Road to London.—Royal Pastime.—Cockney Coachman.—Winchester Assizes.
—Approach to London.—The Parks.—Piccadilly.—Street Excursion.
—Strangers in London.—Americans in England.—Westminster Abbey.
—Gothic Decorations.—Westminster Hall.—Inquisitive Barber.—Pasta
and Malibran.—Drury-lane Theatre.—A Pickpocket.—A Fellow-traveller.
—English Gentlemen.—A Radical.—Encampment of Gipsies.—National
To R. COOPER, ESQ. COOPERSTOWN.
At a very early hour one of the London coaches stopped at the door. I had secured a seat by the side of the coachman, and we went through the "bar" at a round trot. The distance was about sixty miles, and I had paid a guinea for my place. There were four or five other passengers, all on the outside.
The road between Southampton and London is one of little interest; even the highway itself is not as good as usual, for the first twenty or thirty miles, being made chiefly of gravel, instead of broken stones. The soil for a long distance was thirsty, and the verdure was nearly gone. England feels a drought sooner than most countries, probably from the circumstances of its vegetation being so little accustomed to the absence of moisture, and to the comparative lightness of the dews. The winds, until just before the arrival of the Hudson, had been blowing from the eastward for several weeks, and in England this is usually a dry wind. The roads were dusty, the hedges were brown, and the fields had nothing to boast of over our own verdure. Indeed, it is unusual to see the grasses of New York so much discoloured, so early in the season.
I soon established amicable relations with my companion on the box. He had been ordered at the Vine to stop for an American, and he soon began to converse about the new world. "Is America anywhere near Van Diemen's Land?" was one of his first questions. I satisfied him on this head, and he apologised for the mistake, by explaining that he had a sister settled in Van Diemen's Land, and he had a natural desire to know something about her welfare! We passed a house which had more the air of a considerable place than any I had yet seen, though of far less architectural pretensions than the miniature castle near Cowes. This, my companion informed me, had once been occupied by George IV. when Prince of Wales. "Here his Royal Highness enjoyed what I call the perfection of life, sir; women, wine, and fox-hunting!" added the professor of the whip, with the leer of a true amateur.
These coachmen are a class by themselves. They have no concern with grooming the horses, and keep the reins for a certain number of relays. They dress in a particular way, without being at all in livery or uniform, like the continental postilions, talk in a particular way, and act in a particular way. We changed this personage for another, about half the distance between Southampton and London. His successor proved to be even a still better specimen of his class. He was a thorough cockney, and altogether the superior of his country colleague, he was clearly the oracle of the boys, delivering his sentiments in the manner of one accustomed to dictate to all in and about the stables. In addition to this, there was an indescribable, but ludicrous salvo to his dignity, in the way of surliness. Some one had engaged him to carry a blackbird to town, and caused him to wait. On this subject he sang a Jeremiad in the true cockney key. "He didn't want to take the bla-a-a-ck-bud; but if the man wanted to send the bla-a-a-ck-bud, why didn't he bring the bla-a-a-ck-bud?" This is one of the hundred dialects of the lower classes of the English. One of the horses of the last team was restiff, and it became necessary to restrain him by an additional curb before we ventured into the streets of London. I intimated that I had known such horses completely subdued in America by filling their ears with cotton. This suggestion evidently gave offence, and he took occasion soon after to show it. He wrung the nose of the horse with a cord, attaching its end below, in the manner of a severe martingale. While going through this harsh process, which, by the way, effectually subdued the animal, he had leisure to tell him that "he was an English horse, and not an out-landish horse, and he knew best what was good for him," with a great deal more similar sound nationality.
Winchester was the only town of any importance on the road. It is pleasantly seated in a valley, is of no great size, is but meanly built, though extremely neat, has a cathedral and a bishop, and is the shire-town of Hampshire. The assizes were sitting, and Southampton was full of troops that had been sent from Winchester, in order to comply with a custom which forbids the military to remain near the courts of justice. England is full of these political mystifications, and it is one of the reasons that she is so much in arrears in many of the great essentials. In carrying out the practice in this identical case, a serious private wrong was inflicted, in order that, in form, an abstract and perfectly useless principle might be maintained. The inns at Southampton were filled with troops, who were billeted on the publicans, will ye, nill ye; and not only the masters of the different houses, but travellers were subjected to a great inconvenience, in order that this abstraction might not be violated. There may be some small remuneration, but no one can suppose for a moment, that the keeper of a genteel establishment of this nature wishes to see his carriage-houses, gateways, and halls thronged with soldiers. Society oppresses him to maintain appearances! At the present day the presence of soldiers might be the means of sustaining justice, while there is not the smallest probability that they would be used for contrary purposes, except in cases in which this usage or law—for I believe there is a statue for it—would not be in the least respected. This is not an age, nor is England the country, in which a judge is to be overawed by the roll of a drum. All sacrifices of common sense, and all recourse to plausible political combinations, whether of individuals or of men, are uniformly made at the expense of the majority. The day is certainly arrived when absurdities like these should be done away with.
The weather was oppressively hot, nor do I remember to have suffered more from the sun than during this little journey. Were I to indulge in the traveller's propensity to refer everything to his own state of feeling, you might be told what a sultry place England is in July. But I was too old a sailor not to understand the cause. The sea is always more temperate than the land, being cooler in summer and warmer in winter. After being thirty days at sea, we all feel this truth, either in one way or the other. I was quitting the coast, too, which is uniformly cooler than the interior.
When some twelve or thirteen miles from town, the coachman pointed to a wood enclosed by a wall, on our left. A rill trickled from the thicket, and ran beneath the road. I was told that Virginia Water lay there, and that the evening before a single footpad had robbed a coach in that precise spot, or within a few hundred yards of the very place where the King of England at the moment was amusing himself with the fishing-rod. Highway robberies, however are now of exceedingly rare occurrence, that in question being spoken of as the only one within the knowledge of my informant for many years.
Our rate of travelling was much the same as that of one of our own better sort of stages. The distance was not materially less than that between Albany and C——n; the roads were not so hilly, and much better than our own road; and yet, at the same season, we usually perform it in about the same time that we went the distance between Southampton and London. The scenery was tame, nor, with the exception of Winchester, was there a single object of any interest visible until we got near London. We crossed the Thames, a stream of trifling expanse, and at Kew we had a glimpse of an old German-looking edifice in yellow bricks, with towers, turrets, and battlements. This was one of the royal palaces. It stood on the opposite side of the river, in the midst of tolerably extensive grounds. Here a nearly incessant stream of vehicles commenced. I attempted to count the stage-coaches, and got as high as thirty-three, when we met a line of mail-coaches, that caused me to stop in despair. I think we met not less than fifty within the last hour of our journey. There were seven belonging to the mail in one group. They all leave London at the same hour, for different parts of the kingdom.
At Hyde Park Corner I began to recall objects known in my early visits to London. Apsley House had changed owners, and had become the property of one whose great name was still in the germ, when I had last seen his present dwelling. The Parks, a gateway or two excepted, were unchanged. In the row of noble houses that line Piccadilly—in that hospital-looking edifice, Devonshire House—in the dingy, mean, irregular, and yet interesting front of St. James's—in Brookes's, White's, the Thatched House, and various other historical monuments, I saw no change. Buckingham House had disappeared, and an unintelligible pile was rising on its ruins. A noble "palazzo-non-finito" stood at the angle between the Green and St. James's Parks, and here and there I discovered houses of better architecture than London was wont of old to boast. One of the very best of these, I was told, was raised in honour of Mercury, and probably out of his legitimate profits. It is called Crockford's.
Our "bla-a-a-ck-bud" pulled up in the Strand, at the head of Adam-street, Adelphi, and I descended from my seat at his side. An extra shilling brought the glimmering of a surly smile athwart his blubber-cheeks, and we parted in good-humour. My fellow-travellers were all men of no very high class, but they had been civil, and were sufficiently attentive to my wants, when they found I was a stranger, by pointing out objects on the road, and explaining the usages of the inns. One of them had been in America, and he boasted a little of his intimacy with General This and Commodore That. At one time, too, he appeared somewhat disposed to institute comparisons between the two countries, a good deal at our expense, as you may suppose; but as I made no answers, I soon heard him settling it with his companions, that, after all, it was quite natural a man should not like to hear his own country abused; and so he gave the matter up. With this exception, I had no cause of complaint, but, on the contrary, good reason to be pleased.
I was set down at the Adam-street Hotel, a house much frequented by Americans. The respectable woman who has so long kept it received me with quiet civility, saw that I had a room, and promised me a dinner in a few minutes. While the latter was preparing, having got rid of the dust, I went out into the streets. The lamps were just lighted, and I went swiftly along the Strand, recalling objects at every step. In this manner I passed, at a rapid pace, Somerset House, St. Clement's-le-Dane, St. Mary-le-Strand, Temple-bar, Bridge-street, Ludgate-hill, pausing only before St. Paul's. Along the whole of this line I saw but little change. A grand bridge, Waterloo, with a noble approach to it, had been thrown across the river just above Somerset House, but nearly everything else remained unaltered. I believe my manner, and the eagerness with which I gazed at long-remembered objects, attracted attention; for I soon observed I was dogged around the church by a suspicious-looking fellow. He either suspected me of evil, or, attracted by my want of a London air, he meditated evil himself. Knowing my own innocence, I determined to bring the matter to an issue. We were alone, in a retired part of the place, and, first making sure that my watch, wallet, and handkerchief had not already disappeared, I walked directly up to him, and looked him intently in the face, as if to recognize his features. He took the hint, and, turning on his heels, moved nimbly of. It is surprising how soon an accustomed eye will distinguish a stranger in the streets of a large town. On mentioning this circumstance next day to ——, he said that the Londoners pretend to recognize a rustic air in a countess, if she has been six months from town. Rusticity in such cases, however, must merely mean a little behind the fashions.
I had suffered curiosity to draw me two miles from my dinner, and was as glad to get back as just before I had been to run away from it. Still the past, with the recollections which crowded on the mind, bringing with them a flood of all sorts of associations, prevented me from getting into a coach, which would, in a measure, have excluded objects from my sight. I went to bed that night with the strange sensation of being again in London, after an interval of twenty years.
The next day I set about the business which had brought me to the English capital. Most of our passengers were in town, and we met, as a matter of course. I had calls from three or four Americans established here, some in one capacity, and some in others; for our country has long been giving back its increase to England, in the shape of admirals, generals, judges, artists, writers and notion-mongers. But what is all this compared to the constant accessions of Europeans among ourselves? Eight years later, on returning home, I found New York, in feeling, opinions, desires, (apart from profit,) and I might almost say, in population, a foreign rather than American town.
I had passed months in London when a boy, and yet had no knowledge of Westminster Abbey! I cannot account for this oversight, for I was a great devotee of Gothic architecture, of which, by the way, I knew nothing, except through the prints; and I could not reproach myself with a want of proper curiosity on such subjects, for I had devoted as much time to their examination as my duty to the ship would at all allow. Still, all I could recall of the abbey was an indistinct image of two towers, with a glimpse in at a great door. Now that I was master of my own movements, one of my first acts was to hurry to the venerable church.
Westminster Abbey is built in the form of a cross, as is, I believe, invariably the case with every Catholic church of any pretension. At its northern end are two towers, and at its southern is the celebrated chapel of Henry VII. This chapel is an addition, which, allowing for a vast difference in the scale, resembles, in its general appearance, a school, or vestry-room, attached to the end of one of our own churches. A Gothic church is, indeed, seldom complete without such a chapel. It is not an easy matter to impress an American with a proper idea of European architecture. Even while the edifice is before his eyes, he is very apt to form an erroneous opinion of its comparative magnitude. The proportions aid deception in the first place, and absence uniformly exaggerates the beauty and extent of familiar objects. None but those who have disciplined the eye, and who have accustomed themselves to measure proportions by rules more definite than those of the fancy, should trust to their judgments in descriptions of this sort.
Westminster itself is not large, however, in comparison with St. Paul's, and an ordinary parish church, called St. Margaret's, which must be, I think, quite as large as Trinity, New York, and stands within a hundred yards of the abbey, is but a pigmy compared with Westminster. I took a position in St. Margaret's church-yard, at a point where the whole of the eastern side of the edifice might be seen, and for the first time in my life gazed upon a truly Gothic structure of any magnitude. It was near sunset, and the light was peculiarly suited to the sombre architecture. The material was a grey stone, that time had rendered dull, and which had broad shades of black about its angles and faces. That of the chapel was fresher, and of a warmer tint; a change well suited to the greater delicacy of the ornaments.
The principal building is in the severer style of the Gothic, without, however, being one of its best specimens. It is comparatively plain, nor are the proportions faultless. The towers are twins, are far from being high, and to me they have since seemed to have a crowded appearance, or to be too near each other; a defect that sensibly lessens the grandeur of the north front. A few feet, more or less, in such a case, may carry the architect too much without, or too much within, the just proportions. I lay claim to very little science on the subject, but I have frequently observed since, that, to my own eye, (and the uninitiated can have no other criterion,) these towers, as seen from the parks, above the tops of the trees, have a contracted and pinched air.
But while the abbey church itself is as plain as almost any similar edifice I remember, its great extent, and the noble windows and doors, rendered it to me deeply impressive. On the other hand, the chapel is an exquisite specimen of the most elaborated ornaments of the style. All sorts of monstrosities have, at one period or another, been pressed into the service of the Gothic, such as lizards, toads, frogs, serpents, dragons, spitfires, and salamanders. There is, I believe, some typical connexion between these offensive objects and the different sins. When well carved, properly placed, and not viewed too near, their effect is far from bad. They help to give the edifice its fretted appearance, or a look resembling that of lace. Various other features, which have been taken from familiar objects, such as parts of castellated buildings, portcullises, and armorial bearings, help to make up the sum of the detail. On Henry the Seventh's chapel, toads, lizards, and the whole group of metaphorical sins are sufficiently numerous, without being offensively apparent; while miniature portcullises, escutcheons, and other ornaments, give the whole the rich and imaginative—almost fairy-like aspect,—which forms the distinctive feature of the most ornamented portions of the order. You have seen ivory work-boxes from the East, that were cut and carved in a way to render them so very complicated, delicate, and beautiful, that they please us without conveying any fixed forms to the mind. It would be no great departure from literal truth, were I to bid you fancy one of these boxes swelled to the dimensions of a church, the material changed to stone, and, after a due allowance for a difference in form, for the painted windows, and for the emblems, were I to add, that such a box would probably give you the best idea of a highly-wrought Gothic edifice, that any comparison of the sort can furnish.
I stood gazing at the pile, until I felt the sensation we term "a creeping of the blood." I know that Westminster, though remarkable for its chapel, was, by no means, a first-rate specimen of its own style of architecture; and, at that moment, a journey through Europe promised to be a gradation of enjoyments, each more exquisite than the other. All the architecture of America united, would not assemble a tithe of the grandeur, the fanciful, or of the beautiful, (a few imitations of Grecian temples excepted,) that were to be seen in this single edifice. If I were to enumerate the strong and excited feelings which are awakened by viewing novel objects, I should place this short visit to the abbey as giving birth in me to sensation No. 1. The emotion of a first landing in Europe had long passed; our recent "land-fall" had been like any other "land-fall," merely pleasant; and I even looked upon St. Paul's as an old and a rather familiar friend. This was absolutely my introduction to the Gothic, and it has proved to be an acquaintance pregnant of more satisfaction than any other it has been my good fortune to make since youth.
It was too late to enter the church, and I turned away towards the adjoining public buildings. The English kings had a palace at Westminster, in the times of the Plantagenets. It was the ancient usage to assemble the parliament, which was little more than a lit de justice previously to the struggle which terminated in the commonwealth, in the royal residence, and, in this manner, Westminster Palace became, permanently, the place for holding the meetings of these bodies. The buildings, ancient and modern, form a cluster on the banks of the river, and are separated from the abbey by a street. I believe their site was once an island.
Westminster Hall was built as the banqueting room of the palace. There is no uniformity in the architecture of the pile, which is exceedingly complicated and confused. My examination, at this time, was too hurried for details; and I shall refer you to a later visit to England for a description. A vacant space at the abbey end of the palace is called Old Palace-yard, which sufficiently indicates the locality of the ancient royal residence; and a similar, but larger space or square, at the entrance to the hall, is known as New Palace-yard. Two sides of the latter are filled with the buildings of the pile; namely, the courts of law, the principal part of the hall, and certain houses that are occupied by some of the minor functionaries of the establishment, with buildings to contain records, etc. The latter are mean, and altogether unworthy of the neighbourhood. They were plastered on the exterior, and observing a hole in the mortar, I approached and found to my surprise, that here, in the heart of the English capital, as a part of the legislative and judicial structures, in plain view, and on the most frequented square of the vicinity, were houses actually built of wood, and covered with lath and mortar!
The next morning I sent for a hair-dresser. As he entered the room I made him a sign, without speaking, to cut my hair. I was reading the morning paper, and my operator had got half through with his job, without a syllable being exchanged between us, when the man of the comb suddenly demanded, "What is the reason, sir, that the Americans think everything in their own country so much better than it is everywhere else?" You will suppose that the brusquerie, as well as the purport of this interrogatory, occasioned some surprise. How he knew I was an American at all I am unable to say, but the fellow had been fidgeting the whole time to break out upon me with this question.
I mention the anecdote, in order to show you how lively and general the feeling of jealousy has got to be among our transatlantic kinsmen. There will be a better occasion to speak of this hereafter.
London was empty. The fashionable streets were actually without a soul, for minutes at a time; and, without seeing it, I could not have believed that a town which, at certain times, is so crowded as actually to render crossing its streets hazardous, was ever so like a mere wilderness of houses. During these recesses in dissipation and fashion, I believe that the meanest residents disappear for a few months.
Our fellow-traveller, Mr. L——, however, was in London, and we passed a day or two in company. As he is a votary of music, he took me to hear Madame Pasta. I was nearly as much struck with the extent and magnificence of the Opera-house, as I had been with the architecture of the Abbey. The brilliant manner in which it was lighted, in particular, excited my admiration, for want of light is a decided and a prominent fault of all scenic exhibitions at home, whether they are made in public or in private. Madame Pasta played Semiramide "How do you like her?" demanded L——, at the close of the first act. "Extremely; I scarce know which to praise the most, the command and the range of her voice, or her powers as a mere actress. But, don't you think her exceedingly like the Signorina?" The present Madame Malibran was then singing in New York, under the name of Signorina Garcia. L—— laughed, and told me the remark was well enough, but I had not put the question in exactly the proper form. "Do you not think the Signorina exceedingly like Madame Pasta?" would have been better. I had got the matter wrong end foremost.
L—— reminded me of our having amused ourselves on the passage with the nasal tones of the chorus at New York. He now directed my attention to the same peculiarity here. In this particular I saw no difference; nor should there be any, for I believe nearly all who are on the American stage, in any character, are foreigners, and chiefly English.
The next day we went to old Drury, where we found a countryman, and townsman, Mr. Stephen Price, in the chair of Sheridan. The season was over, but we were shown the whole of the interior. It is also a magnificent structure in extent and internal embellishment, though a very plain brick pile externally. It must have eight or ten times the cubic contents of the largest American theatre. The rival building, Covent Garden, is within a few hundred feet of it, and has much more of architectural pretension, though neither can lay claim to much. The taste of the latter is very well, but it is built of that penny-saving material, stuccoed bricks.
We dined with Mr. Price, and on the table was some of our own justly-celebrated Madeira. L——, who is an oracle on these subjects, pronounced it injured. He was told it was so lately arrived from New York, that there had not been time to affect it. This fact, coupled with others that have since come to my knowledge, induce me to believe that the change of tastes, which is so often remarked in liquors, fruits, and other eatables, is as much wrought on ourselves, as in the much-abused viands. Those delicate organs which are necessary to this particular sense may readily undergo modifications by the varieties of temperature. We know that taste and its sister sense, smelling, are both temporarily destroyed by colds. The voice is signally affected by temperature. In cold climates it is clear and soft; in warm, harsh and deep. All these facts would serve to sustain the probability of the theory that a large portion of the strictures that are lavished on the products of different countries, should be lavished on our own capricious organs. Au reste, the consequence is much the same, let the cause be what it will.
Mr. M——, an Englishman, who has many business concerns with America, came in while we were still at table, and I quitted the house in his company. It was still broad daylight. As we were walking together, arm and arm, my companion suddenly placed a hand behind him, and said, "My fine fellow, you are there, are you?" A lad of about seventeen had a hand in one of his pockets, feeling for his handkerchief. The case was perfectly clear, for Mr. M—— had him still in his gripe when I saw them. Instead of showing apprehension or shame, the fellow began to bluster and threaten. My companion, after a word or two of advice, hurried me from the spot. On expressing the surprise I felt at his permitting such a hardened rogue to go at large, he said that our wisest course was to get away. The lad was evidently supported by a gang, and we might be beaten as well as robbed, for our pains. Besides, the handkerchief was not actually taken, attendance in the courts was both expensive and vexatious, and he would be bound over to prosecute. In England, the complainant is compelled to prosecute, which is, in effect, a premium on crime! We retain many of the absurdities of the common law, and, among others, some which depend on a distinction between the intention and the commission of the act; but I do not know that any of our States are so unjust as to punish a citizen, in this way, because he has already been the victim of a rogue.
After all, I am not so certain our law is much better; but I believe more of the onus of obtaining justice falls on the injured party here than it does with us: still we are both too much under the dominion of the common law.
The next day I was looking at a bronze statue of Achilles, at Hyde Park Corner, which had been erected in honour of the Duke of Wellington. The place, like every other fashionable haunt at that season, was comparatively deserted. Still, there might have been fifty persons in sight. "Stop him! stop him!" cried a man, who was chasing another directly towards me. The chase, to use nautical terms, began to lighten ship by throwing overboard first one article and then another. As these objects were cast in different directions, he probably hoped that his pursuer, like Atalantis, might stop to pick them up. The last that appeared in the air was a hat, when, finding himself hemmed in between three of us, the thief suffered himself to be taken. A young man had been sleeping on the grass, and this land-pirate had absolutely succeeded in getting his shoes, his handkerchief, and his hat; but an attempt to take off his cravat had awoke the sleeper. In this case, the prisoner was marched off under sundry severe threats of vengeance; for the robbee was heated with the run, and really looked so ridiculous that his anger was quite natural.
My business was now done, and I left London in a night-coach for Southampton. The place of rendezvous was the White Horse Cellar, in Piccadilly—a spot almost as celebrated for those who are in transitu, as was the Isthmus of Suez of old. I took an inside seat this time, for the convenience of a nap. At first, I had but a single fellow-traveller. Venturing to ask him the names of one or two objects that we passed, and fearing he might think my curiosity impertinent, I apologized for it, by mentioning that I was a foreigner. "A foreigner!" he exclaimed; "why, you speak English as well as I do myself!" I confess I had thought, until that moment, that the advantage, in this particular, was altogether on my side; but it seems I was mistaken. By way of relieving his mind, however, I told him I was an American. "An American!" and he seemed more puzzled than ever. After a few minutes of meditation on what he had just heard, he civilly pointed to a bit of meadow through which the Thames meanders, and good-naturedly told me it was Runnymeade. I presume my manner denoted a proper interest, for he now took up the subject of the English Barons, and entered into a long account of their modern magnificence and wealth. This is a topic that a large class in England, who only know their aristocracy by report, usually discuss with great unction. They appear to have the same pride in the superiority of their great families, that the American slave is known to feel in the importance of his master. I say this seriously, and not with a view to sneer, but to point out to you a state of feeling that, at first, struck me as very extraordinary. I suppose that the feelings of both castes depend on a very natural principle. The Englishman, however, as he is better educated, has one respectable feature in his deference. He exults with reason in the superiority of his betters over the betters of most other people: in this particular he is fully borne out by the fact. Subsequent observation has given me occasion to observe, that the English gentleman, in appearance, attainments, manliness, and perhaps I might add, principles, although this and deportment are points on which I should speak with less confidence, stands at the head of his class in Christendom. This should not be, nor would it be, were the gentlemen of America equal to their fortunes, which, unhappily, they are not. Facts have so far preceded opinions at home, as to leave but few minds capable of keeping in their company. But this is a subject to which we may also have occasion to return.
The coach stopped, and we took up a third inside. This man proved to be a radical. He soon began to make side-hits at the "nobility and gentry," and, mingled with some biting truths, he uttered a vast deal of nonsense. While he was in the midst of his denunciations, the coach again stopped, and one of the outsides was driven into it by the night air. He was evidently a gentleman, and the guard afterwards told me he was a Captain Somebody, and a nephew of a Lord Something, to whose country place he was going. The appearance of the captain checked the radical for a little while; but, finding that the other was quiet, he soon returned to the attack. The aristocrat was silent, and the admirer of aristocracy evidently thought himself too good to enter into a dispute with one of the mere people; for to admire aristocracy was, in his eyes, something like an illustration; but wincing under one of the other's home-pushes, he said, "These opinions may do very well for this gentleman," meaning me, who as yet had not uttered a syllable—"who is an American; but I must say, I think them out of place in the mouth of an Englishman." The radical regarded me a moment, and inquired if what the other had just said was true. I answered that it was. He then began an eulogium on America; which, like his Jeremiad on England, had a good many truths blended with a great deal of nonsense. At length, he unfortunately referred to me, to corroborate one of his most capital errors. As this could not be done conscientiously, for his theory depended on the material misconstruction of giving the whole legislative power to Congress, I was obliged to explain the mistake into which he had fallen. The captain and the toady were both evidently pleased; nor can I say, I was sorry the appeal had been made, for it had the effect of silencing a commentator, who knew very little of his subject. The captain manifested his satisfaction, by commencing a conversation, which lasted until we all went to sleep. Both the captain and the radical quitted us in the night.
Men like the one just described do the truth a great deal of harm. Their knowledge does not extend to first principles, and they are always for maintaining their positions by a citation of facts. One half of the latter are imagined; and even that which is true is so enveloped with collateral absurdities, that when pushed, they are invariably exposed. These are the travellers who come among us Liberals, and go back Tories. Finding that things fall short of the political Elysiums of their imaginations, they fly into the opposite extreme, as a sort of amende honorable to their own folly and ignorance.
At the distance of a few miles from Winchester, we passed an encampment of gipsies, by the way-side. They were better-looking than I had expected to see them, though their faces were hardly perceptible in the grey of the morning. They appeared well fed and very comfortably bivouacked. Why do not these people appear in America? or, do they come, and get absorbed, like all the rest, by the humane and popular tendencies of the country? What a homage will it be to the institutions, if it be found that even a gipsy cease to be a gipsy in such a country! Just as the sun rose, I got out to our lodgings and went to bed.
After a sound sleep of two or three hours, I rose and went to the drawing-room. A lady was in it, seated in a way to allow me to see no more than a small part of her side-face. In that little, I saw the countenance of your aunt's family. It was the sister whom we had never seen, and who had hastened out of Hertfordshire to meet us. There are obvious reasons why such a subject cannot be treated in this letter, but the study of two sisters who had been educated, the one in England and the other in America, who possessed so much in common, and yet, who were separated by so much that was not in common, was to me a matter of singular interest. It showed me, at a glance, the manner in which the distinctive moral and physical features of nations are formed; the points of resemblance being just sufficient to render the points of difference more obvious.
A new and nearer route to Netley had been discovered during my absence, and our unpractised Americans had done little else than admire ruins for the past week. The European who comes to America plunges into the virgin forest with wonder and delight; while the American who goes to Europe finds his greatest pleasure, at first, in hunting up the memorials of the past. Each is in quest of novelty, and is burning with the desire to gaze at objects of which he has often read.
The steam-boat made but one or two voyages a week between Southampton and Havre, and we were obliged to wait a day or two for the next trip. The intervening time was passed in the manner just named. Every place of any importance in England has some work or other written on the subject of its history, its beauties, and its monuments. It is lucky to escape a folio. Our works on Southampton, (which are of moderate dimensions, however,) spoke of some Roman remains in the neighbourhood. The spot was found, and, although the imagination was of greater use than common in following the author's description, we stood on the spot with a species of antiquarian awe.
Southampton had formerly been a port of some importance. Many of the expeditions sent against France embarked here, and the town had once been well fortified, for the warfare of the period. A good deal of the old wall remains. All of this was industriously traced out; while the bow-windows, long passages, and old maids, found no favour in our eyes.
One simple and touching memorial I well remember. There is a ferry between the town and the grounds near Netley Abbey. A lady had caught a cold, which terminated in death, in consequence of waiting on the shore, during a storm, for the arrival of a boat. To protect others from a similar calamity, she had ordered a very suitable defence against the weather to be built on the fatal spot, and to be kept in repair for ever. The structure is entirely of stone, small and exceedingly simple and ingenious. The ground plan is that of a Greek cross. On this foundation are reared four walls, which, of course, cross each other in the centre at right angles. A little above the height of a man, the whole is amply roofed. Let the wind blow which way it will, you perceive there is always shelter. There is no external wall, and the diameter of the whole does not exceed ten feet, if it be as much. This little work is exceedingly English, and it is just as unlike anything American as possible. It has its origin in benevolence, is original in the idea, and it is picturesque. We might accomplish the benevolence, but it would be of a more public character: the picturesque is a thing of which we hardly know the meaning; and as for the originality, the dread of doing anything different from his neighbour would effectually prevent an American from erecting such a shelter; even charity with us being subject to the control of the general voice. On the other hand, what a clever expedient would have been devised, in the first instance, in America, to get across the ferry without taking cold! All these little peculiarities have an intimate connexion with national character and national habits. The desire to be independent and original causes a multitude of silly things to be invented here, while the apprehension of doing anything different from those around them causes a multitude of silly things to be perpetuated in America; and yet we are children of the same parents! When profit is in view, we have but one soul and that is certainly inventive enough; but when money has been made, and is to be spent, we really do not seem to know how to set about it, except by routine.