, and there was much that suggested
the stage in their looks and behavior, but they could not all have been
of the theatre, and they were better company than the two German
governesses who had travelled towards Ventnor with us, and filled the
compartment with the harsh clashing of their native consonants. The
worst that you could say of the trippers was that they were always
leaving the saloon door open, and letting in the damp wind, which had
now become very bitter, but English people of every degree are always
leaving the door open, and these poor trippers were only like the rest
of their nation in that. One young lady lay with her feet conspicuously
up on the lounge which she occupied to the exclusion of four or five
other persons, but by-and-by she took her feet down, and the most
critical traveller could not have affirmed that it was characteristic of
Easter Bank-holiday ladies to stretch themselves out with their feet
permanently up on the cushions. When we landed at Southampton, and drove
away in a cab, we had an experience which was then novel, but ceased to
be less and less so. It seemed that the pier was a private enterprise,
and you must pay toll for its use, or else not arrive or depart on that
boat.

So many of our fellow-countrymen come ashore from their Atlantic liners
at Southampton, and rush up to London in two hours by their steamer
trains, without

[Illustration: “THE PIER WAS A PRIVATE ENTERPRISE”]

any other sense of the place than as a port of entry, that I feel as if
I were making an undue claim upon their credulity in proposing it as a
city having a varied literary and historical interest. Yet Southampton
is a city of no mean memories, with a history going back into the dark
of the first invasions, and culminating early in the fable of King
Canute’s failure to browbeat the Atlantic. The men who won Cressy,
Poictiers and Agincourt set sail from it, and fifty ships and more made
ready there for the Armada. In turn it was much harried by the French,
but the Dutch, whom Alva drove into exile, settled in the town and
helped prosper it with their industries, till the Great Plague brought
it such adversity that the grass, which has served the turn of so much
desolation, grew in its streets. With the continuous wars of England and
France it rose again, and now it is what every American traveller fails
to see as he hurries through it. I have not thought it needful to
mention that in the ages when giants abounded in Britain, Southampton
had one of the worst of that caitiff race, who was baptized against his
will, but afterwards eloping with his liege lady, was finally slain.

The place was so attractive socially, a hundred-odd years ago, that Jane
Austen’s family, when they came away from Bath, could think of no
pleasanter sojourn. She wrote some of her most delightful letters from
Southampton, and of course we went and looked up the neighborhood where
she had lived. No trace of that precious occupancy is now left beside
the stretch of the ancient city wall from which the Austens’ garden
overlooked a beautiful expanse of the Solent, but we made out the place,
and for the rest we gave ourselves to the pleasure of following the
course of the old city wall, which, with its ivied arches, its towers
and battlements all agreeably mouldering and ruinous, is better, as far
as it goes, than the walls of either Chester or York, conscious of their
entirety, and of their claim upon the interest of travel. Southampton is
so very modern in the prosperity which has made it the rival of
Liverpool as the chief port of entry from our country, that we ought
rather to have devoted ourselves to its docks than its walls, and we did
honestly try for them. But there is always something very disappointing
about docks, and though I went more than once for a due impression of
them at Southampton, I constantly failed of it. I tried coming upon them
casually at first; at last I drove expressly to them, and when I
dismounted from my cab, and cast about me for the sensation they should
have imparted, and demanded of my cabman, “Where are the docks?” and he
said, “Here they are, sir,” I could not make them out, and was forced to
conclude that they had been taken in for the time.

I had no such difficulty with the prison into which Dr. Isaac Watts’s
father was put for some of those opinions which in former times were
always costing people their personal liberty. In my mind’s eye I could
almost see his poor wife bringing their babe and suckling the infant
hymnologist under the father’s prison window; and I was in such rich
doubt of Dr. Watts’s birthplace in French Street, that with two houses
to choose from, I ended by uncovering to both. I think it was not too
much honor to that kind, brave soul, who got no little poetry into his
piety, and was neither very severe about theology on earth, nor exigent
of psalm-singing in heaven, where he imagined a pleasing conformity in
the conditions to the tastes and habits of the several saints in this
life. If the reader thinks that I overdid my reverence in the case of
this poet, let him set against it my total failure to visit either the
birthplace or the baptismal church of another Southampton poet, that
Charles Dibdin, namely, whose songs were much on British tongues when
Britain was making herself mistress of the seas, and which possibly
breathe still from the lips of

    “The sweet little cherub who sits up aloft,
     Keeping watch o’er the life of poor Jack.”

Early in my English travels I found it well to leave something to the
curiosity of after-seekers, and there is so much to see in every English
city, town, village, country neighborhood, road, and lane that I could
always leave unseen far more than I saw. I suppose it was largely
accidental that I gave so much of my time to the traces of the Watts
family, but perhaps it was also because both the prison and the house
(in which, whichever it was, the mother kept a boarding-house while she
nurtured her nine children, and the good doctor began his Greek and
Latin at five years of age), were in the region of the old church of St.
Michael’s which will form another compensation at Southampton for the
American who misses the docks. Its architecture was amongst my earliest
Norman, and was of the earliest Norman of any, for the church was built
in 1100 by monks who came over from Normandy. It was duly burned by the
French two centuries later in one of their pretty constant incursions;
they burned only the nave of the church, but they left the baptismal
font rather badly cracked, and with only the staple of the lock which
used to fasten the lid to keep the water from being stolen. I do not
know why the baptismal water should have been stolen, but perhaps in
those ages of faith it was a specific against some popular malady,
leprosy or the black death, or the like. The sacristan who showed me the
font, showed me also the tomb of a bad baronet of the past, a very great
miscreant, whose name he could not remember, but who had done something
awful to his wives; and no doubt he could easily have told me why people
stole the water. He was himself an excellent family man, or at least
highly domesticated, if one might judge from his manner with his own
wife, who came in demanding a certain key of him. Husband-like, he
denied having it; then he remembered, and said, “Oh, I left it in the
pocket of my black coat.” He was not at all vexed at being interrupted
in telling me about the bad baronet, whose tomb, he made me observe, had
not a leaf or blossom on it, though it was Easter Sunday, and the old
church, which was beautifully rough and simple within, was decked with
flowers for the festival.

Outside, the prevalence of Easter was so great that we had failed of a
street cab, and had been obliged to send to the mews (so much better
than a livery-stable, though probably not provided now with falcons) for
a fly, and we felt by no means sure that we should be admitted to the
beautiful old Tudor house, facing the church of St. Michael’s, which
goes by the name of King Henry VIII.’s Palace. They are much stricter in
England concerning the holy days of the church than the non-conforming
American imagines. On Good Friday there were neither cabs nor trams at
Southampton in the morning, and only Sunday trains were run on the Great
Southwestern to London; though on the other hand the shops were open,
and mechanics were working; perhaps they closed and stopped in the
afternoon. But we summoned an unchurchly courage for the Tudor house,
and when we rang at the postern-gate--it ought to have been a
postern-gate, and at any rate I will call it so--it was opened to us by
a very sprightly little old lady, with one tooth standing boldly up in
the centre of her lower jaw, unafraid amid the surrounding desolation.
She smiled at us so kindly that we apologized for our coming, and said
that we did not suppose we could see the palace, and then she looked
grave, and answered, “Yes, but you’ll have to pay a fee, sir,” I
undertook that the fee should be paid, and then she smiled again, and
led the way from her nook in it, through one of the most livable houses
I was in anywhere in England. I will use the privilege of the
superficial and cursory observation of the hurried tourist, to which we
are so well accustomed in English travellers among ourselves, and say
that the English did not know what domestic comfort was till the times
of the Tudors, and were apparently forgetful of it afterwards. This
palace of Henry VIII., which is rather simple for a palace, but may very
well have been the sojourn of Anne Boleyn and her daughter Queen
Elizabeth in their visits to Southampton, was divided above and below
into large rooms, wainscotted in oak, of a noble shapeliness, and from
cellar to attic was full of good air, without the draughts which the
earlier and later English have found advantageous in perpetuating the
racial catarrh and rheumatism. The apartments were of varying dignity
from the ground floor up, and the basement was so wholesome, that before
the time of the present owner, who had restored it to its former state,
a family with eleven children lived there in the greatest health as long
as they were allowed to stay. Even in the attic, the rooms, though
rough, were pleasant, and there were so many that one of them had got
lost and could never be found, though the window of it still shows
plainly from the outside. This and much more the friendly dame recounted
to us in our passage through a mansion, which we found so attractive
that we of course tacitly proposed to buy it and live in it always. Then
she led us out into her kitchen-garden, running to the top of the
ancient city wall, and undermined, as she told us, by submarine
passages.

But we could only find a flight of stone steps descending to the street
level below, where, if the reader is of a mind to follow, he will find
the wall falling wholly away at times, and at times merging itself in
the modern or moderner buildings, and then reappearing in arches, topped
with quaint roofs and chimneys, and here and there turned to practical
uses in little workshops, much as old walls are in the dear Italian
towns which we Americans know rather better than the English, though the
English ruins are befriended by a softer summer, prolonging itself with
its mosses and its ivy never sere deep into winters almost as mild as
Italy’s. In an avenue reluctantly leaving the ancient wall and winding
deviously into the High Street, are the traces, in humbler masonry, of
the jambs and spandrels of far older arches in the façade of an edifice
presently a cow stable, but famed to have been the palace of that King
Canute who was mortified to find his power inferior to the sea’s, and
sharply rebuked his courtiers when they had induced him to set his chair
in reach of the tides which would not ebb at his bidding. The tides have
now permanently ebbed from the scene of the king’s discomfiture, and as
this royal Dane was otherwise so able and shrewd a prince as to have
made himself master of England if not of her seas, we may believe as
little as we like of the story. For my part, I choose to believe it
every word, as I always have believed it, and I think it should still be
a lesson to royalty, which is altogether too credulous of its relative
importance to the rest of the universe.

In the most conspicuous niche of the beautiful old Bargate, which
remains sole of the seven portals of the city, and still spans with its
archway the High Street hard by where Porter’s Lane creeps into it from
Canute’s cow stable, is the statue of another British prince who was to
take a seat even farther back than Canute’s, under an overruling
providence. In this effigy George III. naturally wears the uniform of a
Roman warrior, but perhaps the artificial stone of which it is composed
more aptly symbolizes the extremely friable nature of human empire. One
never can look at any presentment of the poor, good, mistaken man
without the softness of regret for his long sufferings, or without
gratitude for what he involuntarily did for us as a people in forcing us
to rid ourselves of royalty for good and all; yet with our national
prejudice, it is always a surprise for the American to find him taken
seriously in England. On the Bargate he seems to stand between us and
the remoter English antiquity to which we willingly yield an unbroken
allegiance. When I looked on the mediæval work of the Bargate, I easily
felt myself, in a common romantic interest, the faithful subject of
Edward III. or Richard III., but when I came down to George III. I had
to draw the line; and yet he was a better and not unwiser man than
either of the others. You can say of Edward III. that he was luckier in
war than George III., but then he had not the Americans to fight against
as the allies of the French.

We were so well advised not to fail of seeing the ruins of Netley Abbey,
which is such a little way off from Southampton across the river
Itchen, that I should strongly counsel, in my turn, all
fellow-countrymen arriving on whatever line, to keep half a day from
London, and give it to that most beautiful and pathetic place. It was
our first ruin in England, but though we saw ruins afterwards of great
merit, none ever surpassed it in charm, and none remains so sweet and
pensive a memory. From the strenuous modern city you reach this dim,
mediæval shadow by way of what they poetically call at Southampton the
Floating Bridge, and which, before we came to it, we fancied some form
of stately pontoon, but found simply the sort of ferry-boat common in
earlier times on American rivers East and West, forced by the tide on
supporting chains from one shore to the other. At our landing on the
farther side we agreed with the driver of a fly, who justly refused to
abate his reasonable charge, to carry us along the borders of the Itchen
in a rapture which might have been greater if the wind had not been so
bitter. But it was great enough, and when we dismounted at the gate of
the abbey, and made our way to its venerable presence over turf that
yielded perhaps too damply to the foot, we had our content so absolute,
that not the sunniest day known to the English climate could have added
sensibly to it. I do not believe that we could have been happier in it
even if we had known all the little why and how together with the great
when of its suppression by Henry VIII. Even now I cannot supplement the
conjecture of the moment by anything especially dramatic from history.
Netley Abbey, like the rest of the religious houses which Henry hammered
down, was suppressed in the general hope of pillage, defeated by the
fact that its income was rather less than a hundred and fifty pounds a
year, which even in the money of the

[Illustration: THE OLD TOWER WALL]

time was no great booty. The king had as little to envy those Cistercian
monks in their life as their income, except perhaps their virtues, which
he would not have wished to share. For, as our faithful guide-book told
us, they slept hard on the plank of wooden boxes, and unless food were
given them in alms they ate neither fish, flesh, fowl, eggs, butter nor
cheese, but only a spare porridge--twice a day, and in Lent once. They
never spoke except sometimes in their parlor, on religious topics, and
on a journey they could only ask questions, which they must ask if
possible by signs. They that transgressed the rules were whipped, or
stretched upon the stone floor during mass. For their greater
humiliation the heads of the order were entirely shaven, which if the
wind blew from the sea in their day, as piercingly as it blew in ours,
was not so comfortable as it was picturesque for the monks going about
bareheaded in their white robes. Yet their hospitality was great and
constant, and their guest-hall was so often full that Horace Walpole, in
his much-quoted letter about their ruined house, could speak with
insinuation of their “purpled abbots,” as if these perhaps led a life of
luxury not shared by the humbler brethren. His picture of the abbey is
so charming and so true that one may copy it once again, as still the
best thing that could be said of it: “How shall I describe Netley to
you? I can only tell you that it is the spot in the world which I and
Mr. Chute wish. The ruins are vast and retain fragments of beautiful
fretted roofs, pendent in the air, with all variety of Gothic patterns
of windows topped round and round with ivy. Many trees have sprouted up
among the walls, and only want to be increased by cypresses. A hill
rises above the Abbey, enriched with wood. The fort in which we would
build a tower for habitation, remains with two small platforms. This
little castle is buried from the Abbey, in the very centre of a wood, on
the edge of a wood hill. On each side breaks in the view of the
Southampton Sea, deep, blue, glittering with silver and vessels. In
short, they are not the ruins of Netley, but of Paradise. Oh, the
purpled abbots! What a spot they had chosen to slumber in! The scene is
so beautifully tranquil, yet so lively that they seem only to have
retired into the world.”

What can one have to say of Netley after this, even to the romantic
touch of the absent cypresses? We came suddenly upon the ruin, and with
little parley at the porter’s lodge where they charge admittance and
sell photographs, we stood within its densely ivied walls, the broken
arches beetling overhead, and the tall trees repairing their defect with
a leafless tracery showing fine against a gray sky hesitating blue, and
the pale sun filtering a wet silver through the clouds. In places the
architecture still kept its gracious lines of Gothic or Norman design;
there were whole breadths of wall to testify of the beauty and majesty
that had been, and where walls were marred or shattered, the ivy had
bound up their wounds, or tufts of soft foliage distracted the eye from
their wrongs. Underfoot the damp grass was starred with the earliest
flowers of spring, violets, celandine, primrose; and among the flocks of
pigeons that made their homes in the holes of the masonry left by the
rotting joists, the golden-billed English blackbirds fluttered and sang.
You could trace the whole shape of the edifice, and see it almost as it
once stood, but the ivy which holds it up is also pulling it down. The
decay seems mostly from the winds and rains, and the insidious malice of
vegetation, but men have aided from time to time in the destruction,
though not without the censure of their fellow-men. It is told, indeed,
that a purchaser of the ruin, two hundred years ago, was so wrought upon
by the blame of his friends when he wished to use its hallowed stone for
other building, that he began to dream of his own death by a keystone
falling from one of the arches he was destroying; his death actually
happened, though it was a heavy timber, and not a stone that crushed
him. Everything in the neighborhood of the ruin was in keeping with it:
a baronial mansion among the woods of an adjoining hill, villas within
their shrubbery, and when we came to drive back to the ferry, many
pleasant farms and pretty cottages behind their hedges of holly and
whitethorn. An unusual number of these were thatched, in the tradition
of rustic roofs which is slowly, though very slowly, dying out. The
machine-threshed straw is so broken that it does not make a good thatch,
and the art of the thatcher is passing with the quality of his material.
Still we saw some new thatches, with occasionally an old one so rotten
that it must have been full of the vermin which such shelters collect,
and which could have walked away with it. Now and then we met country
people on our way, looking rather sallow and lean, but our driver,
perhaps from his contact with town-bred luxury, had a face of the right
purple, and here and there was a rustic visage of the rich,
south-of-England color showing warm in the pale sunset light.

When we had seen Netley Abbey, all the rest of the Southampton region
was left rather impoverished of the conventional touristic interest, but
any friend of man could still find abundant pleasure in it by mounting a
tram-top and riding far out towards the Itchen, along winding streets of
low brick houses, each with its little garden at the front or side, and
with its hedge of evergreen. Often these kindly looking homes were
overhung by almond-trees, palely pink, in bloom, and sometimes when they
were more pretentious, though they were never arrogant, they stood
apart, all planted round with shrubs and trees, like the dwellings in
Hartford. The tram’s course was largely through umbrageous avenues, or
parklike spaces such as seem to abound at Southampton, with now and then
a stretch of gleaming water, and here and there an open field with
people playing cricket in it. Swarms of holiday-makers strolled up and
down, and though it might be a Sunday, with no signs of a bad conscience
in their harmless recreations. There was much evidence of church-going
in the morning, but little or nothing in the afternoon. The aspect of
the crowd was that of comfortable wage-earners or shopkeepers for the
most part, such as the flourishing port maintains in ever-increasing
multitude, with none of the squalor which seems so inseparable from
prosperity in Liverpool. The crowd affirms the modern advance of
Southampton in its rivalry with the commercial metropolis of the north,
but we were well content in one of our walks to lose ourselves from it,
and come upon a neighborhood of fine old houses, standing in wide
grounds, now run wild with neglected groves, but speaking with the
voices of their secular rooks of the social glory which has long
departed. These mansions meant that once there was a local life of ease
and splendor which could hold its own against London, as perhaps the
life of no other place in England now does. If you took them at
twilight, their weed-grown walks simply swarmed with ghosts of quality,
in a setting transferred bodily from the pages of old novels.

[Illustration: “THE TRAM’S COURSE WAS LARGELY THROUGH UMBRAGEOUS
AVENUES”]

We had not the strength, social or moral, which their faded gentility
represented, to resist the pull of the capital, and in a few days,
shrivelled each to less than its twenty-four hours by the chill spring
air, we yielded, and started for London on the maddest, merriest
afternoon of all the glad Bank holidays of that Easter time. They have
apparently not so much leisure for good manners at Southampton as at
Bath, or even at Plymouth; the booking-clerk at the station met
inquiries about trains as snubbingly as any ticket-seller of our own
could have done, and so we chanced it with one of the many expresses, on
first-class tickets that at any other time would have insured us a whole
compartment. As it was they got us two seats more luxurious than money
could buy in an American train, and we were fain to be content. We were
the more content, because, presently, we were running through a forest
greater than I can remember as in these latter days bordering any
American railroad. Miles and miles of country were thickly wooded on
either side, with only such cart-tracks and signs of woodcraft as make
the page of Thomas Hardy so wild and primitive after twenty centuries of
Briton, Roman, Saxon, Dane, and Norman, in that often mastered but never
wholly tamed England. We came now and then to a wooden farm-house with
its wooden barns and outhouses, in an image of home which we would not
have had more like if we could: we had not come to England to be back in
America. Yet such is the perversity of human nature, that I who here am
always idealizing a stone house as the fittest habitation of man, and
longing to live in one, exulted in these frame cottages, and would have
preferred one for my English dwelling; even the wood-built stations we
whisked by had a charm because they were like the clapboarded depots,
freight and passenger, at our rustic junctions. Everywhere in England
one sees building of wood to an amazing extent, though the lumber for it
is not cut from English woods, but comes rather from Norway and
elsewhere in the densely timbered north. Of course it did not
characterize the landscape even in the region of the New Forest, which
but for its name we should think so old, but the gray stone of the
West-of-England farmsteads and cottages had more and more given way to
the warm red brick of the easterly south. This, as we drew near London,
paled to the Milwaukee yellow, here and there, and when this color
prevailed it was smirched and smutted with the smoke holding the
metropolis hidden from us till we could, little by little, bear its
immensity.



VII

IN FOLKESTONE OUT OF SEASON


How long the pretty town, or summer city, of Folkestone on the
southeastern shore of Kent has been a favorite English watering-place, I
am not ready to say; but I think probably a great while. Very likely the
ancient Britons did not resort to it much; but there are the remains of
Roman fortifications on the downs behind the town, known as Cæsar’s
camp, and though Cæsar is now said not to have known of camping there,
other Roman soldiers there must have been, who could have come down from
the place to the sea for a dip as often as they got liberty. It is also
imaginable that an occasional Saxon or Dane, after a hard day’s
marauding along the coast, may have wished to wash up in the waters of
the Channel; but they could hardly have inaugurated the sort of season
which for five or six weeks of the later summer finds the Folkestone
beaches thronged with visitors, and the surf full of them. We ourselves
formed no part of the season, having come for the air in the later
spring, when the air is said to be tonic enough without the water. It is
my belief that at no time of the year can you come amiss to Folkestone;
but still it is better to own at the outset that you will not find it
very gay there if you come at the end of April.

We thought we were doing a very original if not a very distinguished
thing in putting our hand-baggage into a fly at the station, and then
driving with it from house to house for an hour and more in search of
lodgings. But the very first people whom we told said they had done the
same, and I dare say it is the common experience at Folkestone, where,
even out of season, the houses whose addresses you have seem to be
full-up, as the lodging-house phrase is, and where although every other
house in the place has the sign of “Apartments” in the transoms, or the
drawing-room windows, or both, you have the greatest difficulty in
fixing yourself. When one address after another failed us, the driver of
our fly began to take pity on us: too great pity for our faith, for we
began to suspect him of carrying us to apartments in which he was
interested; but we were never able to prove it, and by severely opposing
him, we flattered ourselves that we did not finally go where he wanted.
Perhaps we did, but if so it was the right place for us. If one landlord
had not what we wished, or had nothing, he cheerfully referred us to
another, and when we had seen the lodgings we decided were the best, we
did not and could not make up our minds to take them until we tried yet
one more, where we found the landlord full-up, but where he commended us
to the house we had just left as one of singular merit, in every way,
and with a repute for excellent cooking which we would find the facts
justify. We drove back all the more strenuously because of a fancied
reluctance in our driver, and found the landlord serenely expectant on
the pleasant lawn beside his house; he accepted our repentant excuses,
and in another minute we found ourselves in the spacious sitting-room
which had become ours, overlooking the brick-walled gardens of the
adjoining houses in the shelter,

[Illustration: THE BEACH, FOLKESTONE]

which slowly, very slowly, became the shade of a grove of tall, slim,
young trees. When a trio of tall, slim, young girls intent upon some
out-door sport in an interval of the rain, lounged through this grove,
we felt that we could not have made a mistake; when a black cat provided
itself for one of the garden walls, our reason was perfectly convinced.
Fortune had approved our resolution not to go, except in the greatest
extremity, to any sort of boarding-house, or any sort of hotel, private,
residential, temperant or inebriant, varying to the type of sea-side
caravansary which is common to the whole world, but to cling to an ideal
of lodgings such as we had cherished ever since our former sojourn in
England, and such as you can realize nowhere else in the world.

Our sitting-room windows did not look out upon the sea, as we had
planned, but with those brick walls and their tutelary cat, with these
tall, slim, young trees and girls before us, we forgot the sea. As the
front of our house was not upon the Leas (so the esplanaded cliffs at
Folkestone are called), you could not see the coast of France from it,
as you could from the house-fronts of the Leas in certain states of the
atmosphere. But that sight always means rain, and in Folkestone there is
rain enough without seeing the coast of France; and so it was not
altogether a disadvantage to be one corner back from the Leas on a
street enfilading them from the north. After the tea and bread and
butter, which instantly appeared as if the kettle had been boiling for
us all the time, we ran out to the Leas, and said we would never go away
from Folkestone. How, indeed, could we think of doing such a thing, with
that lawny level of interasphalted green stretching eastward into the
town that climbed picturesquely up to meet it, and westward to the
sunset, and dropping by a swift declivity softened in its abruptness by
flowery and leafy shrubs? If this were not enough inducement to an
eternal stay, there was the provisionally peaceful Channel wrinkled in a
friendly smile at the depth below us, and shaded from delicate green to
delicate purple away from the long, brown beach on which it amused
itself by gently breaking in a snowy surf. In the middle distance was
every manner of smaller or larger sail, and in the offing little stubbed
steamers smoking along, and here and there an ocean-liner making from an
American for a German port; or if it was not an ocean-liner, we will
call it so. Certainly there could be no question of the business and
pleasure shipping drawn up on the beach, on the best terms with the
ranks of bathing-machines patiently waiting the August bathers with the
same serene faith in them as the half-fledged trees showed, that
end-of-April evening, in the coming of the summer which seemed so
doubtful to the human spectator. For the prevailing blandness of the
atmosphere had keen little points and edges of cold in it; and vagarious
gusts caught and tossed the smoke from the chimney-pots of the pretty
town along the sea-level below the Leas, giving away here to the wooded
walks, and gaining there upon them. Inspired by the presence of a steel
pier half as long as that of Atlantic City, with the same sort of
pavilion for entertainments at the end, we tried to fancy that the
spring was farther advanced with us at home, but we could only make sure
that it would be summer sooner and fiercer. In the mean time, as it was
too late for the military band which plays every fine afternoon in a
stand on the Leas, the birds were singing in the gardens that border it,
very sweetly and richly, and not obliging you at any point to get up
and

[Illustration: THE PIER WITH ITS PAVILION]

take your hat off by striking into “God Save the King.” I am not sure
what kind of birds they were; but I called them to myself robins of our
sort, for upon the whole they sounded like them. Some golden-billed
blackbirds I made certain of, and very likely there were larks and
finches among them, and nightingales, for what I knew. They all shouted
for joy of the pleasant evening, and of the garden trees in which they
hid, and which were oftener pleasant, no doubt, than the evening. The
gardens where the trees stood spread between handsome mansard-roofed
houses of gray stucco, of the same type as those which front flush upon
the Leas, and which prevail in all the newer parts of Folkestone; their
style dates them of the sixties and seventies of the last century, since
when not many houses seem to have been built in Folkestone.

Probably these handsome houses were not meant for the lodgings that they
have now so largely if not mostly become. It is said that the polite
resident population has receded before the summer-folk who have come in
and more and more possessed the place, and to whom the tradesman class
has survived to minister. At any rate it is the fate of Folkestone to
grow morally and civically more and more like Atlantic City, which
somehow persists in offering itself in its wild, wooden ugliness for a
contrast as well as a parallel of the English watering-place. Nothing
could be more unlike the Leas than the Board Walk; nothing more unlike
their picturesque declivity than the flat sands on which the vast hotels
and toy cottages of the New Jersey summer-resort are built; nothing more
unlike the mild, many-steamered, many-schoonered expanse of the Channel,
than the immeasurable, empty horizon, and the long, huge wash of the
ocean. Yet, I say, there is a solidarity of gay intent and of like
devotion to brief alien pleasures in which I find the two places
inseparable in my mind.

If such a thing were possible, I should like to take the promenaders on
the Leas whom I saw in April, 1904, and interchange them with the same
number of those whom I saw two months before on the Board Walk fighting
their way against the northeasterly gale that washed the frozen foam far
in under it against the frozen sand. Yes, I should be satisfied if I
could only transpose the placid, respectable Bath-chairmen of the Leas,
and the joyous darkys who pushed the wheeled wicker-chairs of the Board
Walk, and turned first one cheek and then another to the blast, or took
it in their shining teeth, as they planted their wide, flat feet,
wrapped in carpet, with a rhythmical recklessness on the plank. I should
like, if this could be done, to ask the first, “Isn’t this something
like Folkestone?” and the last, “Isn’t this like Atlantic City?”

Perhaps it is only the sea that is alike in both, and the centipedal
steel piers that bestride it in either. The sea makes the exile at home
everywhere, for it washes his native shore and the alien coast with the
same tides, and only to-day the moss cast up on the shore at Dover
breathed the odor that blows in the face of the stroller on Lynn Beach,
or the Long Sands at York, Maine.

We were going by a corner of it to see the landing of the passengers
from the Calais boat, and to gloat upon what the misery of their passage
had left of them; but before we could reach the deck they had found
shelter in their special train for London. It used to be one of the
chief amusements of the visitors at Folkestone to witness such
dishevelled debarkations at their own

[Illustration: THE SHELTER UNDER THE LEAS]

piers, and we had promised ourselves the daily excitement of the
spectacle; but the arrival of the boats had been changed so as to
coincide with our lunch hour, and we pretended that it would have been
indelicate to indulge ourselves with it when really it was merely
inconvenient.

There are entertainments of an inoffensive vaudeville sort in the
pavilion on the pier, and yet milder attractions in the hall of the Leas
Pavilion, which for some abstruse reason is sunk some ten or twelve feet
below the surrounding level. The tea was yet milder than the other
attractions: than the fair vocalist; than the prestidigitator who made a
dozen different kinds of hats out of a square piece of cloth, and
personated their historical wearers in them; than the cinematograph;
than the lady orchestra which so often played pieces “By Desire” that
the programme was almost composed of them. A diversion in the direction
of ice-cream was not lavishly fortunate: the ice-cream was a sort of
sweetened and extract-flavored snow which was hardly colder than the air
outside.

At Folkestone we were early warned against the air of the sea-level,
which we would find extremely relaxing, whereas that of the Leas, fifty
feet above was extremely bracing. We were not able always to note the
difference, but at times we found the air even on the Leas extremely
relaxing when the wind was in a certain quarter. Once, in a long, warm
rain, I found myself so relaxed in the street back of the Leas, that but
for the seasonable support of a garden wall against which I rested, I do
not know how I should have found strength to get home. You constantly
hear, in England, of the relaxing and bracing effects of places that are
so little separated by distance, that you wonder at the variance of
their hygienic qualities. But once master the notion and you will be
able to detect differences so subtle and so constant that from bench to
bench on the Leas at Folkestone you will be sensible of being extremely
relaxed and extremely braced, though the benches are not twenty rods
apart. The great thing is to forget these differences, and to remember
only that the birds are singing, and the sun shining equally for all the
benches.

The sun is, of course, the soft English sun, which seems nowise akin to
our flaming American star, but is quite probably the centre of the same
solar system. The birds are in the wilding shrubs and trees which clothe
the front of the cliffs, and in the gardened spaces on the relaxing
levels, spreading below to the sands of the sea; and they are in the
gardens of the placid, handsome houses which stand detached behind their
hedges of thorn or laurel. This is their habit through the whole town,
which is superficially vast, and everywhere agreeably and often prettily
built. It is overbuilt, in fact, and well towards a thousand houses lie
empty, and most of those which are occupied are devoted to lodgings and
boarding-houses, while hotels, large and little, abound. There are no
manufactures, and except in the season and the preparatory season, there
is no work. Folkestone has become very fashionable, but it is no longer
the resort of the conservative or the aristocratic, or even the
æsthetic. These turn to other air and other conditions, where they may
step out-of-doors, or wander informally about the fields or over the
sands. A great number of smaller places, more lately opened, along the
everywhere beautiful English shore, supply simplicity at a far lower
rate than you can buy formality in Folkestone.

[Illustration: THE FISH-MARKET AT FOLKESTONE]

But the birds say nothing of all this, especially in the first days of
your arrival, when it is only a question whether you shall buy the most
beautiful house on the Leas, or whether you shall buy the whole town.
Afterwards, your heart is gone to Folkestone, and you do not mind
whether you have made a good investment or not. By this time though the
Earl of Radnor still owns the earth, you own the sky and sea, for which
you pay him no ground rent. Of your sky perhaps the less said the
better, but of your sea you could not brag too loudly. Sometimes the sun
looks askance at it from the curtains of cloud which he likes to keep
drawn, especially when it is out of season, and sometimes the rainy
Hyades vex its dimness, but at all times its tender and lovely coloring
seems its own, and not a hue lent it from the smiling or frowning
welkin. I am speaking of its amiable moods, it has a muddiness all its
own, also, when the Hyades have kept at it too long. But on a seasonably
pleasant day, such as rather prevails at Folkestone, in or out of
season, I do not know a much more agreeable thing than to sit on a bench
under the edge of the Leas, and tacitly direct the movements of the
fishermen whose sails light up the water wherever it is not darkened by
the smokes of those steamers I have spoken of. About noon they begin to
make inshore, towards the piers which form the harbor, and then if you
will leave your bench, and walk down the long, sloping road from the
Leas into the quaint, old seafaring quarter of the town, you can see the
fishermen auctioning off their several catches.

Their craft, as they round the end of the breakwater, and come dropping
into the wharves, are not as graceful as they looked at sea. In fact,
the American eye, trained to the trimmer lines of one shipping in every
kind, sees them lumpish and loggish, with bows that can scarcely know
themselves from sterns, and with stumpy masts and shapeless sails. But
the fishermen themselves are very fine: fair and dark men, but mostly
fair, of stalwart build, with sou’westers sloping over powerful
shoulders, and the red of their English complexions showing through
their professional tan. With the toe of his huge thigh-boot one of them
tenderly touches the edge of the wharf, as the boatload of fish swerves
up to it, and then steps ashore to hold it fast, while the others empty
a squirming and flapping heap on the stones. The heaps are gathered into
baskets, and carried to the simple sheds of the market, where the
beheading and disembowelling of fish is forever going on, and there
being dumped down on the stones again, they are cried off by one of the
crew that caught them. I say cried because I suppose that is the
technical phrase, but it is too violent. The voice of the auctioneer is
slow and low, and his manner diffident and embarrassed; he practises
none of the arts of his secondary trade; he does nothing, by joke or
brag, to work up the inaudible bidders to flights of speculative frenzy;
after a pause, which seems no silenter than the rest of the transaction,
he ceases to repeat the bids, and his fish, in the measure of a bushel
or so, have gone for a matter of three shillings. A few tourists, mostly
women, of course, form the uninterested audience. A few push-cart
dealers were there with their vehicles the day of my visit. Some boys
were trying to get into mischief and to compromise some innocent,
confiding dogs as their accomplices. One vast fish-woman, in a man’s
hat, with enormous hips and huge flanks, moved ponderously about, making
jokes at the affair, and shaking with bulky laughter.

The affair was so far from having the interest promised, that I turned
from it towards the neighboring streets of humble old-fashioned houses,
and wondered in which of them it would have been that forty-three years
before a very home-sick, very young American, going out to be a consul
in Italy, stopped one particularly black midnight and had a rasher of
bacon. It seemed to me that I was personally interested in this
incident, as if I had been personally a party to it, and it was recalled
for my amusement, how a little old man, in a water-side fur cap of the
Dickens type, came to the front-door of that humble house, and, by the
dim light of the candle he bore, recognized the two companions of the
young American, who had made friends with them on the journey from
London, where they dwelt, and where they had left all their aspirates
except a few which they misplaced. I think they must have been
commercial travellers going to Paris upon some business occasion, and
used to the transit of the Channel, which was much more dependent then
than it is now, in its beginnings and endings, on the state of the tide,
so that it was no surprise either for them or for that old man to meet
at midnight on his threshold in a negotiation for supper. He set about
getting it with what always calls itself, in no very intimate relation
to the fact, cheerful alacrity, and at a rather smoky fire in the parlor
grate he set the tea-kettle singing, and burned the toast, and broiled
the bacon, which he then put sizzling before his guests, famished, but
gay and glad of heart. Even the heavy heart of the very homesick, very
young American was lifted by the simple cheer; and it seemed to him that
while there might have been and doubtless would be better bacon, there
actually was none half so good in the world. He had no distinct
recollection of the Channel crossing afterwards, and so it must have
been good, and he could recall little of the journey to Paris or the
sojourn there. Being as proud as he was poor, he travelled second-class
incognito, but some sense of an official quality must have transpired
from his mysterious reticence, for at Paris when they were taking
different trains from the same station, one of those good fellows came
to his car-window to shake hands. It was in that dark hour of the civil
war when the feeling between England and America was not the affection
of these halcyon days, but the good fellow put it in the form of a
kindly gibe. “I say,” he mocked, holding the American’s hand, “don’t
make it too ’ot to ’old us, down there?” Then he waved his hand and
disappeared, smiling out of that darkness of time and space which has
swallowed up so many smiling faces.

That darkness had swallowed up the humble Folkestone house, so that it
could not be specifically found, but there were plenty of other quaint,
antiquated houses, of which one had one’s choice, clinging to the edge
of the sea, and the foot of the steep which swells away towards Dover
into misty heights of very agreeable grandeur. In the narrow street that
climbs into the upper and newer town, there are curiosity shops of a
fatal fascination for such as love old silver, which is indeed so
abundant in the old curiosity shops of England everywhere as to leave
the impression that all the silver presently in use is fire-new. There
are other fascinating shops of a more practical sort in that street,
which has a cart-track so narrow that scarce the boldest Bath chair
could venture it. When it opens at top into the new wide streets you
find yourself in the midst of a shopping region of which Folkestone is
justly proud, and which is said to suggest to “the finer female sense,”
both London and Paris. Perhaps it only suggests a difference from both;
but at any rate it is very bright and pleasant, especially when it is
not raining; and there are not only French and English modistes but
Italian confectioners; one sees many Italian names, and their owners
seem rather fond of Folkestone, of which they may mistake the air for
that of the Riviera. I wish they would not guard so carefully from the
people at the Leas Pavilion the secret of the meridional ice-cream.

       *       *       *       *       *

This street of shops (which abounds in circulating libraries) soon
ceases in a street of the self-respectful houses of the local type, and
from the midst of these rises the bulk of the Pleasure Gardens Theatre,
to which I addicted myself with my love of the drama without even the
small reciprocity which I experience from it at home. In the season, the
Pleasure Gardens adjacent are given up to many sorts of gayety, but
during our stay there was no merriment madder than the hilarity of a
croquet tournament; this, I will own, I had not the heart to go and pay
sixpence to see.

But at no season does Folkestone cease to be charming, if not in itself,
then out of itself. A line of omnibusses as well as a line of public
automobiles runs to the delightful old village of Hythe, which is mainly
a single street of low houses, with larger ones, old mansions and new
villas on the modest heights back of its sea-level, where the sea is
first of all skirted by a horse-car track. The cars of this pass the
ruins of certain old martello towers between the sea and the long canal
dug at the beginning of the last century as part of the defences against
the Napoleonic invasion, apparently in the hope that such of the French
as escaped the dangers of the Channel would fall into the canal and be
drowned. But the chief object of interest at Hythe, beside the human
interest, is the ancient church. It is of the usual mixture of Norman
and Gothic characteristic of old English churches, but it has the
peculiar merit of a collection of six hundred skulls, which with some
cords of the relative bones wellnigh fill the whole crypt. These sad
evidences of our common mortality are not æsthetically ordered, as in
the Church of the Capuchins at Rome, but are simply corded up and ranged
on shelves. The surliest of vergers ventures no fable such as you would
be very willing to pay for, and you are left to account for them as you
can, by battle, by plague, by the slow accumulation of the dead in
unremembered graves long robbed of their tenants. It is hard for you, in
the presence of their peculiar detachment, to relate these smiling
ground-plans of faces--

     “Neither painted, glazed nor framed,”--

to anything at any time like the life you know in yourself, or to
suppose that there once passed in these hollow shells, even such poor
thoughts as do not quite fill your own skull to bursting.

It is, nevertheless, rather a terrible little place, that crypt, and you
come out gladly into the watery sunshine, and stray among the tombs,
where you are not daunted by the wide bill-board conspicuously erected
near the entrance with the charges of corporation, vicar and sexton for
burial in that holy ground, lettered large upon the panel. That is the
English outrightness, you say, that is the island honesty, and you try,
rather vainly, to match it with a like publication in such a place at
home which should do us equal credit. Other

[Illustration: THE ANCIENT CHURCH AT HYTHE]

things were very like country graveyards at home, though not those
strange, coffin shapes of stones which lie on so many graves in Kent,
and keep the funeral fact so strongly before the living. But there were
the grass-grown graves; the weather-beaten monuments, the wandering
brambles, the ineffectual flowers. Besides, there was the ever present
ivy, ever absent with us; and over the Gothic portal of the church was a
grotesque, laughing mask, with open mouth, out of which a sparrow flew
from her nest somewhere within the wrinkled cheeks. As if that were the
signal for it the chimes began to ring in the square, gray church tower,
and to fill the listening air with the sweetest, the tenderest tones.
The bells of St. Leonard’s at Hythe are famous for their tenderness,
their sweetness, and it was no uncommon pathos that flowed from their
well-tuned throats, and melted our hearts within us. Doubtless at the
same hour of every afternoon the forbidding verger returns to the crypt
which he has been showing to people all day at threepence a head, and
weeps for the hardness of his manner with emotional tourists. At any
rate the bells have made their soft appeal to him every afternoon for
the hundred and fifty-eight years since 1748, when a still older tower
of the church fell down, and they were put up with the new one.

The church-yard was half surrounded by humble houses of many dates, and
we came down by one of these streets to the main thoroughfare of Hythe
at the moment two little girls were wildly daring fate at the hands of
the local halfwit, who was tottering after them, with his rickety arms
and legs flung abroad as he ran, in his laughter at their mocking. It
was a scene proper to village life anywhere, but what made us localize
it in the American villages we knew was coming suddenly on the low
wooden cottage which stood flush upon the sidewalk, exactly in the way
of wooden houses of exactly the same pattern, familiar to our summer
sojourn in many New England towns. It might have stood, just as it was,
except for its mouldering and mossgrown tile-roof, on any back street of
Marblehead, or Newburyport, or Portsmouth, New Hampshire; yet it seemed
there in Hythe by equal authority with any of the new or old brick
cottages. There are in fact many wooden houses, both old and new, in
Hythe and Sandgate, and other sea-shore and inland towns of the
Folkestone region; the old ones follow the older American fashion in
their size and shape, and the newer ones the less old; for there are
summer cottages of wood in the style that has ultimately prevailed with
us. Many by the sea emulate the æsthetic forms of these, but in brick,
and only look like our summer cottages at a distance. The real wooden
houses when not very ancient, are like those we used to build when we
were emerging from the Swiss chalet and Gothic villa period, and the
jig-saw still lent its graceful touch in the decoration of gable and
veranda; and they are always painted white.

In all cases they either look American or make our houses of the like
pattern look English in the retrospect. On the line of the South Eastern
Railway in Kent are many wooden stations of exactly the sort I remember
on the Fitchburg Railroad in Massachusetts. They could have been
transposed without disturbing their consciousness; but what of the
porter at one of the Kentish stations whom I heard calling the trains
with the same nasal accent that I used to hear announcing my arrival at
n’Atholl, and n’Orange, Massachusetts? Was he a belated Yankee ancestor,
or was the brakeman of those prehistoric days simply his far
progenitor? Is there then nothing American, nothing English, and are we
really all one?

In the window of the little pastry shop at Hythe where we got some
excellent tea, there were certain objects on a lavish platter whose
identity we scarcely ventured to establish, but “What are these?” we
finally asked.

“_Doughnuts_,” the reply came, and we could not gasp out the question:

“But where are the baked beans, the fish-balls?”

We might well have expected them to rise like an exhalation from the
floor, and greet us with the solemn declaration, “We are no more
American than you are, with your English language, which you go round
with here disappointing people by not speaking it through your nose. We
and you are of the same immemorial Anglo-Saxon tradition; we are at home
on either shore of the sea; and we shall attest the unity of the race’s
civilization in all the ages to come.”

This would have been a good deal for the baked beans and the fish-balls
to say, but it would not have been too much. In that very village of
Hythe, where we lunched the Sunday after in a sea-side cottage of such
an endearingly American interior that we could not help risking praise
of it for that reason, there was a dish which I thought I knew as I
voraciously ate of it. I asked its honored name, and I was told, “Salt
haddock and potatoes,” but all the same I knew that it was inchoate
fish-balls, and I believe they had left the baked beans in the kitchen
as more than my daunted intelligence could assimilate at one meal. The
baked beans! What know I? The succotash, the chowder, the clam-fritters,
the hoe-cake, the flapjacks, the corned-beef hash, the stewed oyster,
with whatever else the ancient Briton ate--

    “When wild in the woods the noble savage ran,”

and felt his digestion affected by a weird prescience of his
transatlantic posterity.

They do not serve hot tamales on the Leas of Folkestone yet, and perhaps
they never will, now that our national fickleness has relegated to a
hopeless back-numbership the hot-tamale-man, in his suit of shining
white with his oven of shining brass, and impoverished our streets of
their joint picturesqueness. It is possible that in the season they
serve other sorts of public food on the Leas, but I doubt it, for the
note of Folkestone is distinctly formality. I do not say the highest
fashion, for I have been told that this is “the tender grace of a day
that is dead” for Folkestone. The highest fashion in England, if not in
America, seeks the simplest expression in certain moments; it likes to
go to little sea-shore places where it can be informal, when it likes,
in dress and amusement, where it can get close to its neglected mother
nature, and lie in her lap and smoke its cigarette in her indulgent
face. So at least I have heard; I vouch for nothing. Sometimes I have
seen the Leas fairly well dotted with promenaders towards evening;
sometimes, in a brief interval of sunshine, the lawns pretty fairly
spotted with people listening in chairs to the military band. On bad
days--and my experience is that out of eighteen days at Folkestone
fourteen are too bad for the band to play in the Pavilion, there is a
modest string-band in the Shelter. This is a sort of cavern hollowed
under the edge of the Leas, where there are chairs within, and without
under the veranda eaves, at tuppence each, and where the visitors all
sit reading novels, and trying to shut the music from their
consciousness. I think it is because they dread so much coming to “God
Save the King,” when they will have to get up and stand uncovered. It is
not because they hate to uncover to the King, but because they know that
then they will have to go away, and there is nothing else for them to
do.

Once they could go twice a day to see the Channel boats come in, and the
passengers sodden from seasickness, limply lagging ashore. But now they
are deprived of this sight by the ill-behavior of the railroad in timing
the boats so that they arrive in the middle of lunch and after dark. It
is held to have been distinctly a blow to the prosperity of Folkestone,
where people now have more leisure than they know what to do with, even
when they spend all the time in the dressing and undressing which the
height of the season exacts of them. Of course, there is always the
bathing, when the water is warm enough. The bathing-machine is not so
attractive to the spectator as our bath-house, with the bather tripping
or limping down to the sea across the yellow sands; but it serves
equally to pass the time and occupy the mind, and for the American
onlooker it would have the charm of novelty, when the clumsy structure
was driven into the water.

I have said yellow sands in obedience to Shakespeare, but I note again
that the beach at Folkestone is reddish-brown. Its sands are coarse, and
do not pack smoothly like those of our beaches; at Dover, where they
were used in the mortar for building the castle, the warder had to blame
them as the cause of the damp coming through the walls and obliging the
authorities to paint the old armor to keep it from rusting. But I fancy
the sea-sand does not enter into the composition of the stucco on the
Folkestone houses, one of which we found so pleasantly habitable. Most
of the houses on and near the Leas are larger than the wont of American
houses, and the arrangement much more agreeable and sensible than that
of our average houses; the hallway opens from a handsome vestibule, and
the stairs ascend from the rear of the hall, and turn squarely, as they
mount half-way up. But let not the intending exile suppose that their
rents are low; with the rates and taxes, which the tenant always pays in
England, the rents are fully up to those in towns of corresponding size
with us. Provisions are even higher than in our subordinate cities,
especially to the westward, and I doubt if people live as cheaply in
Folkestone as, say, in Springfield, Massachusetts, or certainly Buffalo.

For the same money, though, they can live more handsomely, for domestic
service in England is cheap and abundant and well-ordered. Yet on the
other hand, they cannot live so comfortably, nor, so wholesomely. There
are no furnaces in these very personable houses; steam-heat is undreamed
of, and the grates which are in every room and are not of ignoble size,
scarce suffice to keep the mercury above the early sixties of the
thermometer’s degrees. If you would have warm hands and feet you must go
out-of-doors and walk them warm. It is not a bad plan, and if you can
happen on a little sunshine out-of-doors, it is far better than to sit
cowering over the grate, which has enough to do in keeping itself warm.

One could easily exaggerate the sense of sunshine at Folkestone, and yet
I do not feel that I have got quite enough of it into my picture. It was
not much obscured by fog during our stay; but there were clouds that
came and went--came more than they went. One night there was absolute
fog, which blew in from the sea in drifts showing almost like snow in
the electric lamps; and at momently intervals the siren horn at the
pier lowed like some unhappy cow, crazed for her wandering calf, and far
out from the blind deep, the Boulogne boat bellowed its plaintive
response. But there was, at other times, sunshine quite as absolute. Our
last Sunday at Folkestone was one of such sunshine, and all the morning
long the sky was blue, blue, as I had fancied it could be blue only in
America or in Italy. Besides this there remains the sense of much
absolute sunshine from our first Sunday morning, when we walked along
under the Leas, towards Sandgate, as far as to the Elizabethan castle on
the shore. We found it doubly shut because it was Sunday and because it
was not yet Whitmonday, until which feast of the church it would not be
opened. It is only after much trouble with the almanac that the
essentially dissenting American discovers the date of these church
feasts which are confidently given in public announcements in England,
as clearly fixing this or that day of the month; but we were sure we
should not be there after Whitmonday, and we made what we could of the
outside of the castle, and did not suffer our exclusion to embitter us.
Nothing could have embittered us that Sunday morning as we strolled
along that pleasant-way, with the sea on one side and the sea-side
cottages on the other, and occasionally pressing between us and the
beach. Their presence so close to the water spoke well for the mildness
of the winter, and for the winds of all seasons. On any New England
coast they would have frozen up and blown away; but here they stood safe
among their laurels, with their little vegetable gardens beside them;
and the birds, which sang among their budding trees, probably never left
off singing the year round except in some extraordinary stress of
weather, or when occupied in plucking up the sprouting peas by the
roots and eating the seed-peas. To prevent their ravage, and to restrict
them to their business of singing, the rows of young peas were netted
with a somewhat coarser mesh than that used in New Jersey to exclude the
mosquitoes, but whether it was effectual or not, I do not know.

I only know that the sun shone impartially on birds and peas, and upon
us as well, so that an overcoat became oppressive, and the climb back to
the Leas by the steep hill-side paths impossible. If it had not been for
the elders reading newspapers, and the lovers reading one another’s
thoughts on all the benches, it might have been managed; but as it was
we climbed down after climbing half-way up, and retraced our steps
towards Sandgate, where we took a fly for the drive back to Folkestone.
Our fly driver (it is not the slang it sounds) said there would be time
within the hour we bargained for to go round through the camp at
Shorncliff, and we providentially arrived on the parade-ground while the
band was still playing to a crowd of the masses who love military music
everywhere, and especially hang tranced upon it in England. If I had by
me some particularly vivid pots of paint instead of the cold black and
white of print, I might give some notion in color of the way the
red-coated soldiery flamed out of the intense green of the plain, and
how the strong purples and greens and yellows and blues of the
listeners’ dresses gave the effect of some gaudy garden all round them;
American women say that English women of all classes wear, and can wear,
colors in their soft atmosphere that would shriek aloud in our clear,
pitiless air. When the band ceased playing, and each soldier had paired
off and strolled away with the maid who had been simple-heartedly
waiting for him, it was as gigantic tulips and hollyhocks walking.

The camp at Shorncliff is for ten thousand soldiers, I believe of all
arms, who are housed in a town of brick and wooden cottages, with
streets and lanes of its own; and there many of the officers have their
quarters as well as the men. Once these officers’ families lived in
Folkestone, and something of its decay is laid to their removal, which
was caused by its increasing expensiveness. Probably none of them dwell
in the tents, which our drive brought us in sight of beyond the
barrack-town, pitched in the middle of a green, green field, and lying
like heaps of snow on the verdure. The old church of Cheriton, with a
cloud of immemorial associations, rose gray in the background of the
picture, and beyond the potential goriness of the tented field a
sheep-pasture stretched, full of the bloodless innocence of the young
lambs, which after imaginably bounding as to the tabor’s sound from the
martial bands, were stretched beside their dams in motionless exhaustion
from their play.

It was all very strange, that sunshiny Sunday morning, for the soldiers
who lounged near the gate of their camp looked not less kind than the
types of harmlessness beyond the hedge, and the emblems of their
inherited faith could hardly have been less conscious of the monstrous
grotesqueness of their trade of murder than these poor souls themselves.
It is all a weary and disheartening puzzle, which the world seems as far
as ever from guessing out. It may be that the best way is to give it up,
but one thinks of it helplessly in the beauty of this gentle, smiling
England, whose history has been written in blood from the earliest
records of the heathen time to the latest Christian yesterday, when her
battle-fields have merely been transferred beyond seas, but are still
English battle-fields.

What strikes the American constantly in England is the homogeneousness
of the people. We at home have the foreigner so much with us that we
miss him when we come to England. When I take my walks in the mall in
Central Park I am likely to hear any other tongue oftener than English,
to hear Yiddish, or Russian, or Polish, or Norwegian, or French, or
Italian, or Spanish; but when I take my walks on the Leas at Folkestone,
scarcely more than an hour from the polyglot continent of Europe, I hear
almost nothing but English. Twice, indeed, I heard a few French people
speaking together; once I heard a German Jew telling a story of a dog,
which he found so funny that he almost burst with laughter; and once
again, in the lower town, there came to me from the open door of an
eating-house the sound of Italian. But everywhere else was English, and
the signs of _Ici on parle Français_ were almost as infrequent in the
shops. As we very well know, if we know English history even so little
as I do, it used to be very different. Many of these tongues in their
earlier modifications used to be heard in and about Folkestone, if not
simultaneously, then successively. The Normans came speaking their
French of Stratford-atte-Bow, the Saxons their Low German, the Danes
their Scandinavian, and the Italians their vernacular Latin, the
supposed sister-tongue and not mother-tongue of their common parlance.
It was not the Latin which Cæsar wrote, but it was the Latin which Cæsar
heard in his camp on the downs back of Folkestone, if that was really
his camp and not some later Roman general’s. The words, if not the
accents of these foreigners are still heard in the British speech
there; the only words which are almost silent in it are those of the
first British, who have given their name to the empire of the English;
and that seems very strange, and perhaps a little sad. But it cannot be
helped; we ourselves have kept very few Algonquin vocables; we ourselves
speak the language of the Roman, the Saxon, the Dane, the Norman in the
mixture imported from England in the seventeenth century, and adapted to
our needs by the newspapers in the twentieth. We may get back to a
likeness of the Latin to which the hills behind Folkestone echoed two
thousand years ago, if the Italians keep coming in at the present rate,
but it is not probable; and I thought it advisable, for the sake of a
realizing sense of Italian authority in our civilization to pay a visit
to Cæsar’s camp one afternoon of the few when the sun shone. This took
us up a road so long and steep that it seemed only a due humanity to get
out and join our fly driver (again that apparent slang!) in sparing his
panting and perspiring horse; but the walk gave us a better chance of
enjoying the entrancing perspectives opening seaward from every break in
the downs. Valleys green with soft grass and gray with pasturing sheep
dipped in soft slopes to the Folkestone levels; and against the horizon
shimmered the Channel, flecked with sail of every type, and stained with
the smoke of steamers, including the Folkestone boat full of passengers
not, let us hope, so sea-sick as usual.

Part of our errand was to see the Holy Well at which the Canterbury
Pilgrims used to turn aside and drink, and to feel that we were going a
little way with them. But we were so lost in pity for our horse and joy
in the landscape, that we forgot to demand these objects and their
associations from our driver till we had remounted to our places, and
turned aside on the way to Cæsar’s camp. Then he could only point with
his whip to a hollow we had passed unconscious, and say the Holy Well
was there.

“But where, where,” we cried, “is the pilgrim road to Canterbury?”

Then he faced about and pointed in another direction to a long, white
highway curving out of sight, and there it was, just as Chaucer saw it
full of pilgrims seven hundred years ago, or as Blake and Stothard saw
it six hundred years after Chaucer. I myself always preferred Stothard’s
notion of these pious folk to Blake’s; but that is a matter of taste.
Both versions of them were like, and they both now did their best to
repeople the empty white highway for us. I do not say they altogether
failed; these things are mostly subjective, and it is hard to tell,
especially if you want others to believe your report. We were only
subordinately concerned with the Canterbury pilgrims; we were mainly in
a high Roman mood, and Cæsar’s camp was our goal.

The antiquity of England is always stunning, and it is with the breath
pretty well knocked out of your body that you constantly come upon
evidences of the Roman occupation, especially in the old, old churches
which abound far beyond the fondest fancy of the home-keeping American
mind. You can only stand before these walls built of Roman brick, on
these bricked-up Roman arches, and gasp out below the verger’s hearing,
“Four hundred years! They held Britain four hundred years! Four times as
long as we have lived since we broke with her!” But observe, gentle and
trusting reader, that these Roman remains are of the latest years of
their domination, and very long after they had converted and enslaved
the stubbornest of the Britons, while at Cæsar’s camp, if it was his, we
stood before the ghosts of the earliest invaders, of those legionaries
who were there before Christ was in the world, and who have left no
trace of their presence except this fortress-grave.

Very like a grave it was, with huge, long harrows of heavily sodded
earth made in scooping out the bed of the moat, and resting upon some
imaginable inner structure of stone or brick. They fronted the landward
side of a down which seawardly was of too sharp an ascent to need their
defence. Rising one above another they formed good resting-places for
the transatlantic tourists whom the Roman engineers could hardly have
had in mind, and a good playground for some children who were there with
their mothers and nurses. A kindly-looking young Englishman had
stretched himself out on one of them, and as we approached from below
was in the act of lighting his pipe. It was all, after those two
thousand years, very peaceable, and there were so many larks singing in
the meadow that it seemed as if there must be one of them in every tuft
of grass. It was profusely starred over with the small English daisies,
which they are not obliged to take up in pots, for the winter here, and
which seized the occasion to pass themselves off on me for white clover,
till I found them out by their having no odor.

The effect was what forts and fields of fight always come to if you give
them time enough; though few of the most famous can offer the traveller
such a view of Folkestone and the sea as Cæsar’s camp. We drove round
into the town by a different road from that we came out by, and on the
way I noted a small brick-making industry in the suburb, which could
perhaps account both for the prosperity of Folkestone and for the
overbuilding. Sadly we saw the great numbers of houses that were to be
let or sold, everywhere, and we arrived at our lodgings and the
conclusion together that four-fifths of the houses which were not to be
let whole, were to be let piecemeal in apartments. The sign of these is
up on every hand, and the well-wisher of the sympathetic town must fall
back for comfort as to its future on the prevalence of what has been
waiting to call itself the instructural industry. Schools for youth of
both sexes abound, and we everywhere saw at the proper hours discreetly
guarded processions of fresh-looking young English-looking girls,
carrying their complexions out into the health-giving air of the seas.
As long as we could see them in their wholesome, pink-cheeked, blue-eyed
innocence, we could hardly miss the fashion whose absence was a
condition of one’s being in Folkestone out of season.

Another compensation for being there untimely, as regarded fashion, was
a glimpse of the English political life which I had one night in a
“Liberal Demonstration” at the Town Hall. This I found as intellectually
bracing as my two nights at the theatre were mentally relaxing. It was
all the difference between the beach and the Leas, and nothing but a
severe sense of my non-citizenship saved me from partaking the
enthusiasm which I perceived all round me. I perceived also the good,
honest odor of salt fish, such as was proper to the seafaring
constituency whom one of the gentlemen on the platform was willing to
represent in Parliament as the Liberal candidate. He was ranked in by
rows of his friends of both sexes, and on the floor where I sat, as well
as in the galleries there were great numbers of women, whom one seldom
sees in political meetings at home, and great numbers of young men whom
one sees almost as seldom. One lady on the platform, in evening dress, I
fancied the wife of the young gentleman in evening dress who was
standing (in England candidates do not _run_) for a neighboring
parliamentary constituency, and who presently made an excellent and
telling speech. At times the speakers all aimed some remark, usually
semijocose, at the women, and there was evidence of the domestication,
the homely intelligence of all ranks and sexes, in English politics,
which is wholly absent from ours. The points made against the Tories
were their selfish government of the nation in the interest of
themselves and their families; the crushing debts and taxes heaped upon
the English people by the mismanagement of the Boer war; the injustice
of the proposed school law towards Dissenters; the absurdity and
wickedness of the preferential tariff. It was all very personal to Mr.
Chamberlain and Mr. Balfour, but impersonally personal and
self-respectful. As I came in the Folkestone candidate was speaking very
clearly and cogently, but not very vividly, and the real spirit of the
demonstration was not roused till a Liberal member of Parliament
followed him in a jovial, witty, and forcible talk rather than a speech.
He won the heart of the people, and especially the women, who laughed
with him, and helped cheer him; there was some give and take between him
and the audience, from which he was bantered as well as applauded; but
all was well within the bounds of good-humor and good-manners. He
genially roughed the working-men, whom he rallied on not getting
everything they wanted, now when they had the vote and could vote what
they chose. It was like the talk of a man to his family or his familiar
friends, and gave the sense of the closely graduated intimacy of
politics possible in a homogeneous community.

He was followed by that gentleman in evening dress, who spoke as
forcibly, and addressed himself to the working-man, too, whom he invited
to realize their power, and to “take their share in the kingship.” The
terms of his appeal made me tremble a little, but they were probably
quite figurative, and embodied no danger to the monarchy. Still from a
man in evening dress, and especially a white waistcoat, they were
interesting; and I came away equally divided between my surprise at
them, and my American misgiving for the fact that neither the gentleman
proposing to represent a Folkestone constituency nor any of his friends
was a resident of Folkestone. Such a thing, I reflected, was wholly
alien to our law and custom, and could not happen except where some
gentleman wished very much to be a Senator from a State of which he was
not a citizen, and felt obliged to buy up its legislature.



VIII

KENTISH NEIGHBORHOODS, INCLUDING CANTERBURY


Dover is a place which looks its history as little as any famous town I
know. It lies smutched with smoke, along the shore, and it is as
commonplace as some worthy town of our own which has grown to like
effect in as many decades as Dover has taken centuries. The difference
in favor of Dover is that when at last you get outside of it, you are
upon the same circle of downs that backs Folkestone, and on the top of
one of them you are overawed by the very noble castle, which too few
people, who know the place as the landing of the Calais boat, ever think
of. Up and steeply up we mounted, with a mounting sense of never getting
there; but at last, after passing red-coated soldiers stalking upward,
and red-cheeked children stooping downward to pick the wayside flowers,
hardily blowing in the keen sea-wind, we reached the ancient fortress
and waited in a court-yard till we were many enough to be herded through
it by a warder of a jocosity which I have not known elsewhere in
England. He had a joke for the mimic men in armor which had to be
constantly painted to keep the damp off; for the thickness of the walls;
for the lantern that flings a faint glimmer, a third way down the
unfathomable castle well; for the disparity between our multitude and
the French father and daughter whom he had shown through just before us.
At different points he would begin, “I always say, ’ere,” and then
pronounce some habitual pleasantry. He called our notice to a crusader
effigy’s tall two-handed sword, and invited us to enjoy his custom of
calling it “‘is toothpick.”

All would not do. We kept sternly or densely silent; so far from
laughing, not one of us smiled. In the small chamber which served as the
bedroom of Charles I. and Charles II. on their visit to the castle, he
showed the narrow alcove where the couch of these kings had once lurked,
and then looked around at us and sighed deeply, as for some one to say
that it was rather like a coal-cellar. In England, one does not make
merry even with by-gone royalty; it is as if the unwritten law which
renders it bad form to speak with slight of any member of the reigning
family were retroactive, and forbade trifling with the family it has
displaced. I knew the warder was aching to joke at the expense of that
alcove, and I ached in sympathy with him, but we both remained
respectfully serious. His herd received all his humorous comment with a
dulness, or a heartlessness, I do not know which, such as I have never
seen equalled, in so much that, coming out last, I pressed a shy
sixpence into his palm with the bated explanation, “That’s for the
jokes,” and his sad face lighted up with a joy that I hope was for the
appreciation and not for the sixpence.

We went once to Dover, but many times, as I have recorded, to Hythe,
which was once the home of smuggling, and where there is still a little
ale-house that poetically, pathetically, remembers the happy past by its
sign of “Smuggler’s Retreat.” It is said that there was formerly
smuggling pretty much along the whole coast, and there is a
heartrending story of charred bales of silk, found in a farm-house
chimney, long after they were hidden there, where the hearth-fires of
many years had done their worst with them. It grieves the spirit still
to think of the young hearts which those silks, timely and fitly worn,
would have gladdened or captivated. But Hythe could hardly ever, even in
the palmiest days of smuggling, have been a haunt of fashion, though the
police-station, in the long, rambling street, had apparently once been
an assembly-room, if one might trust the glimpses caught, from the top
of one’s charabanc, of the interiors of rooms far statelier than suit
the simple needs or tastes of modern crime.

I do not know why my thought should linger with special fondness in
Hythe, for all the region far and near was alive with equal allurements.
Famous and hallowed Canterbury itself was only an hour or so away, and
yet we kept going day after day to Hythe for no better reason, perhaps,
than that the charabanc ran accessibly by the corner of our lodgings in
Folkestone, while it required a special effort of the will to call a fly
and drive to the station and thence take the train for a city whose
origin, in the local imagination at least, is prehistoric, and was
undeniably a capital of the ancient Britons. The generous ignorance in
which I finally approached was not so ample as to include association
with Chaucer’s Pilgrims, or the fact that Canterbury is the seat of the
primate of all England; and it distinctly faltered before extending
itself to the tragic circumstances of Thomas à Becket’s murder.
Otherwise it was most comprehensive, and I suppose that few travellers
have perused the pages of Baedeker relating to the place with more
surprise. The manual which one buys in all places is for the
retrospective enjoyment and identification of their objects of interest,
and my “Canterbury Official Guide to the Cathedral Church, and Hand-book
of the City,” could do no more than agreeably supplement, long
afterwards, the prompt information of the indefatigable German.

The day which chose us for our run up from Folkestone was a heavenly
fourth of May, when the flowers had pretty well all come up to reassure
the birds of spring. There were not only cowslips and primroses in their
convertible yellow, but violets visible if not recognizable along the
railway sides, and the cherry-trees which so abound in Kent were putting
on their clouds of bridal white and standing in festive array between
the expanses of the hop-fields, in a sort of shining expectation. At
first you think there cannot be more of anything than of the
cherry-trees in Kent, which last so long in their beauteous bloom, that
for week after week you will find them full-flower, with scarcely a
fallen petal. But by-and-by you perceive that there are more hop-vines
than even cherry-trees in Kent; and that trained first to climb their
slender poles, and then to feel their way along the wires crossing
everywhere from the tops of these till the whole landscape is netted in,
they are there in an insurpassable plenitude. As yet, on our fourth of
May, however, the hops, in mere hint of their ultimate prevalence, were
just out of the ground, and beginning to curl about their poles, while
the cherry-trees were there as if drifted by a blizzard of bloom. Here
and there a pear-tree trained against a sunny wall attempted a rivalry
self-doomed to failure; but the yellow furze gilded the embankments and
the backward-flying plain with its honied flowers, already neighbored by
purple expanses of wild hyacinth. What, in the heart of all this
blossoming, was the great cathedral itself, when we came in sight of it,
but a vast efflorescence of the age of faith, mystically beautiful in
form, and gray as some pale exhalation from the mould of the
ever-cloistered, the deeply reforested past?

Canterbury Cathedral, however, though it is so distinctive, and is the
chief of the sacred edifices which have in all Christian times
incomparably enriched the place, might be lost from it and be less
missed than from any other town of cathedral dignity. Without it
Canterbury would still be worthy of all wonder, but with it, what shall
one say? There is St. Martin’s, there is St. Mildred’s, there is St.
Alphege’s, there is the Monastery of St. Augustine, there is St.
Stephen’s, there is St. John’s Hospital, and I know not what other pious
edifices to remember the Roman and Saxon and Norman and English men,
who, if they did not build better than they knew, built beautifuler than
we can. But of course the cathedral towers above them all in the sky and
thought, and I hope no reader of mine will make our mistake of immuring
himself in a general omnibus for the rather long drive to the sacred
fane from the station. A fly fully open to the sun, and creeping as
slowly as a fly can when hired by the hour, is the true means of arrival
in the sacred vicinity. In this you may absorb every particular of the
picturesque course over the winding road, across the bridge under which
the Stour rushes (one marvels whither, in such haste), overhung with the
wheels of busy mills and the balconies of idle dwellings, in air reeking
of tanneries, and so into the city by streets narrowing and widening at
their own caprice, with little regard to the convenience of the shops.
These seem rather to thicken about the precincts of the cathedral,
where among those just without is a tiny restaurant which thinks itself
almost a part of the church, and where some very gentlewomanly young
women will serve you an excellent warm lunch in a room of such mediæval
proportion and decoration that you can hardly refuse to believe yourself
a pilgrim out of Chaucer. If the main dish of the lunch is lamb from the
flocks which you saw trying to whiten the meadows all the way from
Folkestone, and destined to greater success as the season advances, the
poetic propriety of the feast will be the more perfect. After you have
refreshed yourself you may sally out into the Mercery Lane whither the
pilgrims used to resort for their occasions of shopping, and where the
ruder sort kept up “the noise of their singing, with the sound of their
piping, and the jingling of their Canterbury bells,” which they made in
all the towns they passed through on their devout errand. They were in
Canterbury, according to good William Thorpe, who paid for his opinions
by suffering a charge of heresy in 1405, “more for the health of their
bodies than their souls.... And if these men and women be a month in
their pilgrimage, many of them shall be an half year after great
janglers, tale-tellers, and liars. They have with them both men and
women that sing well wanton songs.” But what of that, the archbishop
before whom Thorpe was tried effectively demanded. “When one of them
that goeth barefoot striketh his foot against a stone ... and maketh him
to bleed, it is well done that he or his fellow beginneth then a song
... for to drive away with such mirth the hurt of his fellow. For with
such solace the travel and weariness of pilgrims is lightly and merrily
brought forth.”

Nevertheless, in spite of this archiepiscopal reasoning, the pilgrims
seem to be largely a godless crew whom, if my reader has come in their
company to Canterbury, he will do better to avoid while there, and
betake himself at once to the cathedral when he has had his luncheon. It
is easily of such interest, historical and architectural, that he may
spend in it not only all that is left him of his fourth of May, but many
and many days of other months before he has exhausted it. The interest
will rather exhaust him if he forms one of that troop of
twentieth-century pilgrims who are led sheeplike through the edifice
under the rod of the verger. We fell to a somewhat severe verger, though
the whole verger tribe is severe, for that matter, and were snubbed if
we ventured out of the strict order of our instruction at the shrine
where Thomas à Becket, become a saint by his passive participation in
the act, was murdered. One lady who trespassed upon the bounds pointed
out as worn in the stone by the knees of more pious pilgrims, in former
ages, was bidden peremptorily “Step back,” and complied in a confusion
that took the mind from the arrogant churchman slain by the knights
acting upon their king’s passionate suspiration, “Is there no one to
deliver me from this turbulent priest?”

Perhaps it was not the verger alone that at Canterbury caused the vital
spirits to sink so low. There was also the sense of hopelessness with
which one recalled a few shadowy details of the mighty story of the
church, including, as it does, almost everything of civility and art in
the successive centuries which have passed, eight of them, since it
began to be the prodigious pile it is. St. Thomas, who, since he was so
promptly canonized, must be allowed a saint in everything but meekness,
is the prime presence that haunts the thought of the visitor, and yet
it is no bad second if the French Protestant refugees, whom Elizabeth
allowed to hold their services in the crypt, and who lived where they
worshipped in their exile, possess it next; the Black Prince’s armor and
effigy are not in it, with these. The crypt is no longer their
dwelling-place, but their rites (I suppose Calvinistic) are still
solemnized there; and who knows but if the savage Puritans, who imagined
they were abolishing episcopacy when they were destroying beauty, had
been a little less barbarous they might not now enter third among the
associations of the cathedral? We cannot doubt the sincerity of their
self-righteousness, and there is a fine thrill in the story of how they
demolished “the great idolatrous window standing on the left hand as you
go up into the choir,” if you take it in the language of the minister
Richard Culmer, luridly known to neighboring men as “Blue Dick.” He
himself bore a leading part in the vandalism, being moved by especial
zeal to the work, not only because “in that window were seven large
pictures of the Virgin Mary, in seven large glorious appearances,” but
because “their prime cathedral saint, Archbishop Becket, was most rarely
pictured in that window, in full proportion, with cope, rochet, crozier,
and his pontificalibus.... A minister,” the godly Blue Dick tells us,
modestly forbearing to name himself, “was on top of the city ladder,
near sixty steps high, with a whole pike in his hand, rattling down
proud Becket’s glassy bones, when others present would not venture so
high.”

Of course, of course, it is all abominable enough, but it is not
contemptible. The Puritans were not doing this sort of thing for fun,
though undoubtedly they got fun out of it. They believed truly they were
serving God in the work, and they cannot be left out of any count that
sums up the facts making the English churches so potent upon the
imagination. These churches were of a powerfuler hold upon my age than
those that charmed my youth in Italy, because they bore witness not only
to the great political changes in the life about them, but also to the
succession of religious events. The order of an unbroken Catholicism is
not of so rich a picturesqueness or so vital an importance as the break
from the Roman Church, and then the break from the English Church, the
first protestantism obeying the king’s will and the second the people’s
conscience. Each was effected with ruinous violence, but ruin for ruin,
that wrought by Henry VIII. is of twice the quantity and quality of that
wrought by the zealots of the Commonwealth. When they tell you in these
beautiful old places that Cromwell did so and so to devastate or
desecrate them, you naturally, if you are a true American, and inherit
in spirit the Commonwealth, take shame to yourself for brave Oliver; but
you need not be in such haste. There was a Thomas Cromwell, who failed
to “put away ambition,” when bidden by the dying Wolsey, and who served
his king better than his God; and it was this Cromwell far more than
Oliver Cromwell who spoiled the religious houses and the churches. A
hundred years before the righteous Blue Dick “rattled down proud
Becket’s glassy bones,” there were royal commissioners who rattled out
the same martyr’s real bones, and profaned his tomb in such wise that
one cannot now satisfy the piety which drew the pilgrims in such
multitude to his knee-worn shrine. It is to be said for the first
Cromwell and his instruments, who were not too good to stable their
horses in a church here and there, like the Puritan troopers who hardly
bettered their instruction, that they would forbear their conscientious
violence if the churchmen would pay enough, whereas no bribe could stay
the hands of such followers of the second Cromwell as Blue Dick when
once they lifted their hands against “cathedral saints.”

We revered whatever was venerable in the cathedral, and then came rather
wearily out and sat down to rest on a friendly bench commanding a view
of as much of the edifice as the eye can take in at a glance. That was
much more than the pen could tell in a chapter, and I will only
generalize the effect as such rich repose for soul and body as I should
not know where else to find again. We sat there in a moment of positive
sunshine, which poured itself from certain blue spaces in a firmament of
soft white clouds. The towers and pinnacles of the mighty bulk, which
was yet too beautiful to seem big, soared among the tender forms, the
English sky is so low and the church was so high; and in and out of the
coigns and crevices of its Norman, and early English, and Gothic, the
rooks doing duty as pigeons, disappeared and appeared again. Naturally,
there were workmen doing something to the roofs and towers, but as if
their scaffolding was also Norman, and Gothic, and early English, it did
not hurt the harmony of the architecture. When we could endure no more
of the loveliness, we rose, and went about peering among the noble ruins
of the cathedral cloisters, the work of the first Cromwell who tried to
fear God in honoring the king, not the second Cromwell, who tried to
honor God without fearing the king.

These are somehow more appealing than the ruins of St. Augustine’s
monastery, which is still a school for missionaries in its habitable
parts. He began to build it while King Ethelbert yet mourned, in his
conversion for his Christian Queen Bertha, but it was a thousand years
growing to the grandeur which Henry VIII. spared and appropriated, and
in which it remained to be the sojourn of all the sovereigns visiting
Canterbury from his time till that of Charles II. It is not clear how it
fell into its present dignified dilapidation, through the hands to which
it was granted from age to age; but it could not be a more sightly or
reverently kept monument. The missionary school is like some vigorous
growth clothing with new sap the flank of a mouldering trunk long since
dead. It is interesting, it is most estimable; it tenderly preserves and
uses such portions of the ancient monastery as it may; but the spirit
turns willingly from it, and goes and hangs over some shoulder of
orchard wall, and gloats upon the picturesqueness of broken,
sky-spanning arches, ivied from their pillar bases to the tops of their
mutilated spandrels.

It was here, I think, that we first saw that curious flintwork which so
abounds in the parts of Kent: the cloven pebbles of black-rimmed white
set in walls of such pitiless obduracy that the sense bruises itself
against them, and comes away bleeding. The monks who wove these curtains
of checkered masonry, what an adamantine patience they must have had!
But the labor was the least part of their bleak life, which was well put
an end to, soon after it was corrupted into something tolerable by the
vices attributed to them. Vicious they could not have been in the
measure that the not over-virtuous destroyers of their monasteries
pretended, and I think that amid the ruins of their houses one may
always rather fitly offer their memory the oblation of a pitying tear. I
am not sure whether it was before or after we had visited the still
older scene of St. Augustine’s missionary effort at the church of St.
Martin, that I paid some such tribute to his successors at the
monastery; but the main thing is to have visited St. Martin’s at any
time. It is so old as to have forgotten not only its founders, who are
dimly conjectured to have been some Christian soldiers of the Roman
garrison in about the year 187, but also the name of its first tutelary
saint, for St. Martin was not yet born when St. Martin’s was built. He
died about 395, and his fame crossed over from France with the good
Bertha, when she came to wed the heathen King Ethelbert, of whose
heathenism, with St. Augustine’s help, she made such short and thorough
work that after her death he became a Christian himself, and after his
own death a saint. She dedicated the little Roman church to St. Martin,
and she lies buried in a recess of the wall beside the chancel. The
verger who showed us her stone coffin in its nook said, with a seeking
glance from the corner of his eye: “This is where she is _supposed_ to
be buried. They say she is buried in two other places, but I think, as
there is nothing to prove it, they might as well let her rest here.”

He was probably right, and he was of a subacid saturnine humor which
suited so well with the fabulous atmosphere of the place, or else with
our momentary mood, that we voted him upon the whole the most
sympathetic sexton we had yet known. He made, doubtless not for the
first time, demurely merry with the brass of a gentleman interred
beneath the chancel, who, being the father of three sons and ten
daughters, was recorded to have had “many joys and some cares,” and with
the monumental stone of a patriarch who had died at a hundred and of
whom he conjectured grimly that if he had not so many joys as his
neighbor, he had fewer cares, since he had never married. If these
jokes

[Illustration: ST. MARTIN’S CHURCH, CANTERBURY]

were the standard drolleries purveyed to all travellers, we yet imputed
from them a more habitual humor to the English race than Americans are
willing to give it credit for. I still fancy something national in his
comment on the seven doors, now all but one walled up in the side of the
church: Roman and Saxon and Norman doors, which formed a pretty fair
allowance of exit from a place not much more than thirty feet long, even
if one of the Saxon doors was appropriated to the Evil One for his sole
use in retreating when hard pressed by the sermon within. I believe, or
I wish to believe, that our verger’s caustic wit spared that sad
memorial of past suffering and sorrow which one comes upon again and
again in the old English churches, and which was called the Lepers’
Squint in days when the word had no savor of mocking, and meant merely
the chance of the outcasts to see the worship which their affliction
would not suffer them to share.

It would be a pity to seem in any sort wanting in a sense of the
solemnity of that pathetic temple, so old, so little, so significant of
the history of the faith and race. The tasteful piety which is so
universal in England, and is of such constant effect of godliness in an
age not otherwise much vowed to it, keeps the revered place within and
without in perfect repair; and I hope it is not too fantastic to suppose
it in tacit sympathy with any stranger who lingers in the church-yard,
and stays and stays for the beautiful prospect of Canterbury from its
height. We drove from it through some streets of old houses stooped and
shrunken with age, to that doting monument of the past which calls
itself the Dane John, having forgotten just what its right name is. The
immemorial mound, fifty feet high, which now forms the main feature of a
pretty public garden, is fabled to be the monstrous barrow of those
slain in a battle between the Danes and Saxons, but it need not be just
that to “tease us out of thought” of our times; for wars are still as
rife as in its own century, and dead men’s bones can still be heaped
skyward on the bloody fields. Some sixty or seventy years ago a
public-spirited citizen of Canterbury planned and planted the pleasaunce
one may now enjoy there, if one will leave one’s carriage at the gate
and stroll through it. Half of our little party preferred resting in the
fly, seeing which a public-spirited citizeness came and protested
against the self-denial with much entreaty. This unknown lady,
hospitable and kindly soul, we afterwards fancied tardily fulfilling a
duty to the giver of the garden which other ladies earlier spurned, if
we may trust a local writer to whose monograph I owe more than I should
like to own. “The gentry--for here in Canterbury, as elsewhere, we have
our jarring spheres--consider the place unfashionable, and frequent it
very little, because it is much frequented by the tradespeople, the
industrious classes, and the soldiery; who, one and all, behave with
exemplary propriety.”

Another day of May, not quite so elect as our Canterbury fourth, we went
to the village of Eelham, nearer Folkestone, and there found ourselves
in a most alluring little square with an inn at one corner and divers
shops, and certain casual, wide-windowed, brick cottages enclosing it,
and a windmill topping the low height above it. Windmills are so
characteristic of Eelham Valley that we might not forbear visiting this,
and I found the miller of as friendly and conversible a leisure as I
could ask. Perhaps it was because he had a brother in Manitoba that we
felt our worlds akin; perhaps because the varied experience of my own
youth

[Illustration: THE NORMAN STAIRCASE IN THE CLOSE--CANTERBURY
CATHEDRAL]

had confessedly included a year of milling. He said that he ground all
kinds of grain, except wheat, for which the stones were too coarse, and
he took toll of every third bushel, which did not seem too little. I
should have liked to spend the day in his company, where I perceived I
might be acceptably and comfortably silent when I would.

There must have been a church at Eelham, but there was a more noted
church at Lyminge, two miles away, whither we decided to walk. The main
object of interest at Eelham was an old Tudor manor-house, which we had
not quite the courage, or perhaps the desire, to ask to see except from
the outside. The perspective from the sidewalk through the open doorway
included a lady on a step-ladder papering the entry wall, and presently
another lady, her elder, going in-doors from the garden, who was not
averse to saying that there was plenty of room in the house, but it was
much out of repair. We inferred that we were not conversing with the
manorial family; when we asked how far it was to Lyminge, this old lady
made it a half-mile more than the miller; and probably the disrepair of
the mansion was partly subjective.

The road to Lyminge was longer than it was broad, though its measure was
in keeping with an island where the roads cannot be of our continental
width. It opened to a sky smaller than ours, but from which there fell a
pleasant sunshine with bird-singing in it; and there was room enough on
the borders of the lane for more wild flowers than often grow by our
waysides. When the envious hedges suffered us a glimpse of them we saw
gentle fields on either hand, and men at work in their furrows. From
time to time we met bicyclers of both sexes, and from time to time
people in dogcarts. Once we met a man with a farm-cart, who seemed
willing, though dull, when we asked our way. “Turn to left just inside
the windmill,” he directed us; and by keeping outside of the mill, on a
height beyond, we got to Lyminge.

I am sorry to report of the pastry-shop there that we had with our tea
the only rancid butter offered us in England, and that in a country
where the bread is always heavy and damp, it was here a little heavier
and damper than elsewhere. But we were at Lyminge not for the
pastry-shop, but the church, and that did not disappoint us, even to the
foundation of the Roman edifice which is kept partly exposed beside it.
The actual church is very Norman, and it is of that chilly charm which
all Norman churches are of when the English spring afternoon begins to
wane. From the tower down through the dim air dangled long bell-ropes
bound with red stuff where the ringers seized them, and we heard, or
seem now to have heard, that there had lately been a bell-ringing
contest among them which must have stirred Lyminge to its centre. The
day of our visit was market-day, and there had been cattle sales which
left traces of unwonted excitement in the quiet streets, and almost
thronged the bleak little station with the frequenters of the fair. One
of these was of a type which I imagine is alien to the elder country
life. The young man who embodied it was so full of himself, and of his
day’s affairs, for which he was appropriately costumed in high boots and
riding-breeches, that he overflowed in confidences to the American
stranger. He told what cattle he had bought and what sold, and he
estimated his gains at a figure which I hope was not too handsome. In
return he invited the experience of the stranger whom he brevetted a
cattle-dealer of perhaps a more old-fashioned kind, but whose errand at
Lyminge on market-day was doubtless the same as his own. It was
mortifying not to be able to comply, but my thoughts were still busy
with the somewhat ghostly personage whom we had found deciphering an
inscription on a stone in the church-yard, and whose weirdness was
heightened by an impediment in his speech. He was very kind in helping
us out in our mild curiosity, and I hope he has felt that brace in the
change of air to Lyminge from Folkestone which he offered as a reason
for his being where we met him. But he liked Lyminge, he said, and if
one does not care much for the movements of great cities there may be
worse places than the church-yard of Lyminge, where we left him in the
waning light, gently pushing, not scraping, the moss from

                              --the lay
    Graved on a stone beneath the aged thorn.

If the reader thinks we were too easily satisfied with the events of our
excursion, he can hardly deny that the children and their mothers or
aunts or governesses getting into the trains at the little country
stations, with their hands full of wild flowers, and eyes bluer than
their violets, were more than we had a right to. When at one of these
stations a young man, with county-family writ large upon his face and
person and raiment, escaped from a lady who talked him into the train,
and then almost talked him out of it before it could start, we felt our
cup run over. We instantly dramatized, out of our superabundant English
fiction, the familiar situation of the pushing and the pushed which is
always repeating itself; and in the lady’s fawning persistence, and his
solid, stolid resistance we had a moment of the sort of social comedy
which should provoke tears rather than smiles. But the pushed always
yield to the pusher in the end. This adamantine aristocrat, if such he
was, was ultimately to be as putty between the fingers of the parvenue,
if such she was, and since she was middle-aged enough to be the mother
of a marriageable daughter we foresaw her ultimately giving him her
child with tears of triumph.

Travel is obliged to make up these little romances, or else it is apt to
feel that it has had no genteel experiences, since it necessarily moves
on the surfaces and edges of life. I was glad of any chance of the sort,
and even of the humbler sort of thing which offered itself more
explicitly, such as the acquaintance of a milkman and a retired
exciseman, with whom I found myself walking outside of the pretty town
of Rye on a May morning of sunny rain. At the entrance of a hop-field,
where there was a foot-path inviting our steps across lots, the milkman
eliminated himself with his cans and left us with the fact that
hop-raising was not everything to the farmer that could be wished, and
that if, after all his expenses, he could clear up a pound an acre at
the end of the season, he was lucky. Up to that moment our discourse had
been commonplace and business-like, but now it became sociological, it
became metaphysical, it became spiritual, as befitted the conversation
of a Scotchman and an American. The Englishman had been civil and been
kind; he was intelligent enough in the range of his experiences; but he
was not so vividly all there as the Scotch body, who eagerly inquired of
the state of Presbyterianism among us. He did not push the question as
to my own religious persuasion, but I met nowhere any Briton so
generally interested in us. In the feeling promoted by this interest of
his, we united in a good opinion of his actual sovereign, whom it was
fit, as a pensioner who had been “for-r-ty years in his Majesty’s
sar-r-vice,” he should praise as “a good-natured gentleman.” As for the
late queen he had no terms to measure his affection and reverence for
her. I do not know now by what circuit we had reached these topics from
the Scriptural subjects with which we started, or how it was he came to
express the strong sense he had of the Saviour’s civility to the woman
of Samaria, as something that should be “a lesson to our gentry” in
kindly behavior to the poor.

Wherever he now is, I hope my friendly Scot is well, and I am sure he is
happy. Our weather included, from the time we met till we parted after
crossing the wide salt-marsh stretching between Rye and the sea, every
vicissitude of sun and rain, with once a little hail; but I remember
only an unclouded sky, which I think was his personal firmament. I left
him at the little house of the daughter whom he said he was visiting,
outside the only town-gate that remains to Rye from its mediæval
fortifications. There is a small parade, or promenade, at a certain
point near by, fenced with peaceful guns, from which one may overlook
all that wide level stretching to the sea--with a long gash of
ship-channel and boats tilted by the ebb on its muddy shores--and
carrying the eye to the houses and vessels of the port. Rye itself was
once much more impressively the port, but the sea left it long and long
ago, standing like the bold headland it was, and still must look like
when the fog washes in about its feet. It is an endearing little town,
one of hundreds (I had almost said thousands) in England, with every
comfort in the compass of its cosey streets; with a church, old, old,
but not too dotingly Norman, and a lane opening from it to the door of
a certain house where one might almost live on the entrancing
perspective of its tower and its graveyard trees. A damp blind beggar on
a stone, who was never dry in his life, and was, of course, a mere mass
of rheumatic aches and pains, is a feature common to so many
perspectives in England that he need not be dwelt upon. What is precious
about Rye is that with its great charm it does not insist upon being
dramatically different from those hundreds or thousands of other lovely
old towns. It keeps its history to itself, and I would no more invite
the reader to intrude upon its past than I would ask him to join me in
invading the private affairs of any English gentleman. A few people who
know its charm come down from London for the summer months; but there is
a reasonable hope that it will never be newer or other than it is. I
myself would not have it changed in the least particular. I should like
to go there May after May as long as the world stands, and hang upon the
parapet of the small parade and look dreamfully seaward over the
prairie-like level, and presently find myself joined by a weak-eyed,
weak-voiced elder who draws my attention to the blossoming hawthorns
beside us. One is white and one is pink, and between them is a third of
pinkish-white. He wishes to know if it is so because the bees have
inoculated it, and being of the mild make he is, he rather asks than
asserts, “They do inockerlate ’em, sir?”



IX

OXFORD


The friendly gentleman in our railway carriage who was good enough to
care for my interest in the landscape between London and Oxford (I began
to express it as soon as we got by a very broad, bad smell waiting our
train, midway, in the region of some sort of chemical works) said he was
going to Oxford for the Eights. Then we knew that we were going there
for the Eights, too, though as to what the Eights are I have never been
able to be explicit with myself to this day, beyond the general fact
that they are intercollegiate boat-races and implicate Bumps, two of
which we saw with satisfaction in due time. But while the towers of
Oxford were growing from the plain, a petrified efflorescence of the
past, lovelier than any new May-wrought miracle of leaf and flower, we
had no thought but for Oxford, and Eights and Bumps were mere vocables
no more resolvable into their separate significances than the notes of
the jargoning rooks flying over the fields, or the noises of the station
where each of our passengers was welcomed by at least three sons or
brothers, and kept from claiming somebody else’s boxes in the confiding
distributions from the luggage-vans. As our passengers were mostly
mothers and sisters, their boxes easily outnumbered them, and if a
nephew and cousin or next friend had lent his aid in their rescue in
the worst cases, it could not have been superfluous. The ancient town
is at other times a stronghold of learning, obedient to a tradition of
cloistered men in whom the cloistered monk of other days still lingers,
but at this happy time it was overflowed to its very citadel by a tide
of feathered hats, of clinging and escaping scarfs, of fluffy skirts in
all angelic colors; and I should not be true to that first impression of
the meetings at the station, if I did not say that the meeters were
quite lost, and well lost, in the multitude of the met. When they issued
together from the place these contributed their advantageous
disproportion to the effect of the streets, from which they swept the
proper university life into corners and doorways, and up alleys and
against walls, before their advancing flood.

Our own friend who, lief and dear as any son or brother or nephew or
cousin of them all, came flying on the wings of his academic gown to
greet us at the station, had in a wonderfully little while divined our
baggage, and had it and us in an open carriage making a progress into
the heart of the beautiful grove of towers, which nearer to, we
perceived was no petrification, but a living growth from the soul of the
undying youth coming age after age to perpetuate the university there.
We began at once to see the body of this youth chasing singly or
plurally down the streets, in tasselled mortar-boards, and gowns clipped
of their flow, to an effect of alpaca jackets. Youth can, or must, stand
anything, and at certain hours of the morning and evening no
undergraduate may show himself in Oxford streets without this
abbreviated badge of learning, though the streets were that day so full
of people thronging to the Eights and the Bumps that studious youth in
the ordinary garb of the unstudious could hardly have awakened

[Illustration: MAGDALEN TOWER]

suspicion in the authorities. We were, in fact, driving through a
largeish town, peopled beyond its comfortable wont, and noisy with the
rush of feet and wheels far frequenter and swifter than those which set
its characteristic pace.

Our friend knew we were not, poor things, there for a tumult which we
could have easily had in New York, or even in London, and he made haste
to withdraw us from it up into a higher place at the top of the
Radcliffe Library, where we could look down on all Oxford, with the
tumult subsiding into repose under the foliage and amid the flowers of
the college gardens. It is the well-known view which every one is
advised by the guide-books to seize the first thing, and he could not
have done better for us, even from his great love and lore of the place,
than to point severally out each renowned roof and spire and tower which
blent again for my rapture in a rich harmony with nothing jarring from
the whole into any separately accentuated fact. I pretended otherwise,
and I hope I satisfactorily seemed to know those tops and deeps one from
another, when I ignorantly exclaimed, “Oh, Magdalen, of course! Christ
Church! And is that Balliol? And Oriel, of course; and Merton, and
Jesus, and Wadham--really Wadham? And New College, of course! And is
_that_ Brasenose?”

I honestly affected to remember them from a first visit twenty years
before, when in a cold September rain I wandered about among them with a
soul dry-shod and warmed by an inner effulgence of joy in being there on
any sort of terms. But I remembered nothing except the glory which
nothing but the superior radiance of being there again in May could
eclipse. What I remember now of this second sight of them will not let
itself be put in words; it is the bird which sings in the bush, and
alertly refuses to double its value by coming into the hand. I could not
now take the most trusting reader up into that high place, and hope to
abuse his innocence by any feigned knowledge of those clustering
colleges. All is a blur of leafy luxuriance, probably the foliage of the
garden trees which embower the colleges, but not so absolutely such that
it does not seem the bourgeoning and branching edifices themselves, a
sumptuous Gothic suggestion, in stem and spray, of the stone-wrought
beauty of the halls and chapels where nature might well have studied her
effects of Perpendicular or Early English, or that spiritual Flamboyant
in which she excels art. There remains from it chiefly a sense of
flowery color which I suppose is from the nearer-to insistence of trees
everywhere in bloom.

It was as if Oxford were decorated for the Eights by these sympathetic
hawthorns and chestnuts and fond lilacs, and the whole variety of kind,
sweet shrubs which had hung out their blossoms to gladden the pretty
eyes and noses of the undergraduates’ visitors. We could not drive
anywhere without coming upon some proof of the floral ardor; but perhaps
I am embowering Oxford more than I ought with borrowed wreaths and
garlands from the drive to the Norman church of Iffley where our friend
took us, ostensibly because it could just be got in before lunch, but
really because we needed some relief from the facts of Oxford which,
stamped thickly, one upon another, made us inexhaustible palimpsests of
precious impressions. I am sure that if another could get at my memory,
and wash one record clear of another, there would reveal itself such a
perfect history of what I saw and did as would constitute every beholder
a partner of my experiences. But this I cannot manage for myself, and
must be as content as I can with revealing mere fragmentary glimpses of
the fact, broken lines, shattered images, blurred colors. For instance,
all I can get at, of that visit to the Norman church at Iffley, is the
May morning air, with its sun and sweet, from which we passed to the
gloom, richly chill, of the interior, and then from that again, into the
sun and sweet, to have a swift look at the façade, with the dog-toothing
of its arches, which I then for the first time received distinctly into
my consciousness. A part of the precious concept, forever inseparable,
is my recollection of the church warden’s printed prayer that I would
not lean against the chain-fencing before the façade, and of my grief
that I could not comply without failing of the view of it which I was
there for: without leaning against that chain one cannot look up at the
dog-toothing, and receive it into one’s consciousness.

As often I have thought of asking my reader to revisit Oxford with me, I
have fancied vividly possessing them of this or that distinctive fact,
without regard to the sequences, but I find myself, poor slave of all
that I have seen and known! following myself, step by step through the
uneventful events in the order of their occurrence; and if my reader
will not keep me company, after luncheon, in my stroll across fields and
through garden ways beyond my friend’s house to that affluent of the
Isis whose real name is the Cherwell, and which calls itself the Char, I
know not how he is to get to the point where the Isis becomes the
Thames, and where we are to see the first of the Eights, and two of the
Bumps together. For except by this stroll we cannot reach the pretty
water, so full, so slow, so bright, so dark, where we are to take boat,
and get down to the destined point on its smooth breast, with a thousand
other boats of every device, but mainly, but overwhelmingly, punts. The
craft were all pushed or pulled by their owners or their owners’ guests,
who were as serenely and sweetly patient with the problem of getting to
the Eights or the Bumps in time, as if the affair were subjective, and
might be delayed by an effort of the will in the various cases.

As with other public things in England, this had such a quality of
privacy that we seemed the only persons really concerned, and other
people in other boats were as much figures painted in the landscape as
the buttercups in the meadowy levels that stretched on either hand at
our point of departure, and presently, changed into knots of boskage,
overhanging the dreamy lymph. But I shall not get into my picture the
sense of the lush grasses, with those little yellow lamps, or those
Perpendicular boles, with their Early English arches, or their
Flamboyant leafage, any more than I shall get in the sense of the shore
gleamily wetting its root-wrought earthen brinks, or bringing the weedy
herbage down to drink of the little river. River it was, though so
little, and as much in scale with the little continent it helps to
water, as any Ohio or Mississippi of ours is with our measureless
peninsula. There is also something in that English air, which, in spite
of the centuries of taming to man’s hand leaves Nature her moods, her
whims, of showing divinely and inalienably primitive, so that I had
bewildering moments, on that sung and storied water, of floating on some
wildwood stream of my Western boyhood. It has, so it appeared, its
moments of savage treachery, and one still eddy where it lay smoothly
smiling was identified as the point where two undergraduates had not
very long ago been drowned. Sometimes the early or the later rams swell
it to a flood, and spread it over those low pastures, in an image of
the vaster deluges which sweep our immense stretches of river valley.

There was a kind of warm chill in the afternoon air, which bore all
odors of wood and meadow, and transmitted the English voices with a
tender distinctness. From point to point there were reaches of the water
where we had quite a boat’s-length of it to ourselves, and again there
were sharp turns where it narrowed to an impossible strait and the
congested craft must have got by one another through the air. The people
in the punts, and canoes, and boats, were proceeding at their leisure,
or lying wilfully or forgetfully moored by the flat shores or under the
mimic bluffs. They struck into one another where they found room enough
to withdraw for the purpose, and they were constantly grinding gunwale
against gunwale, with gentle murmurs of deprecation and soft-voiced
forgivenesses which had almost the quality of thanks. Then, before we
knew it we were gliding under Magdalen bridge past bolder shores, and
so, into wider and opener waters where, with as little knowledge of ours
the Char had become, or was by way of becoming the Thames which is the
Isis. I believe it is still the Char where the bumps take place in the
commodious expanses between the college barges tethered to the grassy
shores. These barges were only a little more conspicuously aflame and
aflutter with bright hats and parasols and volatile skirts than the
shores; and they were all one fluent delight of color. On the shore
opposite the barge where we were guests, there ran, soon after we had
taken our first cups of tea, a cry of undergraduates, heralding the
first of the two shells which came rowing past us. Then, almost ere I
was aware of it the bow of a shell which was behind touched the stern of
the shell which was before, and the first bump had been achieved. The
thing had been so lightly and quickly done that the mere fact of the
bump had not fully passed from the eye to the mind, when a glory wholly
unexpected by me involved us: the shell which had made the bump belonged
to our college, or at least the college to which our barge belonged.
Shining in the reflected light, we rowed back up the Char to the point
of our departure, and in the long, leisurely twilight found our first
day in Oxford drawing on to night in the fragrant meadow.

Was it this night or the next that I dined in hall? There were several
dinners in hall, and I may best be indefinite as to time as well as
place. All civilized dinners are much alike everywhere, from soup to
coffee, and it is only in certain academic formalities that a dinner in
hall at Oxford differs from another banquet. One of these which one may
mention as most captivating to the fancy fond of finding poetry in
antique usage was the passing from meat in the large hall, portraited
round the carven and panelled walls with the effigies of the college
celebrities and dignities, into a smaller and cosier room, where the
spirit of the gadding vine began its rambles up and down the glossy
mahogany; and then into a third place where the fragrant cups and tubes
fumed in the wedded odors of coffee and tobacco. If I remember, we went
from the first to the last successively under the open heaven; but
perhaps you do not always so, though you always make the transit, and
could not imaginably smoke where you ate or drank.

Once, when the last convivial delight was exhausted, and there was a
loath parting at the door in the grassy quadrangle under the mild
heaven, where not even a star intruded, I had a realizing sense of what
Oxford could mean to some youth who comes to it in eager

[Illustration: “A BUMP”

H. W. Taunt & Co.]

inexperience from such a strange, far land as ours, and first fully
imagines it. Or perhaps it was rather in one of the lambent mornings
when I strayed through the gardened closes too harshly called
quadrangles that I had the company of this supposititious student, and
wreaked myself in his sense of measureless opportunity. Not opportunity
alone, but opportunity graced with all the charm of tradition, and
weighted with rich scholarly convention, the outgrowth of the patient
centuries blossoming at last in a flower from whose luminous chalice he
should drink the hoarded wisdom of the past. I said to myself that if I
were such a youth my heart would go near to break with the happiness of
finding myself in that environment and privileged to all its
possibilities, with nothing but myself to hinder me from their utmost
effect. Perhaps I made my imaginary youth too imaginative, when I was
dowering him with my senile regrets in the form of joyful expectations.
It is said the form in which the spirit of the university dwells is so
overmastering for some that they are fain to escape from it, to renounce
their fellowships, and go out from those hallowed shades into the glare
of the profane world gladly to battle “in the midst of men and day.”

Even of the American youth who resort to it, not all add shining names
to the effulgent records of the place. They are indeed not needed,
though they may be patriotically missed from the roll in which the
native memories shine in every sort of splendor. It fatigues you at last
to read the inscriptions which meet the eye wherever it turns. The
thousand years of English glory stretch across the English sky from 900
to 1900 in a luminous tract where the stars are sown in multitudes
outnumbering those of all the other heavens; and in Oxford above other
places one needs a telescope to distinguish them. The logic of any
commemoration of the mighty dead is that they will animate the living to
noble endeavor for like remembrance. But where the mighty dead are in
such multitude perhaps it is not so. Perhaps in the presence of their
records the desire of distinction fails, and it is the will to do great
things for the things’ sake rather than the doer’s which remains. The
hypothesis might account for the prevailing impersonality of Oxford, the
incandescent mass from which nevertheless from time to time a name
detaches itself and flames a separate star in the zenith.

What strikes one with the sharpest surprise is not the memories of
distant times, however mighty, but those of yesterday, of this forenoon,
in which the tradition of their glory is continued. The aged statesman
whose funeral eulogy has hardly ceased to echo in the newspapers, the
young hero who fell in the battle of the latest conquest, died equally
for the honor of England, and both are mourned in bronze which has not
yet lost its golden lustre beside the inscriptions forgetting themselves
in the time-worn lettering of the tablets on the walls, or the brasses
in the floors. Thick as the leaves in Vallombrosa, they strew the solemn
place, but in the religious calm of those chapels and halls there is no
rude blast to scatter them, or to disturb the quiet in which for a few
hundred or a few thousand years they may keep themselves from the
universal oblivion.

When one strays through those aisles and under those arches, one fancies
them almost as conscious of their sacred eld as one is one’s self. Then
suddenly one comes out into the vivid green light of a grassy
quadrangle, or the flowery effulgence of a garden, where the banks of
blossomed bushes are pushed back of the beds of glowing annuals by the
velvety sward unrolled over spaces no more denied to your foot than the
trim walks that wander beyond their barrier, under the ivied walls, and
to and from the foot-worn thresholds. To the eye it is all very soft and
warm, and the breadths of enclosing masonry, the arched or pillared
gables, the towers starting on their skyward climb, seem to bathe
themselves in sun or cool themselves in shade alike mellow and mild.
There are other senses that more truly take account of the thermometer
and report it in very glowing moments as not registering much above the
middle fifties. But you answer in excuse of it that it is so sincere,
just as you ascribe to its scrupulous truthfulness the failure of the
English temperament ever to register anything like summer heat. We boil
in the torridity of an adoptive climate, but our ancestral suns were no
hotter than those of the English are now; and where we have kept their
effect in some such cold storage as that, say, of Boston, we probably
impart no greater heat to the stranger. The spiritual temperature of
Oxford, indeed, is much that of Old Cambridge, that Old Cambridge,
Massachusetts, when it was far older, forty years ago, than it is now.
Very likely, the atmospheres of all capitals of learning are of the same
degree of warmth; and of a responsive salubrity, in the absence of
malarial microbes. At any rate I was at once naturalized to Oxford
through my former citizenship in Old Cambridge, and in a pleasing
confusion found myself in both places at once with an interval of forty
years foreshortened in a joint past and present.

The note of impersonality is struck in both places, but not so
prevalently in Old Cambridge as in Oxford, where the genius of the place
at some moment of divine inspiration,

  “Smote the chord of self, that trembling, passed in music out of sight.”

As in the political frame of things the powerful English individualities
pronounce themselves strongliest by their abnegation to a patriotic
ideal, so in this finer and higher England, this England of the mind,
what chiefly impresses the stranger is that mighty accord, that
impersonal potency, which is the sum of the powerful wills, intellects,
spirits severally lost in its collectivity. The master of this college,
the president of that, the dean of the other, they all unite in effacing
themselves, and letting the university, which is their composite
personality, stand for them. As far as possible they refuse to stand for
it, and the humor of the pose is carried to the very whim in the custom
which bars the Chancellor of the University from ever returning to
Oxford after that first visit which he makes upon his appointment. My
imagination does not rise to a height like his, but of all accessible
dignities there seems to me none so amiable as the headship of one of
those famous colleges. I will not, since I need not, choose among them,
and very likely if one had one’s choice, one might find a crumpled
rose-leaf in the cushioned seat. Yet one could well bear the pain for
the sake of the pleasure and the pride of feeling one’s self an agency
of that ancient and venerable impersonality and of denying one’s self
the active appearance. Scholarship, when it does not degenerate into
authorship is the most negative of human things. It silently feeds
itself full of learning, which is as free again to the famine of future
scholarship; and in a world where pretty nearly all the soft warm things
of privilege are so cruelly wrong, I can think of none so nearly
innocent as those which lap the love of learning round in such an
immortal home of study as Oxford. It is there so fitly housed, so
properly served, so respectfully fed, so decorously clad, so beautifully
environed, that it might almost dream itself a type of what should
always and everywhere be an emanation of the literature to which it
shall return after its earthly avatar, and rest, a blessed ghost,
between the leaves of some fortunate book on an unvisited shelf of a
vast silentious and oblivious library.

There is memory enough of lunches and dinners and teas, in halls and on
lawns and in gardens, but as the reader was not asked, so cannot he in
self-respect and propriety go. But there was one of the out-door affairs
of which I may give him at least a picture-postal-card glimpse. No one’s
abnegated personality will be infringed, not even the university need
shrink from the intrusion if the garden of no college is named. The
reader is to stand well out of the way at a Gothic window looking on the
green where the guests come and go under an afternoon heaven which
constantly threatens to shower, and never showers; where the sun indeed
appears just often enough to agree with the garden trees that it will
add indescribably to the effect if their lengthening shadows can be cast
over the sward with those of the Gothic tops around. A little breeze
crisps the air, and the birds sing among the gossiping leaves of the
hawthorns and of the laburnums. One great chestnut stands elect, apart,
dense with spiky blossoms from the level of its lowest spreading boughs
to the topmost peak of its massive cone. Everywhere is the gracious
architecture in which the mouldering Oxford stone, whether it is old or
new, puts on the common antiquity.

I will not say that all the colleges seem crumbling to ruin, but the
scaly and scabrous complexion of the surfaces is the impression
remaining from the totality. The decay into which the stone almost
instantly falls is sometimes rather dreadful to the casual glance in the
plinths of those philosophers and sages about the Sheldonian Theatre,
where the heads seem to be dropping away in a mortal decay. I believe
they are renewed from time to time when they become too dreadful, but
always in the same stone; and I do not know that I would have it
otherwise in the statues or structures of Oxford. Where newness in any
part would seem upstart and vulgar, every part looks old, whether it is
of the last year or the first year. The smoke has blackened it, the damp
has painted it a dim green; the latent disintegration of the stone has
made its way to the surface, which hangs in warped scales or drops in
finer particles. One would not have a different material used for
building; brick or marble would affront the sensibilities, and deny the
wisdom of that whole English system, in which reform finds itself
authorized in usage, and innovation hesitates till it can put on the
likeness of precedent.

It is interesting in Oxford to see how the town and the university grow
in and out of each other. Like other towns of the Anglo-Saxon
civilization it is occasional, accidental, anarchical, the crass effect
of small personal ambitions and requisitions. In the course of so many
centuries its commonness could not always fail of a picturesque
quaintness, and perhaps it only seems without beauty or dignity because
the generous collective spirit working itself out in the visible body of
the university has created more of both than any other group of edifices
in the world embodies. Those shapeless, shambling, casual streets, with
their scattered dwellings and their clustering shops, find by necessity
a common centre, without impressiveness or distinction. But in their
progress or arrival, weakly widening here, or helplessly narrowing
there, they often pass under the very walls of the venerable and
beautiful edifices which constitute at once the real Oxford and the
ideal Oxford, alike removed from the material Oxford of the town.
Sometimes it is a wall that flanks a stretch of the commonplace
thoroughfares; sometimes a gate or a portal under a tower giving into
the college quadrangle from which you pass by inner ways beneath inner
walls to an inmost garden, where the creepers cling to the windows and
the porches, or a space of ivied masonry suns itself above the odorous
bushes and the daisied sward. It would be hard to choose among these
homes of ancient lore; but happily one is not obliged to choose. They
are all there for the looking, and one owns them, an inalienable
possession for life. One would not will them away, if one could; they
must remain forever to enrich the pious beholder with the vision which
no words can impart.

The heart of the pilgrim softens in the retrospect even towards that
municipal Oxford which forms the setting of their beauty, as a mass of
common rock may shapelessly enclose a cluster of precious stones,
crystals which something next to conscious life has deposited through
the course of the slow ages in the rude matrix. He relents in
remembering pleasant suburbs, through which the unhurried trams will
bear him past tasteful houses, set in embowered spaces of greensward,
and on past pretty parks into the level country where there are villas
among grounds that will presently broaden into the acreage of
ancestral-seats, halls, manors, and, for all I know, castles. Even the
immediate town has moods of lurking in lanes apart from the busier
streets, and offering the consolation of low, stone dwellings faced by
college walls, and dedicated to the uses of furnished lodgings. If it
should be your fortune to find your sojourn in one of these, you may
look down from your front window perhaps into the groves that shade
Addison’s Walk; or you may step from your back door into a grassy nook
where a tower or bastion of the old city wall will be hiding itself in a
mesh of ivy. The lane before may be dusty with traffic and the garden
behind may be damp with the rains that have never had intervals long
enough to dry out of it; but the rooms with their rocking floors will be
neatly kept, and if they happen to be the rooms of a reading or sporting
undergraduate, sublet in some academic interval, you will find the
tokens of his tastes and passions crowding the mantels and the walls. He
has confided them with the careless faith of youth, to your chance
reverence; he has not even withheld the photographs which attest his
preference in actresses, or express a finer fealty in the faces
self-evidently of mother or sister or even cousin, or some one farther
and nearer yet.

It is everywhere much alike, that spirit of studious youth, at least in
our common race, and I do not believe that if I had met a like number of
Harvard men, going and coming in the mortar-boards and cropped gowns, in
those quadrangles or gardens, I should have known them from the Oxford
men I actually saw. They might have looked sharper, tenser, less fresh
and less fair, not so often blue of eye and blond of hair, more mixed
and differenced; but they would have had the same effect of being chosen
for their golden opportunity by fortune, and the same gay ignorance of
being favored above other youth. If one came to closer quarters and had
to ask some chance question, the slovenlier speech of the Harvard men
would have betrayed them in their answer, for even our oldest university
has not yet taken thought of how her children shall distinguish
themselves from our snuffling mass by the beauty of utterance which
above any other beauty discriminates between us and the English. It is
said that the youth of the parent stock are younger than our youth; but
I know nothing as to this; and I could not say that their manners were
better, except as the manners of the English are in being simpler. They
are not better in being suppler: I should say that as life passed with
him the American limbered and the Englishman stiffened, and that the
first gained and the last lost in the power to imagine another which
they both perhaps equally possessed in their shy nonage, and which
chiefly, if not solely, enables men to be comfortable to their fellows.
But here, as everywhere, I wish to be understood as making an inference
vastly disproportioned to the facts observed. The stranger in any
country must reflect that its people seem much less interested in
themselves and their belongings than he is, and from the far greater
abundance of their knowledge have far less to say of them. This may very
well happen to a traveller from an old land among us; his zest for our
novelty may fatigue us; just as possibly our zest for his antiquity may
put us at odds with him. The spirit seeks in either case a common ground
of actuality, achronic, ubiquitous, where it may play with its fellow
soul among the human interests which are eternally and everywhere the
same.

What these are I should be far from trying to say, but I think I may
venture to recur to my memories of the mute music of Harvard for the
dominant of the unheard melodies at Oxford. The genius of the older
university seemed much the same as that of the younger under the stress
of ceremonial, and to have the quality of that stern acquiescence in the
inevitable on the occasions of Commemoration Day that I remembered from
Commencement Days in the past. The submission did not break into the
furtively imparted jest which relieves the American temperament under
fire, but the feeling of obedience to usage, the law-abiding instinct of
the race, was the same in both. From both a gala pride was equally
remote; the confident expectation of living through it, and not even a
martyr exultance in the ordeal, was doubtless what sustained the
participants. We have simplified form, but the English have simplified
the mood of observing form, and in the end it comes to the same thing in
them and in us. But there the parallel ceases. There is a riches of
incident in the observance of Commemoration Day at Oxford, for which the
sum of all like events in our academic world is but an accumulated
poverty. We could not if we would emulate the continuous splendors of
the time, for we lack not only the tradition but the environment in
which to honor the tradition. If it were possible so to abolish space
that Harvard and Yale and Princeton, say, and Columbia could locally
unite, and be severally the colleges of one university, and assemble
their best in architecture for its embodiment, something might be
imaginable of their collectivity like what involuntarily, inevitably
happens at Oxford on Commemoration Day. Then the dinners in hall on the
eve and in the evening, the lunches in the college gardens immediately
following the academical events of the Sheldonian Theatre, the
architectural beauty and grandeur forming the avenue for the progress of
the Chancellor and all his train of diverse doctors, actual and
potential, might be courageously emulated, but never could be equalled
or approached. Our emulation would want the color of the line which at
Oxford comes out of the past in the bravery of the scarlets and crimsons
and violets and purples which men used to wear, and before which the
iridescent fashions of the feminine spectators paled their ineffectual
hues. Again, the characteristic surrender of personality contributed to
the effect. In that procession whatever were the individual advantages
or disadvantages of looks or statures, all were clothed on with the
glory of the ancient university which honored them; it was the
university which passively or actively was embodied in them; and their
very distinction would in a little while be merged in her secular
splendor.

Of course we have only to live on a few centuries more and our
universities can eclipse this splendor, though we shall still have the
English start of a thousand years to overcome in this as in some other
things. We cannot doubt of the result, but in the mean time we must
recognize the actual fact, and I will own that I do not see how we could
ever offer a _coup d’œil_ which should surpass that of the supreme
moments in the Sheldonian Theatre when the Chancellor stood up in his
high place, in his deeply gold-embroidered gown of black, and accepted
each of the candidates for the university’s degrees, and then, after a
welcoming clasp of the hand, waved him to the benches which mystically
represented her hospitality. The circle of the interior lent itself with
unimagined effect to the spectacle, and swam with faces, with figures
innumerable, representing a world of birth, of wealth, of deed, populous
beyond reckoning from our simple republican experience. The thronged
interior stirred like some vast organism with the rustle of stuffs, the
agitation of fans, the invisible movement of feet; but the master-note
of it was the young life which is always the breath of the university.
How much or little the undergraduates were there it would not do for a
chance alien spectator to say. That they were there to do what they
would with the occasion in the tradition of an irresponsible license
might be affirmed, but it must be equally owned that they generously
forebore to abuse their privilege. They cheered the Candidates, some
more, some less, but there was, to my knowledge, none of the guying of
which one hears much, beyond a lonely pun upon a name that offered
itself with irresistible temptation. The pun itself burst like an
involuntary sigh from the heart of youth, and the laugh that followed it
was of like quality with it.

Then, the degrees being conferred, each with distinctive praise and
formal acceptance in a latinity untouched by modern conjecture of Roman
speech, there ensued a Latin oration, and then English essays and
speeches from the graduates--thriftily represented, that the time should
not be wasted, by extracts--and then a prize poem which did not perhaps
distinguish itself so much in generals as in particulars from other
prize poems of the past. If it had been as wholly as it was partially
good--and there were passages that caught and kept the notice--it would
have been a breach of custom out of tune and temper, as much as if the
occasional latinity had been of the new Roman accent instead of that old
English enunciation as it was of right, there where Latin had never
quite ceased to be a spoken language. All was of usage: the actors and
the spectators of the scene were bearing the parts which like actors and
like spectators had ancestrally borne so often that they might have
seemed to themselves the same from the first century, the first
generation, without sense of actuality. This sense might imaginably have
been left, in any sort of poignancy, to the accidental alien, who in
proportion as he was penetrated with it would feel it a contravention of
the spirit, the taste, of the event.

I try for something that is not easily said, and being said at all,
seems over-said; and I shrink from the weightiest impression of Oxford
which one could receive, and recall those light touches of her magic,
which as I feel them again make me almost wish that there had been no
Eights, no Commemoration Day in my experience. Of course I shall fail to
make the reader sensible of the preciousness of a walk from the Char
through a sort of market flower-garden, where when I asked my way to a
friend’s house a kindly consensus of gardeners helped me miss the short
cut; but I hope he will not be quite without the pleasure I knew in
another row on that stream. Remembering my prime joys in its navigation,
I gratefully accepted an invitation to a second voyage which was delayed
till we could be sure it was not going to rain. Then we started for the
boat where it lay not far off under a clump of trees, and where we were
delayed in their seasonable shelter by a thunder-gust; but the clouds
broke away and the sun shone, so that when our boat was bailed dry, we
could embark in a light shower, and keep on our way unmolested by the
fine drizzle that was really representing fine weather. If I had been
native to the impulsive climate I should not have noticed these swift
vicissitudes, and as it was I noticed them only to enjoy them on the
still, bank-full water, where I floated with a delight not really
qualified by the question whether the pond-lilies which padded it in
places were of the fragrant family of our own pond-lilies. I was pursued
by a kindred curiosity in regard to many other leaves and blossoms till
one Sunday morning, when, as I found myself interrogating a shrub by the
sunny walk of a college garden, it came to me that my curiosity was out
of taste. The bush was not there specifically, but as an herbaceous
expression of the University, and I had no more right to pass certain
bounds with it in my curiosity than I would have had to push any scholar
of the place to an assertion of personality where he would have
preferred to remain collective.

What riches of personality lay behind the collectivity I ought not, if I
knew, to say. Again I take refuge, from the reader’s quest, which I
cannot help feeling in the indefinite attempt to suggest it, by saying
that the collective tone is that of Old Cambridge, or more strictly, of
Harvard. I remember that once a friend, coming in high June straight to
Old Cambridge after a brief ocean interval from Oxford, noted the
resemblance. As we walked under a Gothic archway of our elms, past the
door-yards full of syringas and azaleas, with

    “Old Harvard’s scholar-factories red,”

showing on the other hand in the college enclosures, he said it was all
very like Oxford. He must have felt the moral likeness, the spiritual
likeness, as I did in Oxford, for physical or meteorological likeness
there is none absolutely. It is something in the ambient ether, in the
temperament, in the unity of high interests, in the mystical effluence
from minds moving with a certain dirigibility in the upper regions, but
controlled by invisible ties, in each case, to a common centre. It is
the prevalence of scholarship, which characterizes the respective
municipalities and which holds the civic bodies in a not ungraceful, not
ungrateful subordination.

Something of the hereditary grudge between town and gown descended to
Harvard from the English centres of learning; but the prompt assertion
of town government as the sole police force forbade with us the question
of jurisdictions which it is said still confuses the parties with a
feeling of enmity at Oxford. The war of fists following the war of
swords and daggers, which in the earliest times left the dead of both
sides in the streets after some mortal clash, and kept each college a
stronghold, even after that war had no longer a stated or formal
expression, is forever past, but still the town and the gown in their
mutual dependence hold themselves aloof in mutual antipathy. So I was
told, but probably on both sides the heritage of dislike resides only in
the youthfuler breasts, and is of the quality of those ideals which
perpetuate hazing in our colleges, or which among boys pass forms of
mischief and phases of superstition along on a certain level of age. All
customs and usages are presently uninteresting, as one observes them
from the outside, and can be precious on the inside only as they are
endeared by association. What is truly charming is some expression of
the characteristic spirit such as in Oxford forbids one of the colleges
to part in fee with a piece of ground on which a certain coveted tree
stands, but which allows it to lease that beautiful feature of the
landscape to a neighboring college. A thing like that is really
charming, and has forever the freshness of a whimsical impulse, where
whimsical impulses of many sorts must have abounded without making any
such memorable sign.

In the reticence of the place all sorts of silent character will have
been accumulating through the centuries until now the sum of it must be
prodigious. But that is a kind of thing which if one has any direct
knowledge of it one feels to be a kind of confidence, and which one lets
one’s conjecture play about, in the absence of knowledge, very
guardedly. For my part I prefer to leave quite to the reader’s
imagination the charming traits of the acquaintance I would fain have
made my friends. Sometimes they were of difficult conversation, but not
more so than certain Old Cambridge men, whom I remembered from my youth;
the studious life is nowhere favorable to the cultivation of the smaller
talk; but now that so many of the Fellows are married the silence is
less unbroken, and the teas, if not the dinners, recur in a music which
is not the less agreeable for the prevalence of the soprano or the
contralto note. It seemed to me that there were a good many teas,
out-doors when it shone and in-doors when it rained, but there were
never enough, and now I feel there were all too few. They had the
_entourage_ which the like social dramas cannot have for yet some
centuries in our centres of learning; between the tinkle of the silver
and the light clash of the china one caught the muted voices of the past
speaking from the storied architecture, or the immemorial trees, or even
the secular sward underfoot. But one must not suppose that the lawns
which are velvet to one’s tread are quite voluntarily velvet. I was once
sighing enviously to a momentary host and saying of his turf that
nothing but the incessant play of the garden-hose could keep the grass
in such vernal green with us, when he promptly answered that the
garden-hose had also its useful part in the miracle of his own lawn. I
dared not ask if the lawnmower likewise lent its magic; that would have
been

[Illustration: OXFORD--LOOKING UP THE ISIS

H. W. Taunt & Co.]

going too far. Or at least I thought so; and in the midst of the
surrounding reticences I always felt it was better not to push the
bounds of knowledge.

There is so much passive erudition, hived from the flowers of a thousand
summers in such a place of learning, that I felt the chances were that
if the stranger came there conscious of some of his own little treasure
of honey, he would find it a few thin drops beside the rich stores of
any first apiarist to whom he opened it. In that long, long quiet, that
illimitable opportunity, that generously defended leisure, the
scholarship is not only deep, but it is so wide that it may well include
the special learning of the comer, and he may hear that this or that
different don who is known for a master in a certain kind has made it
his recreation to surpass in provinces where the comer’s field shrinks
to parochial measure. How many things they keep to themselves at Oxford,
it must remain part of one’s general ignorance not to know, and it is
more comfortable not to inquire. But out of the sense of their guarded,
their hidden, lore may spring the habit of referring everything to the
university, which represents them as far as they can manage not to
represent it. They may have imaginably outlived our raw passion of
doing, and have become serenely content with being. This is a way of
saying an illanguagible thing, and, of course, oversaying it.

The finer impressions of such a place--there is no other such in the
world unless it is Cambridge, England, or Old Cambridge,
Massachusetts,--escape the will to impart them. The coarser ones are
what I have been giving the reader, and trying to pass off upon him in
their fragility for something subtile. If one could have stayed the
witchery of an instant of twilight in a college quadrangle, or of
morning sunshine in a college garden, or of a glimpse of the High Street
with the academic walls and towers and spires richly foreshortened in
its perspective, or of the beauty of some meadow widening to the level
Isis, or the tender solemnity of a long-drawn aisle of trees leading to
the stream under the pale English noon, and could now transfer the spell
to another, something worth while might be done. But short of this
endeavor is vain. There was a walk, which I should like to distinguish
from others, all delightful, where we passed in a grassy field over an
old battle-ground of the Parliamentarians and the Royalists, and saw
traces of the old lager-beads, the earthworks in which the hostile camps
pushed closer and closer to each other, and left the word “loggerheads”
to their language. But I do not now find this very typical, and I am
rather glad that the details of my sojourn are so inextricably
interwoven that I need not try to unravel the threads which glow so rich
a pattern in my memory.



X

THE CHARM OF CHESTER


Because Chester is the handiest piece of English antiquity for new
Americans to try their infant teeth on, I had fancied myself avoiding it
as unworthy my greater maturity. I had not now landed in Liverpool, and
as often as I had hitherto landed there before, I had proudly disobeyed
the charge of more imperfectly travelled friends to be sure and break
the run to London at Chester, for there was nothing like it in all
England. Having indulged my haughty spirit for nearly half a century,
one of the sudden caprices which undermine the firmest resolutions
determined me to pass at Chester the day which must intervene before the
steamer I was going to meet at Liverpool was due. Naturally I did
everything I could to difference myself from the swarm of my crude
countrymen whom I found there, and I was rewarded at the delightful
restaurant in the Rows, where I asked for tea in my most carefully
guarded chest-notes, with a pot of the odious oolong which observation
has taught the English is most acceptable to the palate of our average
compatriots, when they cannot get green tea or Japan tea. Perhaps it was
my mortifying failure in this matter which fixed me in my wish never to
be taken for an Englishman, except by other Americans whom it was easy
to deceive.

The Americans abounded in Chester, not only on the present occasion but
in my three successive chance visits to the place; and if they were by
an immense majority nearly all of the same sex, they were none the worse
for that. By pretty twos, by pretty threes, by yet larger lovely groups,
and, in serious, middle-aged instances, singly, they wandered in and out
of the plain old cathedral; they strayed through the Rows or arcades by
which Chester distinguishes herself from other cities in having
two-storied sidewalks; they clustered in the shops where the prices were
adjusted to their ignorance of English values and they could pay as much
for a pair of gloves as in New York or Chicago; they crowded the narrow
promenade which tops the city wall; they haunted the historic houses,
where they strayed whispering about with their Baedekers shut on their
thumbs, attentive to the instruction of the custodians; they rode on the
tops of the municipal tram-cars with apparently no apprehension from
their violation of the sacred American principle of corporational
enterprise in transportation; they followed on foot the wanderings of
the desultory streets; at the corners and before the quainter façades
the sun caught the slant of their lifted eye-glasses and flashed them
into an involuntary conspicuity. In all his round I doubt if his ray
could have visited countenances of a more diffused intelligence,
expressive of a more generous and truly poetic interest in those new
things of the old English world on which they were now feeding full the
longing, and realizing rapturously the dreaming, of the years and years
of vague hopes. I could read from my own past the pathos of some lives,
restricted and remote, to which the present opportunity was like a glad
delirium, a glory of unimagined chance, in which they trod the stones of
Old Chester as if they were the golden streets of the New Jerusalem.
These

[Illustration: WATER-TOWER AND ROMAN REMAINS]

and such as these have forever the better of those born to the manner;
as for those assuming to be naturalized to the manner, they are not
worthy to be confounded with such envoys from the present to the past.
It is only the newest Americans who ever really see England, and they
are apt to see it in the measure of that simplicity for which sincerity
is by no means a satisfactory substitute.

It could well be in a passion of humility that a sophisticated traveller
might wish to hide himself from them in the depths of that Roman bath
which apparently so few visitors to Chester see. We found it with some
difficulty, by the direction of a kindly shop-woman who, though she had
lived all her life opposite, could only go so far as to say she believed
it was under a certain small newspaper and periodical store across the
way. Asking the young man we found there, he owned the fact, and leaving
a yet younger man in charge, he lighted a stump of candle, and led to a
sort of cavern back of his shop, where the classic relic, rude but
unmistakable, was. Rough, low pillars supported the roof and the modern
buildings overhead, and the bath, clumsily shaped of stone, attested the
civilization once dominant in Chester. Our guide had his fact or his
fable concerning the spring which supplied the bath; but whether it is
in summer or in winter that this spring almost wholly disappears, I am
ashamed not to remember.

The Rome that was built upon Britain underlies so much of England that
if one begins to long for its excavation one must be willing to involve
so much mediæval and modern superstructure in a common ruin that one’s
wisdom must be doubted. So far as the Roman remains showed themselves to
a pretty ignorant observer they did not seem worth digging out in their
entirety; here and there an example seems to serve; they are the
unpolished monuments of life in a remote and partially settled province,
not to be compared, except at Bath and York, with those of Pompeii or
Herculaneum. To be sure, if one knew they underlay New York, one would
gladly level all the sky-scrapers in the town, that they might be given
to the light. But in Chester it is another matter. There is already an
interesting if not satisfactory collection of antiquities in Chester;
and if it came to question of demolishing the delightful old wall, or
the Rows, with God’s Providence House, and Bishop Lloyd’s House, or even
the cathedral, though it is, to my knowledge, the least sympathetic of
English cathedrals, one would wish to think twice. At the wall,
especially, one would like to hesitate, walking perhaps all the way
round the city on it, and pausing at discreet intervals to repose and
ponder. It does not convince everywhere of an equal antiquity; there are
parts that are evidently restorations and parts that are reproductions,
and the gates frankly own themselves modern. But there are towers that
moulder and bastions that have plainly borne the brunt of time. In the
circuit of the wall you may look down on the roofs of old Chester
within, and that much larger and busier new Chester without, which
stretches with its shops and mills and suburban cottages and villas into
the pretty country, as far as you like. But our affair was never with
that Chester; except where the country began under the walls, and
widened away beyond the river Dee, with bridges and tramways presently
lost to the eye in the shadow of pleasant groves, we cared for nothing
beyond the walls. There were places where these dropped sheer to the
waters of the Dee, which obliged us at one point of its flow with a
vivid rapid, or (I will not be sure) the swift slope of a dam, where a
man stood midway casting his line into the ripple. He could by some
stretch of the imagination have been a Jolly Miller who lived on the
river Dee, though I remember no mills in sight; and by an equal stroke
of fancy, he could have been casting his line for the salmon with which
the sands of Dee are also associated in song. I do not insist that the
reader shall hazard either conjecture with me; but what I say is that
all England is so closely netted over and embroidered with literary
reminiscence, with race-memories, from the earliest hours of personal
consciousness, that wherever the American goes his mind catches in some
rhyme, some phrase, some story of fact or fable that makes the place
more home to him than the house where he was born. That is the
sweetness, the kindness of travel in England, and that is the enchanting
strangeness. To other lands we relate ourselves by an effort, but there
the charm lies waiting for us, to seize us and hold us fast with ties
running to the inmost and furthermost of our earthly being.

At one point in our first ramble on the wall at Chester we came to a
house built close upon it, of such quaintness and demureness that it
needed no second glance, in the long June twilight, to convince us that
one of Thomas Hardy’s heroines lived there; or if it did, no possible
doubt of the fact could be left when we encountered at the descent to
the next city gate the smartest of red-coated sergeants mounting the
wall to go and pay court to her. Afterwards we found many houses level
with the top of the wall, with little gardened door-yards or leafy
spaces beside them. I do not say they all had Hardy heroines in them;
there were not sergeants enough for that; but the dwellings were all of
an insurpassable quaintness and demureness, or only less quaint and less
demure than the first. One of the most winning traits of the past
wherever you find it is its apparent willingness to be friends with the
present, to make room for it when it can, and to respond as far as
possible to its commonplace and even sordid occasions. Like old walls
that I had known in Italy, the old wall at Chester lent itself not only
to the domestic but the commercial demands of to-day, and if the shops
which it allowed to front upon its promenade were preferably those of
dealers in bric-à-brac and second-hand books, still the principle is the
same. In one of these shops was an old (it looked old) sundial which
tempted and tempted the poor American, who knew very well he could not
get it home without intolerable inconvenience and expense; and who tore
himself from it at last with the hope of returning another day and
carrying it all the way, if need be, to New York in his arms. As is the
custom of sundials it professed to number only the sunny hours; but he
had (or is this his subsequent invention?) the belief that somewhere on
its round was indelibly if invisibly marked that gloomy moment of the
September afternoon when King Charles looked from the Phœnix Tower hard
by the shop where the dial lurked, and saw his army routed by the
Parliamentarians on Rowton Moor. To be sure the moment was bright for
the Parliamentarians; there is the consolation in every defeat that it
is the victory of at least one side, and in this instance it was the
right side which won.

You are advised that if you would see Chester Cathedral aright you had
best look at it across the grassy space which lies between it and the
wall near Phœnix Tower. It is indeed finest there, for it is a fane that
asks distance, and if you go visit it by the pale twilight

[Illustration: KING CHARLES’S TOWER]

at nine o’clock of the long June day, the brown stone it is built of
will remind you less than it might at noon-day of the brown-stone fronts
of the old New York streets. But who am I that I should criticise even
the material body of any English cathedral? If we had this one of
Chester in the finest American city, in Boston itself, we should throng
to it with our guide-books if not our prayer-books, and would not allow
that any ecclesiastical structure in the country compared with it. All
that I say to my compatriots of either sex, who come to its
Perpendicular Gothic fresh from the Oblique Doric of their Cunarders or
White Stars at Liverpool, is: “Wait! Do not lavish your precipitate
raptures all upon this good but plain edifice. Keep some of them rather
for the gentler and lovelier dreams of architecture at Wells, at Ely, at
Exeter, and supremely the minster at York, to which you should not come
impoverished of the emotions you have been storing up from the beginning
of your æsthetic consciousness. Yet, stay! Forbear to turn slightingly
from your first cathedral because some one tells you it is not the best.
It will have more to say to that precious newness of yours (you cannot
yet realize how precious your newness is) than fairer temples shall to
your more shop-worn sensibility.” It is always well in travel to cherish
the first moments of it, for these are richer in potentialities of joy
than any that can follow; and it is doubtless in the wise order of
Providence that such a city as Chester should lie so near the great port
of entry for three hundred thousand Americans that they may have
something worthy of their emotions while they have still their sea-legs
on, and may reel under the stroke without causing suspicion.

I have said how constantly one met them, how inevitably; and if they
were wondering, willingly or unwillingly, what Chester could be bought
for and sent home, in bulk or piecemeal, and set up again, say an hour
from New York, just beyond Harlem River, I do not know that I should
blame them. Naturally, there would be the question of the customs; the
place could not be brought in duty free; but some nobler-minded
millionaire might expand to the magnitude of the generous enterprise and
offer to pay the duties if an equal sum toward the purchase could be
raised. We should of course want only the Chester within the walls, but
the walls and gates must be included.

Why should such a thing be impossible? Such a thing on a smaller scale,
different in quantity but not in quality, had been dreamt of by a boldly
imaginative Chicagoan, if we could believe the good woman in charge of
the Derby House, up the little court out of Nicholas Street, where all
that is left of the old town mansion of the noble Stanleys remains. This
magnanimous dreamer had the vision of the Stanleys’ town-house
transplanted to the shores of Lake Michigan, and erected as a prime
feature of the great Columbian Fair. He offered to buy it in fulfilment
of his vision, so ran the tale, of whoever then could sell it; but when
the head of the family to which it once belonged heard of the offer, he
bought it himself in a quiver of indignation conceivably lasting yet,
and dedicated it to the public curiosity forever, on the spot where its
timbered and carven gables have looked into a dingy little court ever
since the earliest days of Tudor architecture. If we could trust the
witness of the cards which strewed the good woman’s table, it was
American curiosity which mainly wreaked itself on the beautiful but
rather uninhabitable old house our Chicagoan failed to buy. By hungry
hundreds they throng to the place, and begin to satisfy their life-long
famine for historic scenes in the mansion where Charles the First
sojourned while in Chester, and whence the head of the house was taken
out to die by the axe for his part in the royalist rising of 1657. So,
in my rashness, I should have believed, but for the correction of Mr.
Havell Crickmore, who says, in his pleasantly written and pleasantly
pictured book about “Old Chester,” that the Earl was “beheaded during
the great Rebellion,” which would shorten his life by some ten years,
and make his death date 1647, not 1657. It does not greatly matter now;
he would still be dead, at either date, and at either a touch of heroic
humor would survive him in the story Mr. Crickmore repeats. Colonel
Duckenfield of the Cromwellian forces asked him if he had no friend who
would do the last office for him. “Do you mean, to cut my head off? Nay,
if those men who would have my head off cannot find one to cut it off,
let it stand where it is.”

I have always liked to believe everything I read in guide-books, or hear
from sacristans or custodians. In Chester you can believe not only the
bleak Baedeker, with its stern adherence to fact, but anything that
anybody tells you; and in my turn I ask the unquestioning faith of the
reader when I assure him that he will find nothing so mediæval-looking
out of Nuremberg as that street--I think it is called Eastgate
Street--with its Rows, or two-story sidewalks, and its timber-gabled
shops with their double chance of putting up the rates on the fresh
American. Let him pay the price, and gladly, for there is no perspective
worthier his money. I am not in the pay of a certain pastry-cook of the
Rows, who makes the wedding-cakes for all the royal marriage feasts; but
I say he will serve you a toasted tea-cake with the afternoon oolong he
will try to put off on an American, such as you cannot buy elsewhere in
England; only, you must be sure to eat the bottom half of the tea-cake,
because most of the rich, sweet Cheshire butter will have melted
tenderly into that. Go then, if you will, to the cathedral which I have
been vainly seeking to decry, and study its histories, beginning with
the remnants of the original Norman church of the Conqueror’s lieutenant
and nephew Hugh Lupus, and ending with a distinctly modern restoration
of the mediæval carvings in the eastern transept, wherein Disraeli and
Gladstone are made grotesquely to figure, the one in building up the
Indian Empire and the other in disestablishing the Irish Church.
Somewhere in the historical middle distance are certain faded flags
taken from the Americans at the battle of Bunker Hill, which we should
always have won if our powder had not given out, and let the enemy
capture these banners. The beauty of the Chapter House will subdue you,
if you rebel against the sight of them, and I can certify to the
solemnity of the Cloister, which I visited with due impression; but with
what success a young girl was sketching a perspective of the cathedral I
did not look over her shoulder to see.

How perverse is memory! I cannot recall distinctly the prospect across
the Dee from the Watergate to which the Dee use to float its ships and
from which it now shrinks far beyond the green flats. But I remember
that in returning through a humble street from the Watergate, the
children on the door-steps were eating the largest and thickest slices
of bread and butter I saw in all England, where the children in humble
streets are always eating large, thick slices of bread and butter. For
the pleasure of riding on the municipal trams, and of realizing how much
softer and slower they run than our monopolistic trolleys, we made,
whenever we had nothing else to do, an excursion “across the sands of
Dee” by the bridge which spans its valley, with always fragments of
Kingsley’s tender old song singing themselves in the brain, and with the
visionary Mary going to call the cattle home, and the cruel, crawling
foam from which never home came she.

    Oh, is it fish, or weed, or floating hair,

in the tide that no longer laps the green floor that once was sand? Ask
the young girls of fifty years ago, who could make people cry with the
words! It was enough for me that I was actually in the scene of the
tragedy, and more than all the British, Roman, Saxon, or Norseman
antiquity of Chester. At the suburban extremity of the tram-line, or
somewhere a little short of it, we were offered by sign-board a bargain
in house-lots so phrased that it added thirty generations to the age of
a region already old enough in all conscience. We were not invited to
buy the land brutally in fee-simple, outright; but it was intimated that
the noble or gentle family to which it belonged would part with it
temporarily on a lease of nine hundred and ninety-nine years. I hope we
fully felt the delicacy, the pathos in that reservation of the
thousandth year, which was the more appealing because it was tacit.

These lots were no part of the vast estate of the great noble whose seat
lies farther yet out of Chester in much the same direction. It was one
of the many aristocratic houses which I meant to visit in England, but
as I really visited no other, I am glad that I gave way in the matter of
a shilling to the driver of the fly who held that the drive to the place
was worth that much more than I did. I tried hard for the odd shilling,
as an affair of conscience and of public spirit; but the morning was of
a cool-edged warmth, and of a sky that neither rained nor shone, and the
driver of the fly was an elderly man who looked as if he would not lie
about the regular price, though I pretended so strenuously it should be
six and not seven shillings for the drive, and I yielded. After all (I
excused my weakness to myself), it would have been seven dollars at
home; and presently we were in the leafy damp, the leafy dark of the
parkway within the gates of the great nobleman’s estate beyond the Dee.
Eight thousand acres large it stretches all about, and is visibly
bounded only by the beautiful Welsh hills to the westward, and four
miles we drove through the woodsy quiet of the park, which was so much
like the woodsy quiet of forest-ways not so accessible at home. Birds
were singing in the trees, and on the hawthorns a little may hung yet,
though it was well into June. Rabbits--or if they were hares I mean no
offence to the hares--limped leisurely away from the road-side. Coops of
young pheasants, carefully bringing up to be shot in the season for the
pleasure of noble or even royal guns, were scattered about in the
borders of the shade; and grown cock and hen pheasants showed their
elect forms through the undergrowth in the conscious pride of a species
dedicated to such splendid self-sacrifice. In the open spaces the brown
deer by scores lay lazily feeding, their antlers shining, or their ears
pricking through the thin tall stems of the grass. Otherwhere in paddock
or pasture, were two-year-olds or three-year-olds, of the blooded
hunters or racers to whose breeding that great nobleman is said to be
mostly affectioned, though for all I personally know he may be more
impassioned of the fine arts, or have his whole

[Illustration: CHESTER CASTLE]

heart in the study of realistic fiction. What I do personally know is
that at a certain point of our drive a groom came riding one of his
cultivated colts, so highly strung that it took fright at our harmless
fly, and escaped by us in a flash of splendid terror that left my own
responsive nerves vibrating.

From time to time notices to the public “earnestly requested” the
visitor not to trespass or deface, instead of sternly forbidding him
with a threat of penalties. They know how to do these things in England,
and when our monopolists, corporate or individual, have come more
generally to fence themselves away from their fellow-citizens they will
learn how gracefully to entreat the traveller not to abuse the
privileges of a visit to their grounds. Whether they will ever posit
themselves in a landscape with the perfect pride of circumstance proper
to a great English nobleman’s place, no one can say; and if I mention
that there was a whole outlying village of picturesque and tasteful
houses appropriated to the immediate dependants of this nobleman, it is
less with the purpose of instructing some future oil-king or beef-baron
in the niceties of state, than of simply letting the reader know that we
drove back to Chester by a different way from that we came by.

As for the palace of the nobleman, which did not call itself a palace,
it was disappointing, just as Niagara is disappointing if you come to it
with vague preconceptions of another sort of majesty. I myself was
disappointed in the Castle of Chester, which one would naturally expect
to be Norman, “or at least Early English,” but which one finds a low
two-story edifice of Georgian architecture enclosing a parade-ground,
with a main gate in the form of a Greek portico and a side entrance
disguised as a small classic temple. But the castle is in the definite
taste of a self-justified epoch, and consoles you with the belated
Georgian--the Fourth Georgian--surviving into our own century not so
very long after its universal acceptance. One could not build a castle
in any other than classic terms in 1829, and I dare say that forty years
later it would have been impossible to build an ancestral seat in any
other style than the Victorian Gothic-Tudor-Mansard which now glasses
its gables, roofs, and finials with so much satisfaction in the silvery
sheet of water at its feet. The finest thing about it is that the
nobleman who imagined or commanded it was of the same name and surname
as the Norman baron whom William the Conqueror appointed to hold Chester
for him, when he had reduced it after a tedious siege, and to curb the
wild Welsh of the dim hills we saw afar.

I am not good at descriptions of landscape-gardening, but I like all the
formalities of cropt lawns and clipt trees, and I would fain have the
reader, if I could, stand with me at the window within the house which
gives the best sight of these glories. That exterior part of the
interior which is shown to the public in great houses seems wastefully
rather than tastefully splendid. The life of the place could hardly be
inferred from it; but there was a touch of gentle intimacy in the
photograph, lying on one of the curiously costly tables, of the fair and
sweet young girl who had lately become the lady of all that
magnificence. She looked like so many another pretty creature in any
land or clime that it was difficult to realize her state even with the
help of the awed flunky who was showing the stranger through. He was of
an imagination which admitted nothing ignoble in its belongings, so that
in passing a certain bust with the familiar broken nose of the master he
respectfully murmured, “Sir Michael Hangelo.”

“_Who?_” the stranger joyfully demanded, wishing to make very sure of
the precious fact; and the good soul repeated,

“Sir Michael _Hangelo_, sir.”

Of course it was Sir Michelangelo, Bart.; nothing so low as the effigy
of a knight could be admitted to that august gallery.

Am I being a little too scornful in all this? I hope not, though I own
that in the mansions of the great it is difficult not to try despising
them. The easy theory about a man whom you find magnificently housed in
the heart of eight thousand acres, themselves a very minor portion of
his incalculable possessions, is that he is personally to blame for it.
In your generous indignation you wish to have him out, and his
pleasure-grounds divided up into small farms. But this is a kind of
equity which may be as justly applied to any one who owns more of the
earth than he knows how to use. Who are they that fence large parts of
Long Island, and much of the Hudson River scenery, which they have
studded with villas never open to the public like that great house near
Chester? I know a man who has two acres and a half on the Maine shore of
the Piscataqua, and tills not a tenth of it; but I should be sorry to
have him expropriated from the rest. We all, who have the least bit more
than we need, are in the same boat, and we cannot begin throwing one
another overboard, with a good conscience. What the people already
struggling for their lives in the water have a right to do is another
matter. They are the immense majority and they may vote anything they
choose, even a cruel injustice.

The American, newly arrived in Chester after his new arrival in
Liverpool, will be confronted with a stronghold of the past which he
will not be able to overthrow perhaps during his whole stay in England,
though he should spend the summer. Immemorial custom is intrenched there
not only in the picturesqueness, the beauty, the charm, but the silent
inexpugnable possession which time from the beginning has been
fortifying. The outside has been made as goodly as possible, but within
is the relentless greed of ages, fed strong with the prey of poverty and
toil. Yet let him not rashly fling himself against its impregnable
defences. It is not primarily his affair. Let him go quietly about with
his Baedeker, and see and enjoy all he can of that ancient novelty, so
dear to us new folk, and then when he is worn out with his pleasure, and
sits down to his toasted tea-cake in that restaurant of the Rows where
they will serve him a cup of our national oolong, let him ask himself
how far the beloved land he has left has been true to its proclamations
in favor of a fresh and finally just _Theilung der Erde_.

Having answered this question to his satisfaction, let him by no means
hurry away from Chester that night or the next morning in the vain
belief that greater historic riches await him in cities, farther away
from his port of entry, in the heart of the land. Scarcely any shall
surpass it, for if not a Roman capital like York or London, it was long
a Roman camp, and a temple of Apollo replaced a Druid temple on the site
of the present cathedral. The Britons were never pushed farther off than
the violet hills where they still dwell, strong in their unintelligible
tongue, with a taste for music and mysticism which seems never to have
failed them. From those adjacent heights they harried in frequent foray
their Roman and Saxon and Norman invaders, and only left off attacking
Chester when the Early English had become the Later.

Chester was not only one of the stubbornest of the English cities in its
resistance of William the Conqueror, but it held out still longer
against Oliver the Conqueror in the war of the King and the Parliament.
What part, if any, it had in the Wars of the Roses, I excuse myself for
not knowing. The strong Henry Fourth led the weak Richard Second a
captive through it, and there is record that the weaker Henry Sixth
tried in vain to recruit his forces in it for his futile struggle with
fate. The lucky Henry Seventh who had newly married royalty, and was no
more king by right than the pretender who afterwards threatened his
throne, sent a Stanley to the block for having spoken tolerantly of
Perkyn Warbeck. But if there was any party in Chester for that
pretender, there was none for the Stuart calling himself Charles III.,
for when he sent from Scotland an entreaty to the citizens for help,
they took it as a warning to fortify their town against him. After that
they had peace, and now the place is the great market for Cheshire
cheese which is made in the fertile country round about, and vies with
the New Jersey imitation in the favor of our own country.

The American who means to stop in Chester for the day, which may so
profitably and pleasantly extend itself to a week, cannot do better than
instruct himself more particularly in the history which I still find
myself so ignorant, for all my show of learning. I would have him
distrust this at every point, and correct it from better authorities.
Especially I would have him mistrust a story told in Chester of the
American who discovered a national origin in the guide-book’s mention of
one of the Mercian kings who extended his rule so far from the midland
counties. The traveller read the word American, and pronounced it as the
English believe we all do. “My dear,” he said to his wife, “this town
was settled by the ’Murricans.”



XI

MALVERN AMONG HER HILLS


From the 10th to the 20th of July the heat was as great in London as the
nerves ever register in New York. It was much more continuous, for our
heat seldom lasts a week, and there it lasted nearly a fortnight, with a
peculiar closeness from the damp and thickness from the smoke. That was
why we left London, and went to Great Malvern, for a little respite.

Our run was through a country which frankly confessed a long drouth,
such as parches the fields at home in exceptional summers. Rain had not
fallen during the heat from which we were escaping, and the grain had
been cut and stacked in unwonted safety from mould. There is vastly more
wheat grown in England than the simple American, who expects to find it
a large market-garden, imagines, and the yield was now so heavy that the
stacked sheaves served to cover half the space from which they had been
reaped. The meadow-lands were burned by the sun almost as yellow as the
stubble; the dry grass along the railroad banks had caught fire from the
sparks of the locomotive, and the flames had run through the hedges,
into the pasturage and stubble, and at one place they had kindled the
stacks of wheat, which farm-hands were pulling apart and beating out.
The air was full of the pleasant smell of their burning, and except that
the larks were spiring up into the dull-blue sky, and singing in the
torrid air, it was all very like home.

I ventured to say as much to the young man whom I found sleeping in the
full blaze of the sun in his corner of our carriage, and to whom I
apologized for the liberty I had taken in drawing his curtain so as to
shade his comely fresh face. He pardoned me so gratefully that I felt
warranted in thinking he might possibly care to know of the resemblance
I had noted. He said, “Ah!” in the most amiable manner imaginable,
“which part of America?” But just as I was going to tell him, the train
drew into the station at Oxford, and he escaped out of the carriage.

Before this he had remarked that we should find the drouth much worse as
we went on, for we were now in the Valley of the Thames, which kept the
land comparatively moist. But I could not see that the levels of harvest
beyond this favored region were different. Still the generous yield of
grain half covered the ground; the fires along the embankments continued
in places; in places the hay was just mown, and women were tossing it
into windrows; at a country station where we stopped there were fat,
heavy-fleeced sheep panting wofully in the cattle-pens; but the heat was
no worse than it had been. The landscape grew more varied as we
approached Worcester, where we meant to pass the night; low hills rose
from the plain, softly wooded; and I find from my note-book that the
weather was much mitigated by the amenity of all the inhabitants we
encountered. I really suppose that the underlined record, “_universal
politeness_,” related mainly to the railway company’s servants, but
there must have been some instances of kindness from others, perhaps
fellow-travellers, which I grieve now to have forgotten.

I have not forgotten the patience with which the people at the old
inn-like hotel in Worcester bore our impatience with the rooms which
they showed us, and which we found impossibly stuffy, and smelling of
the stables below. The inn was a survival of the coaching days, when the
stables formed an integral part of the public-house, but did not perfume
the fiction which has endeared its ideal to readers. The dining-room was
sultry, and abounded with the flies which love stables of the olden
times, or indeed of any date. We sat by our baggage in an outer room
till a carriage could be called, and then we drove back to the station,
through the long, hot, dusty street by which we had come, with a
poorish, stunted type of work-people crowding it on the way home to
supper.

Somewhere in the offing we were aware of cathedral roofs and towers, and
we were destined later to a pleasanter impression of Worcester than that
from which we now gladly fled by the first train for Great Malvern. Our
refuge was only an hour away, and it duly received us in a vast, modern
hotel, odorous only of a surrounding garden into which a soft rain was
already beginning to fall. A slow, safe elevator, manned by the very
oldest and heaviest official in full uniform whom I have ever seen in
the like charge, mounted with us to upper chambers, where we knew no
more till we awoke in the morning to find the face of nature washed
clean by that gentle rain, and her breath fresh and sweet, coming from
the grateful lips of the myriad flowers which embloom most English
towns.

I may as well note at once that it was not a bracing air which we
inhaled from them, and I do not suppose that the air is any more an
adjunct of the healing waters at Great Malvern than the air at Carlsbad,
for instance, where it is notoriously relaxing. The companionable
office-lady at our hotel, who was also a sort of lady-butler, and carved
the cold meats, candidly owned that the air at Great Malvern was
lifeless, and she boldly regretted the two years she had passed in New
England, as matron of a boys’ reformatory. She said, quite in the teeth
of an English couple paying their bill at the same time, that she was
only living to get back there. They took her impatriotism with a large
imperial allowance; and I shall always be sorry I did not ask them what
kind of bird it was they had with them in a cage; I think they would
have told me willingly, and even gladly, before they drove away.

We were ourselves driving away in search of lodgings, which, whether you
like them or not after you find them, it is always so interesting to
look up in England. It was our fate commonly to visit places in their
season when lodgings were scarce and dear; and it was one of the
surprises that Great Malvern had in store for us that it was in the very
height of its season. We should never have thought it, but for the
assurance of the lodging-house landladies, who united in saying so, and
in asking twice their fee as an earnest of good faith. The charming
streets, which were not only laterally but vertically irregular, and
curved and rose and fell in every direction, were so far from thronged
that we were often the only people in them besides the unoccupied
drivers of other flies than ours, and the boys who had pony chairs for
hire, and demanded height-of-the-season prices for them. Perhaps the
fellow-visitors whom we missed from the street were thronging in-doors:
the hotels were full up; the boarding-houses could offer only a choice
of inferior rooms; the lodgings had nearly all been taken at the rates
which astonished if they did not

[Illustration: MALVERN--THE TOWN]

dismay us. But we found the pleasantest apartment left at last, and were
immediately as much domesticated in it as if we had lived there ever
since it was built. In front it faced, across the street, a wooded and
gardened steep; in the rear, from the window of our stately
sitting-room, we looked out over a vast plain, of tilth and grass and
groves, cheered everywhere with farm villages or farm cottages, and the
grander edifices of the local nobility and gentry, and the spires of
churches. Farther off where the Cotswold Hills began to be blue,
glimmered Cheltenham, where we could, with a glass strong enough, have
seen the retired military and civil employés of the India service who
largely inhabit the place, basking in a summer heat of familiar tropical
fervor, and a cheapness suited to their pensions. In the same quarter
there was also sometimes visible a blur of dim towers and roofs which
the guide-book knew as Tewkesbury; in the opposite direction, Worcester
with its cathedral more boldly defined itself. The landscape seemed so
altogether, so surpassingly English, that one day when I had nothing
better to do--as was mostly the case with me in Malvern--I set down its
amiable features, which I wish I could assemble here in a portrait.
First, there were orchard and garden trees of our own house (one of a
dozen houses on the same curving terrace), with apples, pears, and plums
belted in by the larches and firs that deepened towards the foot of the
hill. Pretty, well-kept dwellings of more or less state, showed their
chimneys and slated or tiled roofs everywhere through the trees and
shrubs at the beginning of what looked the level from our elevation.
From these the plain stretched on, with hotels and churches salient from
rows of red brick and gray stone cottages. Fields, now greening under
the rains, but still keeping the warmer colors which the long drouth
had given them, were parted into every angular form by rigid hedge-rows.
They were fields of oats and grass, and sometimes wheat; but there were
no recognizable orchards; and the trees that dotted the fields, singly
and in clumps, massed themselves in forest effects in the increasing
distance. They covered quite a third of the plain, which stretched
twenty miles away on every hand, and were an accent of dark, harsh green
amid the yellower tone of the meadows. The Cotswolds rising to the
height of the Malvern Hills against the dull horizon (often rainy, now,
but dull always), ended the immense level, where, coming or going, the
little English railway trains, under their long white plumes of smoke,
glided in every direction; and somewhere through the scene the unseen
Severn ran.

Not to affront the reader’s intelligence, but to note my own ignorance,
until an unusually excellent local guide-book partially dispersed it,
will I remind him that all this region was once a royal chase. Half a
dozen forests, of which Malvern Forest was chief, spread “a boundless
contiguity of shade” over the hills and plains in which the cruel kings,
from Canute down to Charles I., hunted the deer consecrated to their
bows and spears, and took the lives or put out the eyes of any other man
that slew them without leave. But in virtue of the unwritten law by
which the people’s own reverts to them through the very pride of their
expropriators, the dwellers in and about Malvern Chase had insensibly
grown to have such rights and privileges in the wilderness that when
Charles proposed to sell the woods they made a tumultuous protest; they
rose in riot against the king’s will, and he had to give them two-thirds
of the Chase for commons, before he could turn the remaining third into
the money he needed so much.

[Illustration: THE PRIORY CHURCH--NORTH VIEW]

In the very earliest times Malvern seems to have been a British
stronghold against the Romans, and perhaps, again, the Saxons; but
otherwise its peaceful history is resumed in that of its beautiful
Priory church, an edifice which is fabled to have begun its religious
life as a Druid temple. On one of the three Beacons, as the chief of the
Malvern Hills are called, after the three counties of Worcester,
Gloucester, and Hereford in which they rise,

    “Twelve fair counties saw the blaze”

which signaled the approach of the Spanish Armada. But the local history
is not of that dense succession of events, against whose serried points
the visitor so often dashes himself in vain elsewhere in England. He can
let his fancy roam up and down the vague past, with nothing, except the
possible surrender of Caractacus to the Romans, very definitely
important to hinder it, from the dawn of time to the year 1842, when the
Priessnitz system of water-cure chose Malvern the capital of English
hydropathy. The Wells of Malvern had always been famous for their
healing properties, and now modern faith added itself to ancient
superstition, and from the centre of belief thus established, a
hydropathic religion spread throughout England. Its monuments still
confront one everywhere in the minor hotels or major boarding-houses
which briefly call themselves Hydros, but probably do not attempt
working the old miracles. There is still a commodious shrine for the
performance of these in the heart of Malvern; but the place was plainly
no longer the Mecca of the pilgrims of thirty or fifty years ago. The
air of its hills indeed invites the ailing, who so abound in England,
but the waters have found the level which even medicinal waters seek,
and flow away in the obscurity attending the decline of so many once
thronged and honored Spas.

I do not know that I particularly like ruinous ruins, but a decay that
is still in tolerable repair is greatly to my mind. The better the
repair, the greater my pleasure in it, and when we were once posited in
our lodgings, I began to take comfort in the perfect neatness, the
unfailing taste, the pious care with which the spirit of that dead
Malvern guarded its sepulchre. There was all the apparatus of a social
gayety beneficial to invalids, but not, so far as I could note, an
invalid to profit by it, if it had been running. In a certain public
garden, indeed, in the centre of the town, there was a sound of revelry
emitted by a hidden band, in the afternoon and evening, but I had never
the heart to penetrate its secret; within, the garden might not have
looked so gay as it sounded. There were excellent large and little
shops, including a book and periodical store, where you could get almost
anything you wanted, or did not want, at watering-place prices. There
was an Assembly building, always locked fast, and a very good public
library where I resorted for books of reference, and for a word of
intellectual converse with the kind assistant librarian who formed my
social circle in Malvern. From somewhere in the dim valley at night
there came bursts of fragmentary minstrelsy, which we were told by the
maid was the professional rejoicing of Pierrots, a gleeful tribe summer
England has borrowed from the French tradition almost as lavishly as the
crude creations of our own burnt-cork opera. Wherever you go, among her
thronged and thronging watering-places, these strongly contrasted
figures meet and cheer you; even in Malvern there were strains of
rag-time, mingling with the music of the Pierrots, which gave assurance
of these duskier presences somewhere in the dark.

One afternoon we went to a politer entertainment in a lower room of the
Assembly building, given by a company which had so vividly plastered the
dead walls (if this is specific) of Malvern with the announcements of
their coming, that we hastened to be among the earliest at the
box-office lest we should not get seats. To make sure of seeing and
hearing we took two-shilling seats, which were at the front, and it was
well we did so, for before the curtain rose, a multitude of fourteen
people thronged to the one-shilling benches behind us. This number I
knew from deliberate count, for the curtain, as if in a sad prescience
of adversity, was long in rising. I do not think that company of artists
would have been very cheerful under the best conditions; as it was they
afforded us the very sorrowfulest amusement I have ever enjoyed. In that
pathetic retrospect it seems to me that one man and woman of them sang
at different times comic duets with tears in their voices. There were
also from time to time joyless glees, and there was an interlude of
dancing, so very, very blameless that it was all but actively virtuous
in its modesty. A sense of something perpetually provincial, something
irretrievably amateurish in the performers, penetrated the American
spectators; and it is from a heart still full of pity that I recall how
plain they were, poor girls, how floor-walkerish they were, poor
fellows. They were as one family in their mutual disability and
forbearance; if perhaps they each knew how badly the others were doing,
they did nothing to show it; and in their joint weakness they were
unable to spare us a single act of their programme. I have seldom left a
hall of mirth in so haggard a frame, but perhaps if I had been more
inured to Malvern I could have borne my pleasure better.

If this was not, strictly speaking, a concert, that was certainly a
concert which I attended one evening at a Baptist chapel, where a
company of Welsh miners sang like a company of Welsh angels. I was in
hopes they would have sung in Welsh, which, as is well known, was the
language of Paradise, but they sang in English as good as English ever
can be in comparison; and instead of Bardic measures, it was all
terribly classic, or when not classic, religious. As I say, though, the
voices were divine, and I asked myself if such heavenly sounds could
issue, at this remove, from the bowels of the Welsh mountains, what must
be the cherubinic choiring from their tops! It was a very simple-hearted
affair, that concert, and well encouraged by a large and cordial
audience, thanks mostly, perhaps, to the vigilance of the lady pickets
stationed down the lane leading to the chapel, and quite into the
street, with tickets for sale, who let no hesitating passers escape. I
myself pleaded a sovereign in defence, but one of the fair pickets
changed it with instant rapture, and I was left without excuse for the
indecision in which I had gone out to see whether I would really go to
the concert.

For the matter of that we were without excuse for staying on in Malvern,
save that it was so very, very pleasant though so very, very dull. It
was there, I think, that I formed the Spanish melon habit, which I
indulged thereafter throughout that summer, till the fogs of London
reformed me at end of September, when no more melons came from Spain.
The average of Spanish melons in England is so much better than that of
our cantaloupes at home that I advise all lovers of the generous fruit
to miss no chance of buying them. The fruiterer who sold me my first in
Malvern, said that in the palmy days of the place many Americans used to
come, and he mentioned a New York millionaire of his acquaintance so
confidently that I almost thought he was mine, and felt much more at
home than before. I had more talk with this kind fruiterer than with any
one else in Malvern, though I will not depreciate an interview with a
jobbing mechanic from far Norfolk, who spent an afternoon washing our
windows, and was conversible when once you started his torpid flow. He
did not grasp ultra-Norfolk ideas readily, and he altogether lacked the
brilliant fancy of the gay, rusty, frowsy ragged tramp who came one
afternoon with a bunch of cat-tail rushes for sale, and who had vividly
conceived of himself as a steel-polisher out of work. He might not have
been mistaken; but if he was it could not spoil my pleasure in him, or
in the weather which had now begun to be very beautiful, with blue skies
almost cloudless, and quite agreeably hot. It being the 12th of August,
a bank holiday fell on that day, and the town filled up with trippers
(mysteriously much objected to in England), who seemed mostly lovers,
and who arm in arm passed through our street. One indeed there was who
passed without companionship, playing the accordeon, his eyes fixed in a
rapture with his own music.

On several other days the town seemed the less reasoned resort of crowds
of harmless young people, who perhaps thought they were seeing the world
there, since it was the height of the Malvern season. They were at one
time more definitely attracted by the Flower Show at the neighboring
seat of a great nobleman, which was opened by his lady with due
ceremonies, and which enjoyed a greater popular favor. I myself followed
with the trippers there, partly because I had long read of that kind of
English thing without seeing it, and because in the spacious leisure of
Malvern it was difficult to invent occupations that would fill the time
between luncheon and dinner, even with an hour out for an afternoon nap.

It was just a pleasant drive to the nobleman’s place, and my progress
was attended by a sentiment of circus-day in the goers and comers on
foot and in fly, and the loungers strewn on the grass of the road-sides
and the open lots. At the gate of the nobleman’s grounds, we paid a
modest entrance, and there were still modester fees for several of the
exhibits. One of these was a tent where under a strong magnifying-glass
a community of ants were offering their peculiar domestic and social
economy to the study of the curious. But, if I rightly remember, the
pavilion which sheltered the flower-show was free to all who could walk
through its sultry air without stifling; it was really not so much a
show of flowers as of fruits and vegetables, which indeed bore the heat
better. Another free performance was the rivalry, apparently of
amateurs, in simple feats of carpentry and joiner-work as applied to
fence-building; but this was of a didactic effect from which it was a
relief to turn to the idle and useless adventures of the people who lost
themselves in a maze, or labyrinthine hedge and shared the innocent
hilarity of the spectators watching their bewilderment from a high
ground hard by. All the time there was a band playing, which when it
played a certain familiar rag-time measure was loudly applauded and
forced to play it again and again. It was a proud moment for the exile
from a country whose black step-children had contributed these novel
motives to the world’s music, in the intervals of being lynched.

The scene was all very familiar and very strange, with qualities of a
subdued county fair at home, but more ordered and directed than such
things are with us. As I say, I had long known its like in literature,
and I was now glad to find it so realistic. My pleasure in it overflowed
when the nobleman who had lent his premises for the show, came walking
out among the people, bareheaded, in a suit of summer gray, with his
lady beside him, and paused to speak, amid the general emotion, with a
neat old woman of humble class, whose hand his lady had shaken. That, I
said to myself, was quite as it should be in its allegiance to
immemorial tradition and its fidelity to fiction; it could have formed
the initial moment of a hundred thousand English novels. If it could not
have formed a like moment in American romance, it is because our
millionaires, in their shyness of subpœnas or of interviews, do not yet
open their private grounds for flower-shows. It needs many centuries to
mellow the conditions for the effect I had witnessed, and we must not be
impatient.

The lord and his lady had come out of a mansion that did not look very
mediæval, though it had a moat round it, with ducks in the moat, and in
the way to its portal a force of footmen to confirm any comer in his
misgiving that the house was closed to the public, and to direct him to
the pleasaunce beyond. This was a lawned and gardened place, enclosed
with a green wall of hedge, and guarded on one side with succession of
pedestals bearing classic busts. It was charming in the afternoon sun,
with groups of people seriously, if somewhat awe-strickenly, enjoying
themselves. The inferiors in England never take that ironical attitude
towards their superiors which must long delay a real classification of
society with us.

When there one accepts the situation, and becomes at least gentry if one
can, with all the assumptions and responsibilities which station
implies. I had a curious illustration of this in my own case when once I
came to pay the driver of my fly at the end of an excursion. It had
always been my theory that if only the people who exact tips would say
what tip they expected, it would greatly simplify and clarify the
affair. But now when this good-fellow said the fly would be twelve
shillings for the two hours, which I mutely thought too much, and then
added, “And two shillings for me,” I did not like it as well as my
theory should have supported me in doing. Had I possibly been meaning to
offer him one shilling? Heaven knows; but I found myself on the point of
lecturing him for his greed, when I reflected that it would be of no
use, at least in Malvern, for in Malvern when I went to a stable to
engage a fly for other excursions, they always said it would be so much,
and so much more for the driver. His tip, a good third of the whole
cost, seemed an unwritten part of the tariff, but it was an inflexible
law.

It is strong proof of the pleasantness of the drives that this novel
feature could not spoil them for us, and we were always going them.
There were pretty villages lurking all about in the shades of that
lovely plain, which if you passed through them on a Sunday afternoon,
for example, had their people out in their best, with comely girls seen
through the open doors of the above cottages, apparently waiting for
company, or, in its defect, sitting on benches in their flowery
door-yards and making believe to read.

The way was sometimes between tall ranks of trees, sometimes through
lines of hedge, opening at the hamlets and closing beyond them. Once it
ran by a vast

[Illustration: BRITISH CAMP, SHOWING ROMAN INTRENCHMENTS]

enclosure, which looked like a neglected nursery, losing itself in a
forest beyond. But we had really chanced upon one of the most
characteristic features of English civilization. This neglected nursery
was in fact a plantation of all woodland growths, for a game-preserve
where later the gentleman who owned it would have the pleasure of
killing the wild things resorting to it. We came to it fresh from our
satisfaction with another characteristic feature: a village of low
houses fronting on a green common, where geese and sheep were grazing,
and poultry were set about in coops in the grass. Children were playing
over it; men were smoking at the doors, and women doubtless were working
within. The evening fire sent up its fumes from the chimneys, and a
savory smell of cooking was in the air. It all looked very sociable, and
if a little squalid, not the less friendly for that reason. It is from
our literary associations with such scenes that we derive our heartaches
when we first leave our humble homes in America, where we have really no
such villages, but only solitary farms, or bustling communities on the
way to be business centres. A village like that could easily become a
“Deserted Village,” and an image of it, reflected in Goldsmith’s dear
and lovely poem, recurred to me from my far youth,

    “On Erie’s banks, where tigers steal along,
     And the dread Indian chants his warlike song,”

and mixed with the reality as I drove through it.

The three great summits which are chief of the Malvern Hills are the
Beacons of Worcestershire, Gloucestershire, and Herefordshire; and
nearest the town they are everywhere traversed by the paths which the
founders of the water-cure taught to stray over their undulations in
the fashion of the German spas, and on which the patients walked
themselves into a wholesome glow after their douches, sprays, and
drenches. They are very noble tops indeed, from which one may everywhere
command a lordly prospect, but the most interesting, and the loftiest,
is the Worcestershire Beacon, a brow of which the Britons fortified
against the Romans. You can drive the greater part of the way to their
earthwork, and if you make the climb to it you will not envy either
enemy its possession. The views from it are enchanting, and the
fortifications, with companies of sheep grazing sidelong on their glacis
and escarpments, can still be easily traced by the eye of military
science; but perhaps their chief attraction to the civilian is that they
seem impregnable to the swarming flies which infest the road almost
throughout its rise, and at the point where you leave your carriage are
a quite indescribable pest. One could imagine the Romans hurrying up the
steep to be rid of them, and beating the Britons out of their stronghold
in order to secure themselves from the insect enemy on the breezy
height. They must have bitten the bare legs of the legionaries fearfully
and really rendered retreat impossible, while the Britons had no choice
but to submit; for if it was at this point that the brave Caractacus
surrendered with his following, rather than be forced down among those
flies, he yielded to a military necessity, and I should be the last to
blame him for it. I wondered how my driver was getting on among them,
till I found that he had taken refuge in the opportune inn from which he
issued, wiping his mouth, on my descent from the embattled height; but
the inn could not have been there in the Roman times.

The best of the excursion was coming home by the Wyche, a tremendous cut
through beetling walls of rock, which are truly, in the old
eighteenth-century literary sense, horrid. Here, as several times before
and after, I had to admire at that ignorance of mine in which I had
supposed the British continent to be made up of a mild loveliness alone.
It has often a bold and rugged beauty which may challenge comparison
with our much less accessible grandeurs. It takes days for us to go to
the Grand Cañon, or the Yellowstone, or the Yosemite, but one can reach
the farthest natural wonder in England by a morning train from London.
This handiness of the picturesque and the marvellous is in keeping with
the scheme of English life, which is so conveniently arranged that you
have scarcely to make an effort for comfort in it. One excepts, of
course, the matter of in-door warmth; but out-doors you can always be
happy, if you have an umbrella.

I could not praise too much the meteorological delightfulness of that
fortnight in Great Malvern, when we had the place so much to ourselves,
except for the incursionary trippers, who were, after all, so transient.
What contributed greatly to our pleasure was the perfect repair in which
the whole place was kept. Apparently the source of its prosperity and
certainly its repute, was at the lowest ebb; but the vigilant
municipality did not suffer the smallest blight of neglect to rest upon
it; the streets were kept with the scruple which is universal in England
and which in the retrospect makes our slattern towns and ruffian cities
look so shameful; and all was maintained in a preparedness in which no
sudden onset of invalids could surprise a weak point. The private
premises were penetrated by the same spirit of neatness, and the
succession of villas and cottages everywhere showed behind their laurel
and holly hedges paths so trim and cleanly that if Adversity haunted
their doors she could approach their spotless thresholds without
wetting her feet or staining her skirts. It is gratuitous, of course, to
suppose the inhabitants all dependent upon hydropathy for their
prosperity, but it was certainly upon hydropathy that Malvern increased
to her fifteen thousand; and the agreeable anomaly remains.

If ever the tide of sickness sets back there--and somehow I wish it
might--the cultivated sufferer will find an environment so beautiful
that it will console him even for not getting well. Nothing can surpass
the picturesqueness of those up and down hill streets of Malvern, or the
easy variety of the walks and drives about it, up the hills, and down
the valleys, and over the plains. If the sufferer is too delicate for
much exercise, there is the prettiest public garden in which to smoke or
sew, with a peaceful pond in it, and land and water growths which I did
interrogate too closely for their botanical names, but which looked
friendly if not familiar. Above all, if the sufferer is cultivated and
of a taste for antique beauty, there is the Priory Church, which to a
cultivated sufferer from our Priory Churchless land will have an endless
charm.

At least, I found myself, who am not a great sufferer, nor so very
cultivated, and with a passion for antiquity much sated by various
travel in many lands, going again and again to the Priory Church in
Malvern, and spending hours of pensive pleasure among the forgetting
graves without, and the vaguely remembering monuments within. But not
among these alone, for some of the most modern of the sculptures are the
most beautiful and touching. In a church which dates easily from Early
Norman times and not difficultly from Saxon days, a tomb of the
Elizabethan century may be called modern, and I specially commend to the
visitor that of

[Illustration: PRIORY CHURCH--SWAN POOL IN FOREGROUND]

the Knotesford family to which the Priory passed after the dissolution
of the monasteries. The good “Esquire, servant to King Henry the Eight,”
lies beside his wife, and at their sides kneel four of their daughters,
with the fifth, who raised the monument to them, at her father’s head.
Nothing can mark the simple piety and filial sweetness of the whole
group, which is of portraits in the realistic spirit of the time; but
there is a softer, a sublimer exaltation in that ideal woman’s figure,
on a monument of our day, rising from her couch to hail her Saviour with
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” This work, in the spirit of Chantry, is in
the spirit of all ages; and yet has my reader heard of Robert Hollins of
Birmingham? If he has not, it will have for him the pathos which
attaches to so much art bearing to the beholder no claim of the mind
that conceived or the hand that wrought; and the Priory Church of
Malvern is rich in such work of every older date. If the reader has a
great deal of leisure, he will wish to study the fifteenth-century tiles
which record so many sacred and profane histories, and the quaintly
carven stalls with the grotesques of their underseats, and doubtless to
do what he can with the stained-windows which survive, in almost
unrivalled beauty, the devastation through malice and conscience, of so
many others in England. A hundred, or for all I know, a thousand
reverend and imperative details will keep him and recall him, day after
day, and doubtless he will begin to feel a veneration for the zeal and
piety which has restored at immense cost this and so many other temples
in every part of the country. You cannot have beauty and the cleanliness
next to holiness, you cannot even have antiquity, without paying for it,
and the English have been willing to pay. That is why Malvern is still
so fair and neat, and why if her Hydropathy should fail at last to
attract a single sufferer, her Priory Church may continue to entreat the
foot of the Pilgrim in good health. If the monastery, of which the
Priory Gateway is a sole relic, was, as seems probable, really once the
home of Langland, the author of “Piers Ploughman’s Vision,” he could
visit no shrine more worthy the reverence of any lover of his kind, any
friend of the poor.



XII

SHREWSBURY BY WAY OF WORCESTER AND HEREFORD


We made Worcester what amends we could for refusing to stop the night in
her picturesque old inn, so powerfully smelling of stable, by going an
afternoon from Malvern to see her fabric of the Royal Worcester ware
which some people may think she is named for. Really, however, she was
called Wygraster, Wyrcester Wearcester, Wureter, and Hooster, long
before porcelain was heard of. In times quite prehistoric the Cornuvíí
dwelt there in dug-outs, or huts, of “wottle-and-dab,” the dab being
probably the clay now used in the Royal Worcester ware. In a more
advanced period, she was plundered and burned by the Danes, and had a
mint of her own nearly a thousand years before we paid her our second
visit. But this detail, of which, with many others, we were ignorant,
could not keep us from going to the works, and spending a long,
exhausting, and edifying afternoon amidst the potteries, ateliers and
ovens. The worst of such things is you are so genuinely interested that
you think you ought to be much more so, and you put on such an intensity
of curiosity and express such a transport of gratitude for each new fact
that you come away gasping. I for my part, was prostrated at the very
outset by something that I dare say everybody else knows--namely, that
to have a small teacup of china you must put into the oven a hulking
bowl of clay, which will shrink in baking to the proper dimensions, and
that the reduction through the loss of moisture must be calculated with
mathematical precision. With difficulty I then followed our intelligent
guide through every part of the wonderful establishment: from the places
where the clays were being mixed and kneaded; where the forms were being
turned and moulded; where the dried pieces were being painted and
decorated in the colors which were to come to life in the furnaces
wholly different colors from those laid on by the artists; from the
delicate smoothing and polishing, to the final display by sample, in the
pretty show-room where one might satisfy the most economical
thankfulness by the purchase of a souvenir. The museum of the works,
where the history of the local keramics is told in the gradual
perfectioning of the product through more than a hundred and fifty
years, and where copies of its _chefs-d’œuvre_ are assembled in dazzling
variety, is most worthy to be seen; but I would counsel greater leisure
than ours to make it the occasion of a second visit. By the time you
reach it after going through the other departments, you feel like the
huge earthen shape which has come out, after the different processes, a
tiny demi-tasse. You are very finished, but you are desiccated to the
last attenuation, and a touch would shiver you to atoms.

It could not have been after we visited the Royal Porcelain Works that
we saw the noble Cathedral of Worcester; it must have been before, for
otherwise there would not have been enough left of us for the joy in it
of which my mind bears record still. The riches of the place can
scarcely be intimated, much less catalogued, and perhaps it was
fortunate for us that

[Illustration: WORCESTER CATHEDRAL, FROM SOUTHWEST]

the Norman crypt, with all its dim associations, was much abandoned to
the steam-boilers which furnish the inspiration, or at least, the power,
of the great organ. Though the verger, a man of up-to-date intelligence,
was proud of those boilers and their bulk, we complained of them to each
other, with the eager grudge of travellers; and I suppose we would
rather have had their room given to monuments of Bishop Gauden, who
wrote Charles I.’s _Eikon Basilike_, or of Mrs. Digby by the ever-divine
Chantrey, or masterpieces of Roubillac, or effigies of King John and
Prince Arthur, or tablets to the wife of Isaac Walton, with epitaphs by
the angler himself, such as Baedeker and the other guide-bookers say the
cathedral overhead abounds in. We learned too late for emotion that
Henry II. and his queen were crowned in the cathedral, and that the
poor, bad John was buried there at his own request. “The organ is
decorated in arabesque and has five manuals and sixty-two stops,” yet we
thought it might have got on with fewer boilers in the crypt. Not that
we had time or thought for full pleasure in the rest of the cathedral. I
remember indeed the beautiful roof of one long unbroken level; but what
remains to me of the exquisite “Perp. Cloisters, entered from the S.
aisle of the nave”? I will own to my shame that we failed even to see
the marriage contract of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, in the
diocesan registrar’s office, just within the cathedral gateway. Did we
so much know that it existed there? Who can say? We saw quite as little
that portion of the skin of the Dane who was flayed alive for looting
the cathedral, and is now represented by a remnant of his cuticle in the
chapter-house.

My prevalent impression of the Worcester Cathedral is not so much one of
beauty as one of interest, full, various, and important interest. Of
course in our one poor afternoon we could not give the wonderful place
more than an hour. We had for one thing to go and do some shopping, and
the shops in Worcester are very fairly good. Then we tried for tea, but
there seemed to be men drinking beer in the place; and though the
proprietor hospitably drove them out, in honor of the lady of our party,
yet we thought we would not have tea there, or indeed anywhere. We went
rather for a rainy moment to a pretty public garden beside the Severn,
where from a waterproof spread upon a stone seat we watched the flow of
the river. It seemed a very damp river, but it must be remembered the
weather was wet. For the rest, Worcester proved a city of trams, passing
through rather narrow streets of tall modern houses, intersected by
lanes of lesser and older houses, much more attractive. It was also a
centre of torrential downpours, with refuges in doorways where one of us
could wait while the other umbrellaed a wild way about in search of a
personable public-house, and an eventual chop. Found, the public-house
turned out brand-new, like a hotel in an American railroad centre, where
in an upper chamber, dryer and warmer than the English wont,
travelling-men sat eating, and the strangers were asked by a kind, plain
girl if they would have tea with their chop. Did English people, then,
of the lower middle non-conformist class, have tea with their meats? It
seemed probable, and in compliance we reverted to the American custom of
fifty years ago. If the truth must be told it was not very good,
personal tea, but was of the quick-lunch general brew which one drinks
scalding hot from steaming nickel-plated cylinders in our
country-stations, with the conductor calling “All aboard!” at the door.

[Illustration: WORCESTER, FROM THE RIVER]

It is a shame to be noting these silly exceptions to the grand and
beautiful life which must abound in Worcester, if one only had the key
to it. There looked charming houses here and there in the quiet streets
and places, but the present must keep itself locked against the average
touristry to which the past is open. Afterwards we visited the famous
city again and again in history, where the reader will find our welcome
awaiting him, from Peter de Montford, who pillaged the town in 1263, and
Owen Glendower in 1401; from Henry VII. who beheaded there after the
battle of Bosworth Field many citizens holding for hunchback Richard;
from Queen Elizabeth who came in 1574 and was received at the White
Ladies; from Prince Rupert who captured it and Essex who recaptured and
plundered it and spoiled the cathedral; and from the two wicked Kings
Charles, father and son, who each deserved to lose the battle each lost
at Worcester. If the reader comes and goes by Sidbury Gate, he may
easily make his entrance and exit by that approach, where the first
Charles’s friends upset the wagon-load of hay which kept his pursuers
from overtaking and taking him in his flight from the battle-field above
the city. The storied, or the fabled, hay is always there, if you do not
know the place.

The August day we left Malvern, and stayed for a drive through Hereford
on our way to Shrewsbury, was bright and hot, and Hereford was
responsively sultry and dusty. Except for its beautiful cathedral,
Hereford is not apparently interesting, though it may really be
interesting. It certainly is historically interesting; and if one likes
to find one’s self in a place which was considerable in 584, and sent a
bishop to the synod of St. Augustine seventeen years later, there is
Hereford for the choosing. Otherwise it looks a dull, slovenly large
market-town which has not been swept since the last market-day. It has,
indeed, the merit of a fine old Tudor house between three intersecting
streets and now devoted to a banking business, and I will not pretend
that I did not enjoy, quite as much as I enjoyed the cathedral, the old
almshouse which we visited somewhere on the length of a mighty long
street. A longer, dustier, flatter and hotter street I have not known
outside of Ferrara, where all the streets are like that. It must have
been in default of other attractions that we were so strenuous about
seeing the Coningsby Hospital for old soldiers and servants, but at any
rate I am now glad we went. For one thing we should not have known what
else to do till our train left for Shrewsbury, and for another it was
really very nice to learn what old soldiership or old butlership could
come to late in life in that England of snug retreats for so many sorts
of superannuation. The kindly inmate who showed me about the place was
hurrying himself into a red coat when we stopped at the outer door, and
as he proved an old servant and not an old soldier, I thought he might
have worn something of a cooler color, say Kendall-green, on such a day.
But there was no other fault in him, and if I had been the nobleman who
appointed him to that disoccupation after a life-long menial employment,
I might well have thought twice before choosing some other domestic of
my train. He led me about the thirsty garden, where the vegetables
panted among their droughty flower-borders, and had me view not only the
Norman archway of the old commandery of the Knights Templars, now
spanning a space of pot herbs, but the ruins of the Black Friars’ priory
drooping in the heat. Something incongruous in it all tormented the
spirit, but how to have it otherwise probably the spirit could not have
said. It was better in the cloistered approaches to the pensioners’
quarters, cool and dim under the low ceiling, and I shall always be
sorry that I pretended a hurry, and did not view the rooms of my guide.
I thought I could do that, any time, in the insensate superstition of
the postponing traveller, and now, how far I am from Hereford, recording
these vain regrets in the top of a towering New York hotel, overlooking
the Hudson!

Or is it rather the Wye? The Wye runs, or slowly, slowly creeps through
Hereford, under a most beautiful bridge, which I do not know but you
cross in going to the station. I had, or I ought to have had, long
thoughts in that dreamy old town, where I would now so willingly pass
all the rest of my worst enemy’s life; for it was the market-town of my
ancestors, and thither, I dare say, my Welsh-flannel manufacturing
great-grandfather sent his goods, as to a bustling metropolis where they
would bring the largest price. But at this distance of time, who knows?
I hope at least they went by the river Wye in barges laden at his little
Breconshire town, and floated either up or down the stream; I do not
know which way the Wye runs from The Hay, and in this sort of purely
literary reverie it does not matter. What really matters is to get these
Welsh flannels into the hands of some mercer in Hereford, and then leave
them and go again to the cathedral, which is so beautiful, and so full
of bishops, now no longer living. Your foot knocks against their
monuments at every step; but the great glory of the cathedral is in its
mighty tower, massing itself to heaven from the midst, and looking best,
I fancy, from the outside of the church. Only, there, when you have left
your fly in the shade of the great chestnuts (I hope they are
chestnuts), you will have to run across the blazing pavement if you wish
to reach the cathedral alive in that fierce Hereford sun. Before I
leave it for another flight to our fly, I wish to bear testimony to the
exceptional intelligence of the verger showing us about, in whom I
vainly sought a likeness to the verger who twenty years earlier had
guided my steps among the tombs of those multitudinous bishops. At that
tune I had lately read in an Ecclesiastical Directory of the United
Kingdom that a newer canon of the cathedral was of my own name; and I
asked the verger if he could show me his seat in the choir. He did so at
once, and incidentally noted, “Many’s the ’alf-crown I’ve ’ad from ’im,
sir,” when, such is the honor one bears one’s name, I too gave him a
half-crown at parting. Had I perhaps been meaning to give him sixpence?

We were sheltered from the sun at last when we started for Shrewsbury,
in a train which began almost at once to run between wooded hills under
a sky that constantly cleared, constantly clouded, through a country
that had been expelled from Eden along with Adam and Eve. It was still
very hot, on the outskirts of the afternoon, when we reached Shrewsbury,
and drove to the Raven, which we called a bird of prey because it wanted
certain shillings for two large, cool rooms, though we should be glad
now to pay twice their sum. How haught the spirit grows when once it has
tasted the comparative cheapness of English inns! We alleged Chester, we
alleged Plymouth, we alleged Liverpool, in expostulation, but the Raven
would only offer us two smaller and warmer rooms for fewer shillings,
and so we drove to another hotel. We got two fair chambers there with
loaded casements, for much less money, and we looked from our pretty
windows down upon the green at the foot of St. Mary’s Church, and as far
up its heaven-climbing tower as we could crane our necks to see. I can
give no idea of our content in that proximity; it was as if we had the
lovely and venerable edifice all to ourselves, and as we listened to the
music in which it struck the hour and the next quarter of it, our hearts
sang in unison with a holy and tasteful joy.

But it seemed as if, though a sultry afternoon at Hereford,

    “The day increased from heat to heat,”

in its decline at Shrewsbury. We made a long evening of it before we
tried to sleep, and then our joy in the chimed quarters of St. Mary’s
clock was still tasteful, but not so holy as it had been at first. The
bells had miraculously transferred themselves to the interior of our
rooms, which were transformed into deeply murmuring belfries; and we
discovered that there were not four but twenty-four quarters in every
hour. These were computed by one stroke for the first quarter, two for
the next, four for the next, eight for the next, and so on until about a
thousand strokes told the final quarter in the twenty-four. In the mean
time the heat broke in a passion of rain. A thunder-storm came on, and
having the whole night before it, and being quite at leisure, it
bellowed and flashed till daylight, when it retired from the scene and
left it as hot as ever, and a great deal closer.

If the entire truth must be told, in that old border-town which, after
an inarticulate Roman antiquity, had held back the Welsh from England
for nearly a thousand years, and finally witnessed the triumph of the
Red Rose over the White in the fight where Hotspur Harry fell, we had
been allured by the delicious incongruity of seeing “The Belle of New
York” in the most alien of all possible environments. We had never seen
the piece in its native city; money could not there have overcome our
instinct of its abominable vulgarity, but here in a strange land (if our
English friends will let us call it so for the sake of the antithesis)
we made it an act of patriotism to go. We bought two proud front seats,
and found our way to them before a risen curtain, to realize too late
that until its fall there was no retreat for us. The theatre at
Shrewsbury is not large, under the best of circumstances, and that night
it was smaller than ever. Such was the favor of “The Belle of New York”
with that generous population, that every seat in the orchestra was
taken, and the walls of the edifice pressed suffocatingly inwards. On
the stage the heat was so concentrated that in the glare of the
foot-lights the faces of the performers steamed with perspiration
through the grease-paint of their faces, as they swayed and sang, and
leaped and bounded in obedience to the dramatist and composer, and
delivered our New York slang in a cockney convention of our local accent
which seemed entirely to satisfy the preconceptions of Shrewsbury.
Altogether, the piece enjoyed an acceptance with the audience which, in
the welding heat, was so little less than stifling that the adventurous
strangers, at the close of an act that lasted as long as a Greek
trilogy, escaped into the street with what was left of their lives. I
know that it is making an exorbitant demand upon the credulity of the
reader to relate that upon their return to Shrewsbury a week later these
strangers again went to see an American play in the same theatre, which
seemed to have been greatly enlarged in the interval, and so deliciously
lowered in temperature that in their balcony seats they all but shivered
through a melodrama of New York life professing to have been written by
Joseph Jefferson. There was an escape of the hero from prison in one
scene, and in another a still narrower escape from drowning in the East
River at the hands of perhaps the worst reprobate who ever came to a bad
end on the stage; and there was a set (I think it is called) of the
Brooklyn Bridge, which though attenuated and almost spectralized,
recalled the reality as measurably as the English Bobby in blue recalled
the massive Irish-American guardians of our public security. The
“Shadows of a Great City” did not convince us of our dear and
now-lamented Jefferson’s authorship; but it was not so unbearable as
“The Belle of New York,” for meteorological reasons, if not for others,
and upon the whole it interested, it flattered the mind to the fond
conjecture that here in this ancient, this beautiful town, the American
drama, if finally neglected in its own land, might be welcomed to a
prosperous and honored exile.

St. Mary’s Church was so near at hand that it could hardly fail of
repeated visits, and it merited a veneration which might have been more
instructed but could not have been more sincere than ours. In every
author who treats of it the riches of its stained glass is celebrated,
and I will not dwell upon its beauties or even its quaint simplicities.
The church is as old as Norman architecture can make it, and it invites
with a hundred interesting facts, so that I hardly know how to justify
the specific attraction which one piece of modern sculpture there had
from me above all other things. The tomb of General Curston by
Westonscott has not even the claim of being within the church, where so
many memorable and immemorable dead are remembered. It is in the square
basement of the tower, and the soldier’s figure is on your right as you
enter. He was perhaps not much known to history, being only an
adjutant-general, who fell in battle with the Sikhs at Runneggar in
1848, but no one who looks upon his countenance in the living stone can
forget it. His left hand rests at his side; his right lies on his heart
holding his sword; his soldier’s cloak opens, showing his medals. In the
realistically treated face, with its long drooping mustache and
whiskers, is a look of dreamy melancholy which, whatever the other
qualities of the work, is a masterpiece of expression. Of a period when
the commonplace asserted itself with a positive force almost universal
in the arts, this simple monument is of classic beauty.

As quaint as any of the earliest inscriptions on the monuments of the
church is the tablet in the outer wall of the tower to the bold
eighteenth-century aëronaut who came to his death in an endeavored
flight from its top to the farther bank of the Severn. It appears that
in this as in some other matters--

    “Not only we, the latest seed of time,
     That in the flying of a wheel cry down
     The past--”

have excelled or even failed. Nor is it probable that the bold youth who
perished in 1759 was the first to try imperfect wings in the region
where none have yet triumphed; and the faith of his epitapher is not
less touching than that of the many who survive to our own day in the
belief of antemortem aërostation.

    “Let this small monument record the name
     Of Cadmus, and to future time proclaim
     How by an attempt to fly from this high spire
     Across the Sabrine stream he did acquire
     His fatal end. ’Twas not for want of skill,
     Or courage to perform the task, he fell.
     No, no, a faulty cord being drawn too tight,
     Hurried his soul on high to take her flight.”

The imagination which does not rest its hopes on faulty cords, but
follows carefully, on the sure and firm-set earth, in the steps of fact
and then flies forward in most inspired conjecture, has its abiding in
the memory of the great Darwin, son of Shrewsbury town, and scholar of
her famous school. If we cannot count him

    “The first of these who know”

among such savans and philosophers as Jenner, Paley, Kennedy, and
Butler, his name will carry to further times than any other the glory of
that “faire free schoole,” founded by Edward VI., of which even in the
seventeenth century it could be written, “Itt hath fowr maisters, and
their are sometimes six hundred schollers, and a hansome library
thirunto belonging.” The stainless Sir Philip Sidney, and the
blood-stained Judge Jeffreys were both of its alumni, but it is the
statue of Darwin to which the devotees of evolution will bend their
steps in Shrewsbury. It was my fortune to find myself by chance in the
house where he lived with his first teacher, the Unitarian minister at
Shrewsbury, and to stand in the room where he began, very obliquely and
remotely, the studies which changed the thoughts of the world. But the
old man he became sits in bronze at a far remove from this in front of
the museum of Roman antiquities.

As a museum it is not so amusing as you might expect of a collection
containing the remains of Latin civilization from the Roman city of
Uriconium, long hidden from fame under the name of Wroxeter, which
lies, as my laconic Baedeker tells, “about 5 m. to the S. E.” of
Shrewsbury. But probably it is your want of archæology which disables
your interest in the province of these remains, while you readily
grapple with the fact that the museum itself is part of the old Edward
VI. foundation, and that Darwin, whose mild, wise face welcomes you up
the way to the building, often went it “unwillingly to school” in that
very place.

Another dear son of memory who may be associated with Shrewsbury was the
poet Coleridge, vaguely and vagariously great, who in his literary
nonage preached in the Unitarian chapel of the town. This chapel (“now
used,” my guide says, “by a Theistic congregation,”) was afterwards
partially destroyed by a mob which had the divinity of Christ so much at
heart that it could not suffer a Socinian place of worship; but it was
restored by the King’s command at the public cost, as we ought to
remember of that poor George III. whose name we cannot otherwise revere.
It was restored in the good architectural taste of the time, and as you
stand within it you might readily fancy yourself in some elderly fane of
our own once Unitarian Boston.

Darwin’s mother was of that cult, which has enjoyed rather a lion’s
share of the social discountenance falling to all dissent in England,
but the tale of his fellow-scholars in aftertimes and aforetimes at the
school of Edward VIth, shines with so many Established bishops and
divines, as to relieve Shrewsbury from any blight falling upon it for
that cause. With these, and such statesmen as Halifax, such dramatists
as Wycherley, such poets as Ambrose Phillips, such savans as Dr.
Jonathan Scott, the orientalist, Dr. Edward Waring, the mathematician,
Rev. C. H. Hartsborne, the antiquarian, the venerable foundation is
surely safe in the regard of the most liturgical.

But Shrewsbury swarms with all sorts of high associations. Here David,
the last of the old British Princes of Wales, was put to death by order
of the English King, and here in the last battle between the Roses, the
Welsh hope was finally broken in the defeat of the White Rose. Here
Falstaff fought with Harry Hotspur “a long hour by the Shrewsbury
clock”--probably the very clock in St. Mary’s tower which kept me awake
much longer; and here was born the second son of Henry IV., one of the
princes whom their wicked uncle Richard slew in the Tower. Here, in one
of his flights before his subjects, Charles I. stayed with the brief
splendor of his court about him, and minted the plate of the loyal
Shropshire gentry, till treachery overtook him (in the local
guide-book), and the town fell to the Parliament; and here James II.
paused a day when time was getting to be more than money to him. Twice
the good Queen Victoria visited the town, and once, long before, the
Prince of Darkness himself came, in storm and night, and spoiled the
clock of St. Alkmund, leaving a scratch from his claw on the fourth
bell. The precise occasion of his visit is not recorded, nor is it told
just why the effigy of Richard of York, the father of Edward IV., should
be standing, “clad in complete steel,” in front of the beautiful old
Market Hall, and stooped in an attitude of such apparent
discomfortableness that he is known to some of a light-minded generation
as the “Stomach-ache Man.”

The city is the home of those Shrewsbury cakes, famed in _The Ingoldsby
Legends_, and once offered to distinguished visitors, who thought them
“delicious,” but if they were then no better than now, we can imagine
how poor the living of the proudest was in olden times. Rather than the
bakery which professes to be the original Pallin’s, or even the Norman
castle from which Henry IV. went out to beat Henry Percy and his Yorkish
followers, the gentle reader will wish to see the quaint streets and
places in which the timbered houses called Tudor abound beyond the like
anywhere else in England. There are whole lengths and breadths of these,
some stately and tall, and some so humble and low that you can put your
hand on their eaves as you pass, but all so charming and so picturesque
that you could wish every house in the town to be like them. Failing
this, you must console yourself as best you can by visiting the most
beautiful old Abbey Church in the world: how old it is I will not say,
and how beautiful I cannot, but it fills the heart with reverence and
delight. I will not pretend that the inside is as lovely as the outside:
that could not be, and any one outlive the joy of it; but it is within
and without adorable. You do not require a late afternoon light on the
rich façade, but if you have it you are all the happier in its
century-mellowed masonry and the old-lace softness of the Gothic window
which opens over half its space. From the church you will fancy,
inadequately enough, what the whole abbey must have been before it fell
into ruin under the hand of Reform. But a relic of the monastic life
remains which will repay the enthusiast for going across the way and
putting his nose and eyes between the palings of the railroad
freight-yard in which it stands, and lingering long upon the sight of it
among the grime and dust of the place. It is the pulpit of the refectory
where some young brother used to stand to read to the other monks, while
they sat at meat, and listened to his prayer and praise, if anything,

[Illustration: THE ENGLISH BRIDGE]

and not to one another’s talk. That youthful ghost now reads to a
spectral brotherhood, not more dead now than then, to all the loveliness
of life; and the porters come and go through their shadowy company,
pushing their heavy trucks to and from the goods-vans, and from time to
time the engines lift their strident voices above the monotonous silence
of the reader’s words; and all is very weird and sad.

What should have possessed us to drive beyond the Abbey Church to view
“the quaint Dun Cow Inn,” heaven knows; but that was what we did, and
now I can testify that there is really an image of the Dun Cow standing
over its door, and challenging the spectator for any associations he has
with it. We had none, but I do not say it is not rich in associations
for the better-informed. Even we can suppose Coleridge stopping there,
and perhaps not being able to pay for the milk it yielded, and so
staying on till the youthful Hazlitt came and ordered the meal--in the
essay where he has so divinely rendered the consciousness of “the
gentleman in the parlor” waiting for his supper. We must have it that he
paid the poet’s bill; otherwise we should have seen him still pent and
peering sadly from the window, with the image of the Dun Cow watching
relentlessly overhead.

There are two bridges crossing the Severn at Shrewsbury: the English
Bridge and the Welsh Bridge, by which the Briton and the Sassenach
respectively went and came during the ages of border warfare before that
last battle of the Roses. Now the bridges are used by travellers who
wish to drink so deep of the Severn’s beauty (in which the softly wooded
shores are glassed as tenderly as a lover in his mistress’ eyes), that
they can never go away from Shrewsbury, but must remain glad captives
to the witchery of her wandering up-and-down-hill streets, her Tudor
houses, her beautiful churches, her enchanting remains of a past rich in
insurpassable events and men. I say insurpassable to round my period;
but there is no place in England that is not equally insurpassable in
these things.



XIII

NORTHAMPTON AND THE WASHINGTON COUNTRY


Great Brington is the name of the village neighborhood clustering
about the church where, under the floor of the nave, the
great-great-grandfather of George Washington lies buried. Little
Brington is the village neighborhood, hardly separated from the other,
where the Washington family dwelt in a house granted them by their
cousin, Earl Spencer, when the events of the Civil War drove them from
their ancestral place at Sulgrave. To reach the Bringtons from London
you must first go to Northampton, where in his time the first Lawrence
Washington was twice mayor. The necessity is not a hardship, for to see
Northampton, ever so passingly, is a delight such as only English travel
can offer. To drive the six miles from Northampton to the Bringtons is
another necessity which is another delight, still richer if not greater.
Be chosen by a 28th of September, veiled in a fog with sunny rifts in
its veil, for your railroad run through a level pastoral scene where
stemless blotches of trees shelter white blurs of sheep, and vague
canal-boats rest cloudily on the unseen waterways, and you have
conditions in which, if you are worthy, the hour of your journey will
shrink to a few golden minutes. You will be meanwhile kept by the
protecting mists from the manifold facts which in England are apt to
pierce you with a thousand appeals and reproaches. The many
much-storied places will be faded to wraiths of towers and gates and
walls, and you will escape to your destination without that torment of
regret for not having constantly stopped on the way from which nothing
could otherwise deliver you.

If at Northampton the fog lifts, and the autumnal sun has all the rest
of the day to itself, you arrive with unimpaired strength for what you
have come to see. Yet with all your energy conserved on the way, you
will not be fully equal to the demand upon you. Northampton did not fail
to begin with the Britons, and though it was not a permanent Roman
station, and lay dormant during the Saxon hierarchy, it revived
sufficiently under Saxon rule in the eleventh century to be twice taken
and once burnt by the Danish invaders. It suffered under the Normans,
but was walled and fortified in the Conqueror’s reign, and began a new
life with the inspiration of his oppressions. A picturesque incident of
its civil history, which was early a record of resistance to the royal
will, was Thomas à Becket’s defiance of Henry II., when the King tried
to reduce the proud churchman to the common obedience before the laws.
The archbishop, followed by great crowds of the people, appeared as
summoned, but when the Earl of Leicester bade him, in the old Norman
form, hear the judgment rendered against him, he interrupted with the
words, “Son and Earl, hear me first! I forbid you to judge me! I decline
your tribunal, and refer my quarrel to the decision of the Pope.” Then
he retired, and shortly escaped to Flanders, but coming back to
Canterbury, was murdered, as all men know, by four of the King’s
knights, at the altar in the cathedral.

Perhaps the feeling of the people was less for the prelate than against
the prince, for the first Protestant heresies spread rapidly in
Northampton, and the doctrines of Wickliffe had such acceptance that the
mayor himself was accused of holding them, and of favoring the spread of
Lollardy. In the two great Civil Wars, Northampton stood for the White
Rose and then for the Parliament, against the two kings. In 1460, a
great battle was fought under the city’s walls; ten thousand of Henry’s
“tall Englishmen” were killed or drowned in the river Nene, and Henry
himself was brought prisoner into the town. In 1642, the guns of the
Puritan garrison “plaid for about two hours” on “the cavaleers and shot
about twenty of them” when they attempted to assault the place, which
became a rendezvous for the parliamentarians, and sent them frequent aid
from its fifteen thousand in their attacks on the neighboring places
holding for the King. In 1645, both parties met in force, a little
northwest of the town, and Cromwell, who had joined Fairfax, won the
battle of Naseby after Fairfax had lost it, and with an overwhelming
victory ended the war against Charles.

If any Washingtons were in the fight, as some of so numerous a line
might very well have been, it was on the King’s side. They put their
faith in princes while they remained in England; it wanted yet a hundred
and thirty years, at the remoteness of Virginia, to school them to the
final diffidence which they were not the first of the Americans to feel.
The slow evolution of the race out of devoted subjects into devoted
citizens was accomplished in stuff other than that of the Puritan chief
who soon after could “say this of Naseby,--that when I saw the enemy
draw up and march in gallant order towards us, and we a company of poor
ignorant men ... I could not, riding alone about my business, but smile
out to God in praises, in assurance of victory, because God would by
things that are not, bring to naught things that are. Of which I had
great assurance, and God did it.” Yet the faith in poor common men, once
kindled in Washington, if not so mixed with piety as Cromwell’s,
outlasted that through parliamentary trials as severe as ever it was put
to by poor uncommon men.

Non-conformity, civil as well as religious, which the Washingtons were
no part of, was the note of Northampton from the first, and to the last
it has been represented in Parliament by such bold dissentients as
Bradlaugh and Mr. Labouchere. It is the great shoe-town of England, and
apparently there is nothing like leather to inspire a manly resistance
to the pretensions of authority. But the Washingtons of Northampton were
never any part of the revolt against kingly assumptions. The Lawrence
Washington who was twice Mayor of Northampton profited by Henry VIII.’s
suppression of the monasteries to possess himself of Sulgrave Manor,
where his descendants dwelt for a hundred years and more, until 1658,
when their discomforts under the Commonwealth, and their failing
fortunes, made them glad of the protection of their noble kindred the
Spencers at Brington.

It is not clear how the house at Little Brington, which is known as the
Washington house, was granted them, or how much it was loan or gift of
the Spencers; but it does not greatly matter now. The Washingtons, who
had shared the politics of their cousins, were rather passive royalists,
but they suffered the adversities of the cause they had chosen, and they
did not apparently enjoy the prosperity which the Restoration brought to
such of their side as could extort recognition from the

[Illustration: THE WASHINGTON HOUSE AT LITTLE BRINGTON]

second Charles, as thankless as the first Charles was faithless; and
neither the Washingtons who staid in England, nor those who went to
Virginia, had ever any profit from their fidelity to the Stuarts. They
were gentlemen, who were successful in business when they turned to
trade, but in the household records of their noble cousins at their seat
of Althorp there is said to be proof of the frequent goodness of the
Spencers to the needy Washingtons of Little Brington. If the Washingtons
paid for the favor they enjoyed in the ways that poor relations do, it
is not to the discredit of either line that a lady of their family
should have been at one time housekeeper at Althorp. One fancies, quite
gratuitously, that Lucy Washington was a woman of spirit who wished to
earn the favor which her people had, whether less or more, from their
kinsfolk. Two of the Washingtons elsewhere, who made fortunes, were
knighted, but the direct ancestor of our Washington was a clergyman who
suffered more than the common misfortunes of the Washingtons at
Brington. He was falsely accused of drunkenness at a time when any
charge was willingly heard against a royalist clergyman, and was ejected
from his rich benefice as a scandalous minister. His character was
afterwards cleared, but he had thenceforth only a small living to the
end, and probably was, like his kindred at Brington, befriended by the
Spencers.

The Lawrence Washington who was Mayor of Northampton and the grantee of
Sulgrave, was chosen first in 1532 and last in 1546. The place was then,
as it continued to be for a hundred and thirty odd years, the mediæval
town of which the visitor now sees only a few relics in here and there
an ancient house. Happily most of the old churches escaped the fire that
swept away the old dwellings in 1675, and left the modern Northampton
to grow up from their ashes the somewhat American-looking town we now
find it. The side streets are set with neat brick houses, prevailingly
commonplace. One might fancy one’s self, coming towards the Church of
All Saints, in the business centre of some minor New England city, but
with rather less of glare and noise, and held in a certain abeyance by
the presence of the church. All Saints is not one of the churches which
escaped the flames; and of the original structure only the Gothic tower
is left; the rest, a somewhat vague little history of the city says, “is
wholly modern.” But modernity, like some other things, is relative, and
a New England town might find a very satisfying antiquity in an edifice
which at its latest dates back to Queen Anne, and at its earliest to
Charles II. The King gave a thousand tons of timber from his forest of
Whittlebury towards the rebuilding of the church, and for this
munificence he has been immortalized by sculpture over the centre of a
most beautiful and noble Ionic, or Christopher-Wrennish, portico, where
he stands in the figure of a Roman centurion, with, naturally, a
full-bottomed wig on. Few heroic statues are more amusing, and the
spirit of the royal reprobate so travestied might be very probably
supposed to share the spectator’s enjoyment. Behind one end of the
portico, which extends for eighty feet across the whole front of the
church, were once the rooms in which many non-conformists of Northampton
were tried for the offence of thinking for themselves in matters of
religion, which were then so apt to become matters of politics.

The members of the Corporation were formerly the patrons of the living,
and the mayor still has his seat in the church under the arms of the
town, and doubtless that official had it in the older building before
the fire,

[Illustration: THE BUSINESS CENTRE OF NORTHAMPTON]

when the mayor was Lawrence Washington. In the wall is a tablet to the
memory of a man who was born in the century when Lawrence was twice
chosen chief magistrate of Northampton, and who died in the century when
George Washington was twice chosen Chief Magistrate of the United
States. John Bailes was a button-maker by trade, and if he links the
memories of those far-parted Washingtons together, by force of
longevity, it is with no merit of his, though it is recorded of him that
“he had his hearing, Sight & Memory to ye last.” I leave more mystical
inquirers to trace a relationship between the actual civilizations of
Northampton and the United States in the presence, beside the church, of
a house of refection, liquid rather than solid, calling itself the
Geisha Café. If ever the ghost of the Merry Monarch comes to haunt his
Roman effigy in the full-bottomed wig, it may humorously linger a moment
at the door of the genial resort.

It is mainly through her churches that Northampton has her hold on the
American patriot who is also a person of taste, as one must try to be in
going from one church to another. The reader who could give as many days
to them as I could give minutes, would have a proportional reward,
whether from St. Peter’s, unsurpassed for the effect of its rich Norman;
or from St. Sepulchre, with the rotunda which marks it one of the four
churches remaining in England out of all those built during the Crusades
in memory of the Holy Sepulchre. There are other old churches, but
perhaps not dating back with these to the ten and eleven hundreds. One,
which I cannot now identify, bears tragical witness to the rigor of the
times in the scars on the masonry about the height of a man, where
certain royalists were stood beside the portal to be shot. The wonder is
that the grief ever goes out of such things, but it does, and they who
died, and they who did them to death, have long been friends in their
children’s children.

It is curious how everything becomes matter of æsthetic interest, if you
give it time. We stood looking at the Queen’s Cross, near Northampton,
which rises not so very far from the field of Naseby, and with our eyes
on the wasted beauty of the shrine, we two Americans begun by a common
impulse to say verses from Macaulay’s stalwart ballad of the battle. Our
English companion, who was a cleric of high ritualistic type, listened
unmoved by any conscience he might have had against the purport of the
lines as we rolled them forth, and, for all we could see, he had the
same quality of pleasure as ourselves in the adjuration to the Puritans
to “bear up another minute” for the coming of “brave Oliver,” and in the
supposed narrator’s abhorrence of “the man of blood,” whom brave Oliver
presently put to rout.

    But see, he turns, he flies! Shame on those cruel eyes
      That bore to look on torture and that dare not look on war.

If he had a feeling as to our feeling, it was amusement that after two
centuries and a half there should be any feeling about either party in
the strife, and doubtless he did not take us too seriously.

He sent us later on our way to Great Brington with the assurance that
the rector of the church would be waiting us in it to show us the tomb
of the Washington buried there. His courtesy was the merit of my friend
the genealogist with whom I had exhausted the American origins in
London, and who had now come with me into the country for the most
important of them all. When we were well started on our drive, that
divine September afternoon, we would gladly have had it twelve rather
than six miles from Northampton to Great Brington. The road was
uncommonly open, or else it was lifted above the wonted level of English
roads, and we could see over the tops of the hedges into the fields,
instead of making the blindfold progress to which the wayfarer is
usually condemned. It was not too late in the year or the day for a
song-bird or so, and the wayside roses and hawthorns were so red with
hips and haws that we gave them the praise of an American coloring for
their foliage till we looked closer and found that the gayety was not of
their leaves. Where the leaves felt the fall, they showed it in a sort
of rheumatic stiffness, and a paling of their green to a sad gray, or a
darkening of it to a yet sadder brown. But we did not notice this till
we had turned from the highway, and were driving through Althorp Park.
There was a model farm village before our turning, where some nobleman
had experimented in making his tenants more comfortable than they could
afford, in cottages too uniformly Tudoresque; but at differing
distances, in various hollows and on various tops, there were more
indigenous hamlets, huddling about the towers of their churches, and
showing a red blur of tiles or a dun blur of walls, as we saw them alow
or aloft. When we got well into the park there was only the undulation
of the wooded surfaces, where wide oaks stood liberally about with an
air of happy accident in their informal relation. I should like, for the
sake of my romantic page, to put does under them; they were a very fit
shelter for does; and I have read that does may sometimes be seen
lightly flying from the visitors’ approach through the glades of the
park. It was my characteristically commonplace luck to see none, but I
hope that in their absence the reader will make no objection to the
black and white sheep which I did abundantly see feeding everywhere. It
will be remembered, or not unwillingly learned, that sheep were once the
ambition, the enthusiasm of the Spencers, who made them early an
interest of the region, so that it was the most perverse of fates which
kept their greatest flock down to 19,999, when they aimed at 20,000.
Still, if they were black-nosed sheep, the lower figure might represent
a value greater than 20,000 of the common white-nosed sort. A black nose
gives a sheep the touch of character which the species too often lacks:
a hardy air of almost goatlike effrontery, yet without the cold-eyed
irony of the goat, which forbids the lover of wickedness the sympathy
which the black-nosed sheep inspires. A black-nosed lamb affects one
more like a bad little boy whose face has not been washed that morning,
or for several mornings, than anything else in nature; and it would not
be easy to say which was more suggestive of racial innocence mixed with
personal depravity. I am not able to say whether a black nose in a sheep
adds to the merit of its mutton or its fleece, but I am sure that it
adds a piquant charm to its appearance, and I do not know why we have
not that variety of sheep in America. I dare say we have.

When presently we drove past Althorp house, standing at a dignified
remove from our course, which was effectively the highway, I felt in its
aspects the modernity which has always been characteristic of the
family. It is of that agreeable period when the English architects were
beginning to study for country houses the form of domestic classic which
the Italian taught those willing to learn of them simplicity and grace
at harmony with due state, and which is still the highest type of a
noble mansion. The lady of the house more than two centuries back had
been the Saccharissa of Suckling’s verse, and her charm remained to my
vague associations with the place, where she figured in the revels of
happier times, and then in her beneficences to the distressed clergy
after the Civil War, when the darker days came to those of the Spencer
praying and fighting. There is no reason why she should not be related
in these to the Washingtons, who needed if they did not experience her
kindness, and if the reader wishes to strain a point and make her more
the friend than mistress of that Lucy Washington who was sometime
housekeeper at Althorp, I will not be the one to gainsay him. For all
me, he may figure these ladies in the priceless library of Althorp:
priceless then, but sold in our tunes to Mrs. Rylands at Manchester, for
a million and a half, and there made a monument to her husband’s memory.
Many bolder things have been feigned than these ladies sitting together
among the books, which would be the native air of the rhyme-worn
Saccharissa, and discoursing with Mistress Lucy’s kinsman, Lawrence
Washington, lately Fellow of Brasenose College, and lecturer and proctor
at Oxford, and now rector of Purleigh, whence he was to be wrongfully
removed for drunkenness: all with the simultaneity so common in the
romance of historical type. How they would thee and thou one another as
cousins of the seventeenth-century sort I leave the archæological
novelist to inquire, gladly making over to him all my right and title in
the affair. If he wishes to lug in the arrest of King Charles by Cornet
Joyce of the Parliament forces, he can do it with no great violence, for
it really happened hard by at Holmby House, whence the King was fond of
coming to enjoy the gardens of Althorp. He can have Saccharissa and
Mistress Lucy Washington, and his reverence Mr. Washington, looking
down at the incident from a window of the library, and if he is the
romanticist I take him for, he will easily have young Lawrence rapt in a
vision of his great-great-grandson arresting the kingly power in
America. The vision will have all the more fitness, in the reflections
it suggests to the ancestor, from the fact, of which he will also be
prescient, that both the Washingtons and Spencers, devoted and perhaps
unreasoning royalists in their days, were destined to become more and
more freed from their superstition, and to stand for greater freedom
under different forms, as time went on. In his prophetic rapture, the
Reverend Lawrence may have been puzzled to choose among his
great-great-grandsons who was to fulfil it, for he was the father of a
populous family counting seventeen in the first descent, and he could
not have been blamed if he could not know George Washington by name, or
identify him in his historical character.

It is this Lawrence Washington whose tablet one goes to revere in the
church at Great Brington, where he lies entombed with the mother of his
eight sons and nine daughters; and if one arrives at the sort of
headland where the church stands on such a September afternoon as ours,
and looks out from it over the lovely country undulating about its feet,
one must try hard in one’s memory or imagination to match it with a
scene of equal beauty. Of like beauty there is none except in some other
English scenes like the home of Washington’s ancestors, and it is
English in every feature and expression. The fields with their dividing
hedges, the farmsteads snuggling in the hollows, the grouped or solitary
trees, all softened in a sunny haze, and tented over with the milky-blue
sky, form a landscape of which the immediate village, at the left of the
headland, is a foreground,

[Illustration: THE CHURCH AT GREAT BRINGTON

Under the floor of the nave was buried the first Lawrence Washington,
great-great-grandfather of George Washington]

with the human interest without which no picture lives.

I suppose that if I had been given my choice whether to have one of
these village houses unroofed, and its simple drama revealed to me, I
should have poorly chosen that rather than had the wooden cover lifted
from the church floor where it protects the mortuary tablet of Lawrence
Washington and his wife from the passing tread. But the rector of the
church at Great Brington could not have gratified me in my preference,
whereas he could and did lift the lid from the tablet in the nave, and
let us read the inscription, and see the armorial bearings, in which the
stars and stripes of our flag slept, undreaming of future glory, in the
chrysalis arrest of the centuries since they had been the arms of a race
of Northamptonshire gentlemen. The rector was in fact waiting for us at
the church door, hospitably mindful of the commendation of our
Northampton clerical friend, and we saw the edifice to all the advantage
that his thoughtful patience could lend us. He had at once some other
guests, in the young man and young woman who followed us in with their
dog. They recalled themselves to the rector, who received them somewhat
austerely, with his eyes hard upon their companion. “Did you mean to
bring that animal with you?” he asked, and they pretended that the dog
was an interloper, and the young man put him out in as much disgrace as
he could bring himself to inflict. Probably there was an understanding
between him and the dog; but the whole party took the rector’s reproof
with a smiling humility and an unabated interest in the claims of the
Washington tablet, and in fact the whole church, upon their attention.
They somewhat distracted my own, which is at best an idle sort, easily
wandering from Early English architecture to Later English character,
and from perpendicular windows to people of any inclination. Yet, the
church at Great Brington is most worthy to be studied in detail, for it
is “notable even among the famous churches of Northamptonshire,” and it
is the fitting last home of Washington’s ancestors.

I bring myself with some difficulty to own that the specific knowledge I
have on this point, and several others in this vague narration, I owe to
an agreeable sketch of “The Homes of the Washingtons” by Mr. John
Leyland. But if I did not own it, some one would find me out, and it is
best to confess my obligation together with my gratitude. I wish I had
had the sketch with me at the time of my visit to Great Brington church,
but I had not, and I lingered about in the church-yard, after we came
out and the rector must leave us, under the spell of a quiet and in the
keeping of associations unalloyed by information. For this reason I am
unable to attribute its true significance to the old cross which stands
apart from the church, and guides and guards the way to the place of
graves beside it. I must own that at first glance it has somewhat the
effect of an old-fashioned sign-post at an inn yard, and perhaps that
were no bad symbol of the welcome the peaceful place holds for the
life-weary wayfarers who lie down to their rest in it. Great Brington
remains to me an impression of cottage streets,--doubtless provided with
some shops. But when we had taken leave of the rector, and looked our
last at the elegy-breathing church-yard, with its turf heaving in many a
mouldering heap as if in decasyllabic quatrains, we drove away to see
the Washington house in Little Brington.

When you come to it, or do not come to it, you find Little Brington
nothing but a dwindling Great Brington, or a wider and more shopless
dispersion of its cottages on one long street, which is really the
highroad back to Northampton. Some bad little boys hung on to the rear
of our carriage, and other little boys, quite as bad, I dare say, ran
beside us, and invited our driver to “Cut be’oind, cut be’oind!”
probably in the very accents, mellow and rounded, of our ancestral
Washingtons. They all dropped away before we stopped at the gate of the
very simple house where these Washingtons dwelt. It is a thatched stone
house, of a Tudor touch in architecture, with rooms on each side of the
front door and a tablet over that, lettered with the text, “The Lord
giveth and the Lord taketh away: blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Perhaps in other times it was of the dignity of a manor-house, but now
it was inhabited by decent farmfolk, and very neatly kept. The farmwife
who let us go up-stairs and down and all through it was a friendly soul,
but apparently puzzled by our interest in it, and I fancied not many
pilgrims worshipped at that shrine. It was rather ruder and humbler
within than without; the flooring was rough, and the whitewashed walls
of the little chambers were roughly plastered; neither these nor the
living-rooms below had the beauty or interest of many colonial houses in
New England. There was a little vegetable-gardened space behind the
house, and a low stable, or some sort of shed, and on the comb of the
roof an English true robin redbreast perched, darkly outlined against
the clear September sky, and swelled his little red throat, and sang and
sang. It was very pretty, and he sang much better than the big awkward
thrush which we call a robin at home.

Our lovely day which had begun so dim, was waning in a sweet
translucency, and we drove back to Northampton over gentle uplands
through afternoon influences of a rich peacefulness. The road-side
hedgerows now kept us from seeing much beyond them, but they were red,
like those we passed in coming, with haws and wild rosepips, which we
again took for a flush of American autumn in their leaves; but the trees
were really of a sober yellow, with here and there, on a house wall, a
flame of Japanese ivy or Virginia creeper. The way was dotted with
shoe-hands, men and girls, going home early from the unprosperous shops
which our driver said were running only half-time. But even on half-pay
they earned so much more than they could on the land that the farmers,
desperate for help, could pay only a nominal rent. Much of the land was
sign-boarded for sale, and this and the unusual number of wooden
cottages gave us a very home feeling. In our illusion, we easily took
for crows the rooks sailing over the fields.


THE END

       *       *       *       *       *


FOOTNOTE:

[A] BATH.

Rules laid down by Richard Nash, Esq., M.C., put up by Authority in the
Pump Room and observed at Bath Assemblies during his reign.

I.

“That a visit of ceremony at coming to Bath, and another going
away, is all that is expected or desired by Ladies of Quality and
Fashion--except Impertinents.

II.

“That Ladies coming to the Ball appoint a Time for their Footmens
coming to wait on them Home, to prevent Disturbances and Inconveniences
to Themselves and Others.

III.

“That Gentlemen of Fashion never appearing in a Morning before the
Ladies in Gowns and Caps shew Breeding and Respect.

IV.

“That no Person take it ill that any one goes to another’s Play or
breakfast and not to theirs;--except Captious by Nature.

V.

“That no Gentleman give his Tickets for the Balls to any but
Gentlewomen;--N. B. Unless he has none of his Acquaintance.

VI.

“That Gentlemen crowding before the Ladies at the Ball, shew ill
Manners; and that none do so for the Future;--except such as respect
nobody but themselves.

VII.

“That no Gentleman or Lady take it ill that another Dances before
them;--except such as have no Pretence to dance at all.

VIII.

“That the Elder Ladies and Children be contented with a Second Bench at
the Ball, as being past, or not come to Perfection.

IX.

“That the younger Ladies take notice how many Eyes observe them;--This
don’t extend to the Have-at-all’s.

X.

“That all whisperers of Lies and Scandal be taken for their Authors.

XI.

“That all Repeaters of such Lies and Scandal be shun’d by all
Company;--except such as have been guilty of the same Crime.

“_N. B.--Several Men of no Character, Old Women and Young Ones of
Questioned Reputation, are great Authors of Lies in this place, being
of the sect of LEVELLERS._”

                                                             Date 1707.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Certain delightful English towns, with glimpses of the pleasant country between" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home