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Pilgrimage to Old Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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