I begin this record with the columnar, self-reliant capital letter to signify that there is no disguise in its egoisms. If it were a chapter of autobiography, this is what the reader would look for as a matter of course. Let him consider it as being such a chapter, and its egoisms will require no apology.
I have called the record our hundred days, because I was accompanied by my daughter, without the aid of whose younger eyes and livelier memory, and especially of her faithful diary, which no fatigue or indisposition was allowed to interrupt, the whole experience would have remained in my memory as a photograph out of focus.
We left Boston on the 29th of April, 1886, and reached New York on the 29th of August, four months of absence in all, of which nearly three weeks were taken up by the two passages; one week was spent in Paris, and the rest of the time in England and Scotland.
No one was so much surprised as myself at my undertaking this visit. Mr. Gladstone, a strong man for his years, is reported as saying that he is too old to travel, at least to cross the ocean, and he is younger than I am,--just four months, to a day, younger. It is true that Sir Henry Holland came to this country, and travelled freely about the world, after he was eighty years old; but his pitcher went to the well once too often, and met the usual doom of fragile articles. When my friends asked me why I did not go to Europe, I reminded them of the fate of Thomas Parr. He was only twice my age, and was getting on finely towards his two hundredth year, when the Earl of Arundel carried him up to London, and, being feasted and made a lion of, he found there a premature and early grave at the age of only one hundred and fifty-two years. He lies in Westminster Abbey, it is true, but he would probably have preferred the upper side of his own hearth-stone to the under side of the slab which covers him.
I should never have thought of such an expedition if it had not been suggested by a member of my family that I should accompany my daughter, who was meditating a trip to Europe. I remembered how many friends had told me I ought to go; among the rest, Mr. Emerson, who had spoken to me repeatedly about it. I had not seen Europe for more than half a century, and I had a certain longing for one more sight of the places I remembered, and others it would be a delight to look upon. There were a few living persons whom I wished to meet. I was assured that I should be kindly received in England. All this was tempting enough, but there was an obstacle in the way which I feared, and, as it proved, not without good reason. I doubted whether I could possibly breathe in a narrow state-room. In certain localities I have found myself liable to attacks of asthma, and, although I had not had one for years, I felt sure that I could not escape it if I tried to sleep in a state-room.
I did not escape it, and I am glad to tell my story about it, because it excuses some of my involuntary social shortcomings, and enables me to thank collectively all those kind members of the profession who trained all the artillery of the pharmacopoeia upon my troublesome enemy, from bicarbonate of soda and Vichy water to arsenic and dynamite. One costly contrivance, sent me by the Reverend Mr. Haweis, whom I have never duly thanked for it, looked more like an angelic trump for me to blow in a better world than what I believe it is, an inhaling tube intended to prolong my mortal respiration. The best thing in my experience was recommended to me by an old friend in London. It was Himrod's asthma cure, one of the many powders, the smoke of which when burning is inhaled. It is made in Providence, Rhode Island, and I had to go to London to find it. It never failed to give at least temporary relief, but nothing enabled me to sleep in my state-room, though I had it all to myself, the upper berth being removed. After the first night and part of the second, I never lay down at all while at sea. The captain allowed me to have a candle and sit up in the saloon, where I worried through the night as I best might. How could I be in a fit condition to accept the attention of my friends in Liverpool, after sitting up every night for more than a week; and how could I be in a mood for the catechizing of interviewers, without having once lain down during the whole return passage? I hope the reader will see why I mention these facts. They explain and excuse many things; they have been alluded to, sometimes with exaggeration, in the newspapers, and I could not tell my story fairly without mentioning them. I got along well enough as soon as I landed, and have had no return of the trouble since I have been back in my own home. I will not advertise an assortment of asthma remedies for sale, but I assure my kind friends I have had no use for any one of them since I have walked the Boston pavements, drank, not the Cochituate, but the Belmont spring water, and breathed the lusty air of my native northeasters.
My companion and I required an attendant, and we found one of those useful androgynous personages known as courier-maids, who had travelled with friends of ours, and who was ready to start with us at a moment's warning. She was of English birth, lively, short-gaited, serviceable, more especially in the first of her dual capacities. So far as my wants were concerned, I found her zealous and active in providing for my comfort.
It was no sooner announced in the papers that I was going to England than I began to hear of preparations to welcome me. An invitation to a club meeting was cabled across the Atlantic. One of my countrywomen who has a house in London made an engagement for me to meet friends at her residence. A reverend friend, who thought I had certain projects in my head, wrote to me about lecturing: where I should appear, what fees I should obtain, and such business matters. I replied that I was going to England to spend money, not to make it; to hear speeches, very possibly, but not to make them; to revisit scenes I had known in my younger days; to get a little change of my routine, which I certainly did; and to enjoy a little rest, which I as certainly did not, at least in London. In a word, I wished a short vacation, and had no thought of doing anything more important than rubbing a little rust off and enjoying myself, while at the same time I could make my companion's visit somewhat pleasanter than it would be if she went without me. The visit has answered most of its purposes for both of us, and if we have saved a few recollections which our friends can take any pleasure in reading, this slight record may be considered a work of supererogation.
The Cephalonia was to sail at half past six in the morning, and at that early hour a company of well-wishers was gathered on the wharf at East Boston to bid us good-by. We took with us many tokens of their thoughtful kindness; flowers and fruits from Boston and Cambridge, and a basket of champagne from a Concord friend whose company is as exhilarating as the sparkling wine he sent us. With the other gifts came a small tin box, about as big as a common round wooden match box. I supposed it to hold some pretty gimcrack, sent as a pleasant parting token of remembrance. It proved to be a most valued daily companion, useful at all times, never more so than when the winds were blowing hard and the ship was struggling with the waves. There must have been some magic secret in it, for I am sure that I looked five years younger after closing that little box than when I opened it. Time will explain its mysterious power.
All the usual provisions for comfort made by seagoing experts we had attended to. Impermeable rugs and fleecy shawls, head-gear to defy the rudest northeasters, sea-chairs of ample dimensions, which we took care to place in as sheltered situations as we could find,--all these were a matter of course. Everybody stays on deck as much as possible, and lies wrapped up and spread out at full length on his or her sea-chair, so that the deck looks as if it had a row of mummies on exhibition. Nothing is more comfortable, nothing, I should say, more indispensable, than a hot-water bag,--or rather, two hot-water bags; for they will burst sometimes, as I found out, and a passenger who has become intimate with one of these warm bosom friends feels its loss almost as if it were human.
Passengers carry all sorts of luxuries on board, in the firm faith that they shall be able to profit by them all. Friends send them various indigestibles. To many all these well-meant preparations soon become a mockery, almost an insult. It is a clear case of Sic(k) vos non vobis. The tougher neighbor is the gainer by these acts of kindness; the generosity of a sea-sick sufferer in giving away the delicacies which seemed so desirable on starting is not ranked very high on the books of the recording angel. With us three things were best: grapes, oranges, and especially oysters, of which we had provided a half barrel in the shell. The "butcher" of the ship opened them fresh for us every day, and they were more acceptable than anything else.
Among our ship's company were a number of family relatives and acquaintances. We formed a natural group at one of the tables, where we met in more or less complete numbers. I myself never missed; my companion, rarely. Others were sometimes absent, and sometimes came to time when they were in a very doubtful state, looking as if they were saying to themselves, with Lear,--
"Down, thou climbing sorrow, Thy element's below."
As for the intellectual condition of the passengers, I should say that faces were prevailingly vacuous, their owners half hypnotized, as it seemed, by the monotonous throb and tremor of the great sea-monster on whose back we were riding. I myself had few thoughts, fancies, emotions. One thing above all struck me as never before,--the terrible solitude of the ocean.
"So lonely 'twas that God himself Scarce seemed there to be."
Whole days passed without our seeing a single sail. The creatures of the deep which gather around sailing vessels are perhaps frightened off by the noise and stir of the steamship. At any rate, we saw nothing more than a few porpoises, so far as I remember.
No man can find himself over the abysses, the floor of which is paved with wrecks and white with the bones of the shrieking myriads of human beings whom the waves have swallowed up, without some thought of the dread possibilities hanging over his fate. There is only one way to get rid of them: that which an old sea-captain mentioned to me, namely, to keep one's self under opiates until he wakes up in the harbor where he is bound. I did not take this as serious advice, but its meaning is that one who has all his senses about him cannot help being anxious. My old friend, whose beard had been shaken in many a tempest, knew too well that there is cause enough for anxiety.
What does the reader suppose was the source of the most ominous thought which forced itself upon my mind, as I walked the decks of the mighty vessel? Not the sound of the rushing winds, nor the sight of the foam-crested billows; not the sense of the awful imprisoned force which was wrestling in the depths below me. The ship is made to struggle with the elements, and the giant has been tamed to obedience, and is manacled in bonds which an earthquake would hardly rend asunder. No! It was the sight of the boats hanging along at the sides of the deck,--the boats, always suggesting the fearful possibility that before another day dawns one may be tossing about in the watery Sahara, shelterless, fireless, almost foodless, with a fate before him he dares not contemplate. No doubt we should feel worse without the boats; still they are dreadful tell-tales. To all who remember Géricault's Wreck of the Medusa,--and those who have seen it do not forget it,--the picture the mind draws is one it shudders at. To be sure, the poor wretches in the painting were on a raft, but to think of fifty people in one of these open boats! Let us go down into the cabin, where at least we shall not see them.
The first morning at sea revealed the mystery of the little round tin box. The process of shaving, never a delightful one, is a very unpleasant and awkward piece of business when the floor on which one stands, the glass in which he looks, and he himself are all describing those complex curves which make cycles and epicycles seem like simplicity itself. The little box contained a reaping machine, which gathered the capillary harvest of the past twenty-four hours with a thoroughness, a rapidity, a security, and a facility which were a surprise, almost a revelation. The idea of a guarded cutting edge is an old one; I remember the "Plantagenet" razor, so called, with the comb-like row of blunt teeth, leaving just enough of the edge free to do its work. But this little affair had a blade only an inch and a half long by three quarters of an inch wide. It had a long slender handle, which took apart for packing, and was put together with the greatest ease. It was, in short, a lawn-mower for the masculine growth of which the proprietor wishes to rid his countenance. The mowing operation required no glass, could be performed with almost reckless boldness, as one cannot cut himself, and in fact had become a pleasant amusement instead of an irksome task. I have never used any other means of shaving from that day to this. I was so pleased with it that I exhibited it to the distinguished tonsors of Burlington Arcade, half afraid they would assassinate me for bringing in an innovation which bid fair to destroy their business. They probably took me for an agent of the manufacturers; and so I was, but not in their pay nor with their knowledge. I determined to let other persons know what a convenience I had found the "Star Razor" of Messrs. Kampf, of New York, without fear of reproach for so doing. I know my danger,--does not Lord Byron say, "I have even been accused of writing puffs for Warren's blacking"? I was once offered pay for a poem in praise of a certain stove polish, but I declined. It is pure good-will to my race which leads me to commend the Star Razor to all who travel by land or by sea, as well as to all who stay at home.
With the first sight of land many a passenger draws a long sigh of relief. Yet everybody knows that the worst dangers begin after we have got near enough to see the shore, for there are several ways of landing, not all of which are equally desirable. On Saturday, May 8th, we first caught a glimpse of the Irish coast, and at half past four in the afternoon we reached the harbor of Queenstown. A tug came off, bringing newspapers, letters, and so forth, among the rest some thirty letters and telegrams for me. This did not look much like rest, but this was only a slight prelude to what was to follow. I was in no condition to go on shore for sight-seeing, as some of the passengers did.
We made our way through the fog towards Liverpool, and arrived at 1.30, on Sunday, May 9th. A special tug came to take us off: on it were the American consul, Mr. Russell, the vice-consul, Mr. Sewall, Dr. Nevins, and Mr. Rathbone, who came on behalf of our as yet unseen friend, Mr. Willett, of Brighton, England. Our Liverpool friends were meditating more hospitalities to us than, in our fatigued condition, we were equal to supporting. They very kindly, however, acquiesced in our wishes, which were for as much rest as we could possibly get before any attempt to busy ourselves with social engagements. So they conveyed us to the Grand Hotel for a short time, and then saw us safely off to the station to take the train for Chester, where we arrived in due season, and soon found ourselves comfortably established at the Grosvenor Arms Hotel. A large basket of Surrey primroses was brought by Mr. Rathbone to my companion. I had set before me at the hotel a very handsome floral harp, which my friend's friend had offered me as a tribute. It made melody in my ears as sweet as those hyacinths of Shelley's, the music of whose bells was so
"delicate, soft, and intense, It was felt like an odor within the sense."
At Chester we had the blissful security of being unknown, and were left to ourselves. Americans know Chester better than most other old towns in England, because they so frequently stop there awhile on their way from Liverpool to London. It has a mouldy old cathedral, an old wall, partly Roman, strange old houses with overhanging upper floors, which make sheltered sidewalks and dark basements. When one sees an old house in New England with the second floor projecting a foot or two beyond the wall of the ground floor, the country boy will tell him that "them haouses was built so th't th' folks upstairs could shoot the Injins when they was tryin' to git threew th' door or int' th' winder." There are plenty of such houses all over England, where there are no "Injins" to shoot. But the story adds interest to the somewhat lean traditions of our rather dreary past, and it is hardly worth while to disturb it. I always heard it in my boyhood. Perhaps it is true; certainly it was a very convenient arrangement for discouraging an untimely visit. The oval lookouts in porches, common in our Essex County, have been said to answer a similar purpose, that of warning against the intrusion of undesirable visitors. The walk round the old wall of Chester is wonderfully interesting and beautiful. At one part it overlooks a wide level field, over which the annual races are run. I noticed that here as elsewhere the short grass was starred with daisies. They are not considered in place in a well-kept lawn. But remembering the cuckoo song in "Love's Labour's Lost," "When daisies pied ... do paint the meadows with delight," it was hard to look at them as unwelcome intruders.
The old cathedral seemed to me particularly mouldy, and in fact too high-flavored with antiquity. I could not help comparing some of the ancient cathedrals and abbey churches to so many old cheeses. They have a tough gray rind and a rich interior, which find food and lodging for numerous tenants who live and die under their shelter or their shadow,--lowly servitors some of them, portly dignitaries others, humble holy ministers of religion many, I doubt not,--larvae of angels, who will get their wings by and by. It is a shame to carry the comparison so far, but it is natural enough; for Cheshire cheeses are among the first things we think of as we enter that section of the country, and this venerable cathedral is the first that greets the eyes of great numbers of Americans.
We drove out to Eaton Hall, the seat of the Duke of Westminster, the many-millioned lord of a good part of London. It is a palace, high-roofed, marble-columned, vast, magnificent, everything but homelike, and perhaps homelike to persons born and bred in such edifices. A painter like Paul Veronese finds a palace like this not too grand for his banqueting scenes. But to those who live, as most of us do, in houses of moderate dimensions, snug, comfortable, which the owner's presence fills sufficiently, leaving room for a few visitors, a vast marble palace is disheartening and uninviting. I never get into a very large and lofty saloon without feeling as if I were a weak solution of myself,--my personality almost drowned out in the flood of space about me. The wigwam is more homelike than the cavern. Our wooden houses are a better kind of wigwam; the marble palaces are artificial caverns, vast, resonant, chilling, good to visit, not desirable to live in, for most of us. One's individuality should betray itself in all that surrounds him; he should secrete his shell, like a mollusk; if he can sprinkle a few pearls through it, so much the better. It is best, perhaps, that one should avoid being a duke and living in a palace,--that is, if he has his choice in the robing chamber where souls are fitted with their earthly garments.
One of the most interesting parts of my visit to Eaton Hall was my tour through the stables. The Duke is a famous breeder and lover of the turf. Mr. Rathbone and myself soon made the acquaintance of the chief of the stable department. Readers of Homer do not want to be reminded that hippodamoio, horse-subduer, is the genitive of an epithet applied as a chief honor to the most illustrious heroes. It is the last word of the last line of the Iliad, and fitly closes the account of the funeral pageant of Hector, the tamer of horses. We Americans are a little shy of confessing that any title or conventional grandeur makes an impression upon us. If at home we wince before any official with a sense of blighted inferiority, it is by general confession the clerk at the hotel office. There is an excuse for this, inasmuch as he holds our destinies in his hands, and decides whether, in case of accident, we shall have to jump from the third or sixth story window. Lesser grandeurs do not find us very impressible. There is, however, something about the man who deals in horses which takes down the spirit, however proud, of him who is unskilled in equestrian matters and unused to the horse-lover's vocabulary. We followed the master of the stables, meekly listening and once in a while questioning. I had to fall back on my reserves, and summoned up memories half a century old to gain the respect and win the confidence of the great horse-subduer. He showed us various fine animals, some in their stalls, some outside of them. Chief of all was the renowned Bend Or, a Derby winner, a noble and beautiful bay, destined in a few weeks to gain new honors on the same turf in the triumph of his offspring Ormonde, whose acquaintance we shall make by-and-by.
The next day, Tuesday, May 11th, at 4.25, we took the train for London. We had a saloon car, which had been thoughtfully secured for us through unseen, not unsuspected, agencies, which had also beautified the compartment with flowers.
Here are some of my first impressions of England as seen from the carriage and from the cars.--How very English! I recall Birket Foster's Pictures of English Landscape,--a beautiful, poetical series of views, but hardly more poetical than the reality. How thoroughly England is groomed! Our New England out-of-doors landscape often looks as if it had just got out of bed, and had not finished its toilet. The glowing green of everything strikes me: green hedges in place of our rail-fences, always ugly, and our rude stone-walls, which are not wanting in a certain look of fitness approaching to comeliness, and are really picturesque when lichen-coated, but poor features of landscape as compared to these universal hedges. I am disappointed in the trees, so far; I have not seen one large tree as yet. Most of those I see are of very moderate dimensions, feathered all the way up their long slender trunks, with a lop-sided mop of leaves at the top, like a wig which has slipped awry. I trust that I am not finding everything couleur de rose; but I certainly do find the cheeks of children and young persons of such brilliant rosy hue as I do not remember that I have ever seen before. I am almost ready to think this and that child's face has been colored from a pink saucer. If the Saxon youth exposed for sale at Rome, in the days of Pope Gregory the Great, had complexions like these children, no wonder that the pontiff exclaimed, Not Angli, but angeli! All this may sound a little extravagant, but I am giving my impressions without any intentional exaggeration. How far these first impressions may be modified by after-experiences there will be time enough to find out and to tell. It is better to set them down at once just as they are. A first impression is one never to be repeated; the second look will see much that was not noticed before, but it will not reproduce the sharp lines of the first proof, which is always interesting, no matter what the eye or the mind fixes upon. "I see men as trees walking." That first experience could not be mended. When Dickens landed in Boston, he was struck with the brightness of all the objects he saw,--buildings, signs, and so forth. When I landed in Liverpool, everything looked very dark, very dingy, very massive, in the streets I drove through. So in London, but in a week it all seemed natural enough.
We got to the hotel where we had engaged quarters, at eleven o'clock in the evening of Wednesday, the 12th of May. Everything was ready for us,--a bright fire blazing and supper waiting. When we came to look at the accommodations, we found they were not at all adapted to our needs. It was impossible to stay there another night. So early the next morning we sent out our courier-maid, a dove from the ark, to find us a place where we could rest the soles of our feet. London is a nation of something like four millions of inhabitants, and one does not feel easy without he has an assured place of shelter. The dove flew all over the habitable districts of the city,--inquired at as many as twenty houses. No roosting-place for our little flock of three. At last the good angel who followed us everywhere, in one shape or another, pointed the wanderer to a place which corresponded with all our requirements and wishes. This was at No. 17 Dover Street, Mackellar's Hotel, where we found ourselves comfortably lodged and well cared for during the whole time we were in London. It was close to Piccadilly and to Bond Street. Near us, in the same range, were Brown's Hotel and Batt's Hotel, both widely known to the temporary residents of London.
We were but partially recovered from the fatigues and trials of the voyage when our arrival pulled the string of the social shower-bath, and the invitations began pouring down upon us so fast that we caught our breath, and felt as if we should be smothered. The first evening saw us at a great dinner-party at our well-remembered friend Lady Harcourt's. Twenty guests, celebrities and agreeable persons, with or without titles. The tables were radiant with silver, glistening with choice porcelain, blazing with a grand show of tulips. This was our "baptism of fire" in that long conflict which lasts through the London season. After dinner came a grand reception, most interesting, but fatiguing to persons hardly as yet in good condition for social service. We lived through it, however, and enjoyed meeting so many friends, known and unknown, who were very cordial and pleasant in their way of receiving us.
It was plain that we could not pretend to answer all the invitations which flooded our tables. If we had attempted it, we should have found no time for anything else. A secretary was evidently a matter of immediate necessity. Through the kindness of Mrs. Pollock, we found a young lady who was exactly fitted for the place. She was installed in the little room intended for her, and began the work of accepting with pleasure and regretting our inability, of acknowledging the receipt of books, flowers, and other objects, and being very sorry that we could not subscribe to this good object and attend that meeting in behalf of a deserving charity,--in short, writing almost everything for us except autographs, which I can warrant were always genuine. The poor young lady was almost tired out sometimes, having to stay at her table, on one occasion, so late as eleven in the evening, to get through her day's work. I simplified matters for her by giving her a set of formulae as a base to start from, and she proved very apt at the task of modifying each particular letter to suit its purpose.
From this time forward continued a perpetual round of social engagements. Breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, teas, receptions with spread tables, two, three, and four deep of an evening, with receiving company at our own rooms, took up the day, so that we had very little time for common sight-seeing.
Of these kinds of entertainments, the breakfast, though pleasant enough when the company is agreeable, as I always found it, is the least convenient of all times and modes of visiting. You have already interviewed one breakfast, and are expecting soon to be coquetting with a tempting luncheon. If one had as many stomachs as a ruminant, he would not mind three or four serious meals a day, not counting the tea as one of them. The luncheon is a very convenient affair: it does not require special dress; it is informal; it is soon over, and may be made light or heavy, as one chooses. The afternoon tea is almost a necessity in London life. It is considered useful as "a pick me up," and it serves an admirable purpose in the social system. It costs the household hardly any trouble or expense. It brings people together in the easiest possible way, for ten minutes or an hour, just as their engagements or fancies may settle it. A cup of tea at the right moment does for the virtuous reveller all that Falstaff claims for a good sherris-sack, or at least the first half of its "twofold operation:" "It ascends me into the brain; dries me there all the foolish and dull and crudy vapors which environ it; makes it apprehensive, quick, forgetive, full of nimble, fiery and delectable shapes, which delivered over to the voice, the tongue, which is the birth, becomes excellent wit."
But it must have the right brain to work upon, and I doubt if there is any brain to which it is so congenial and from which it brings so much as that of a first-rate London old lady. I came away from the great city with the feeling that this most complex product of civilization was nowhere else developed to such perfection. The octogenarian Londoness has been in society,--let us say the highest society,--all her days. She is as tough as an old macaw, or she would not have lasted so long. She has seen and talked with all the celebrities of three generations, all the beauties of at least half a dozen decades. Her wits have been kept bright by constant use, and as she is free of speech it requires some courage to face her. Yet nobody can be more agreeable, even to young persons, than one of these precious old dowagers. A great beauty is almost certainly thinking how she looks while one is talking with her; an authoress is waiting to have one praise her book; but a grand old lady, who loves London society, who lives in it, who understands young people and all sorts of people, with her high-colored recollections of the past and her grand-maternal interests in the new generation, is the best of companions, especially over a cup of tea just strong enough to stir up her talking ganglions.
A breakfast, a lunch, a tea, is a circumstance, an occurrence, in social life, but a dinner is an event. It is the full-blown flower of that cultivated growth of which those lesser products are the buds. I will not try to enumerate, still less to describe, the various entertainments to which we were invited, and many of which we attended. Among the professional friends I found or made during this visit to London, none were more kindly attentive than Dr. Priestley, who, with his charming wife, the daughter of the late Robert Chambers, took more pains to carry out our wishes than we could have asked or hoped for. At his house I first met Sir James Paget and Sir William Gull, long well known to me, as to the medical profession everywhere, as preëminent in their several departments. If I were an interviewer or a newspaper reporter, I should be tempted to give the impression which the men and women of distinction I met made upon me; but where all were cordial, where all made me feel as nearly as they could that I belonged where I found myself, whether the ceiling were a low or a lofty one, I do not care to differentiate my hosts and my other friends. Fortemque Gyan fortemque Cloanthum,--I left my microscope and my test-papers at home.
Our friends, several of them, had a pleasant way of sending their carriages to give us a drive in the Park, where, except in certain permitted regions, the common numbered vehicles are not allowed to enter. Lady Harcourt sent her carriage for us to go to her sister's, Mrs. Mildmay's, where we had a pleasant little "tea," and met one of the most agreeable and remarkable of those London old ladies I have spoken of. For special occasions we hired an unnumbered carriage, with professionally equipped driver and footman.
Mrs. Bloomfield Moore sent her carriage for us to take us to a lunch at her house, where we met Mr. Browning, Sir Henry and Lady Layard, Oscar Wilde and his handsome wife, and other well-known guests. After lunch, recitations, songs, etc. House full of pretty things. Among other curiosities a portfolio of drawings illustrating Keeley's motor, which, up to this time, has manifested a remarkably powerful vis inertice, but which promises miracles. In the evening a grand reception at Lady Granville's, beginning (for us, at least) at eleven o'clock. The house a palace, and A---- thinks there were a thousand people there. We made the tour of the rooms, saw many great personages, had to wait for our carriage a long time, but got home at one o'clock.
English people have queer notions about iced-water and ice-cream. "You will surely die, eating such cold stuff," said a lady to my companion. "Oh, no," she answered, "but I should certainly die were I to drink your two cups of strong tea." I approved of this "counter" on the teacup, but I did not think either of them was in much danger.
The next day Rev. Mr. Haweis sent his carriage, and we drove in the Park. In the afternoon we went to our Minister's to see the American ladies who had been presented at the drawing-room. After this, both of us were glad to pass a day or two in comparative quiet, except that we had a room full of visitors. So many persons expressed a desire to make our acquaintance that we thought it would be acceptable to them if we would give a reception ourselves. We were thinking how we could manage it with our rooms at the hotel, which were not arranged so that they could be thrown together. Still, we were planning to make the best of them, when Dr. and Mrs. Priestley suggested that we should receive our company at their house. This was a surprise, and a most welcome one, and A---- and her kind friend busied themselves at once about the arrangements.
We went to a luncheon at Lansdowne House, Lord Rosebery's residence, not far from our hotel. My companion tells a little incident which may please an American six-year-old: "The eldest of the four children, Sibyl, a pretty, bright child of six, told me that she wrote a letter to the Queen. I said, 'Did you begin, Dear Queen?' 'No,' she answered, 'I began, Your Majesty, and signed myself, Your little humble servant, Sibyl.'" A very cordial and homelike reception at this great house, where a couple of hours were passed most agreeably.
On the following Sunday I went to Westminster Abbey to hear a sermon from Canon Harford on A Cheerful Life. A lively, wholesome, and encouraging discourse, such as it would do many a forlorn New England congregation good to hear. In the afternoon we both went together to the Abbey. Met our Beverly neighbor, Mrs. Vaughan, and adopted her as one of our party. The seats we were to have were full, and we had to be stowed where there was any place that would hold us. I was smuggled into a stall, going through long and narrow passages, between crowded rows of people, and found myself at last with a big book before me and a set of official personages around me, whose duties I did not clearly understand. I thought they might be mutes, or something of that sort, salaried to look grave and keep quiet. After service we took tea with Dean Bradley, and after tea we visited the Jerusalem Chamber. I had been twice invited to weddings in that famous room: once to the marriage of my friend Motley's daughter, then to that of Mr. Frederick Locker's daughter to Lionel Tennyson, whose recent death has been so deeply mourned. I never expected to see that Jerusalem in which Harry the Fourth died, but there I found myself in the large panelled chamber, with all its associations. The older memories came up but vaguely; an American finds it as hard to call back anything over two or three centuries old as a sucking-pump to draw up water from a depth of over thirty-three feet and a fraction. After this A---- went to a musical party, dined with the Vaughans, and had a good time among American friends.
The next evening we went to the Lyceum Theatre to see Mr. Irving. He had placed the Royal box at our disposal, so we invited our friends the Priestleys to go with us, and we all enjoyed the evening mightily. Between the scenes we went behind the curtain, and saw the very curious and admirable machinery of the dramatic spectacle. We made the acquaintance of several imps and demons, who were got up wonderfully well. Ellen Terry was as fascinating as ever. I remembered that once before I had met her and Mr. Irving behind the scenes. It was at the Boston Theatre, and while I was talking with them a very heavy piece of scenery came crashing down, and filled the whole place with dust. It was but a short distance from where we were standing, and I could not help thinking how near our several life-dramas came to a simultaneous exeunt omnes.
A long visit from a polite interviewer, shopping, driving, calling, arranging about the people to be invited to our reception, and an agreeable dinner at Chelsea with my American friend, Mrs. Merritt, filled up this day full enough, and left us in good condition for the next, which was to be a very busy one.
In the Introduction to these papers, I mentioned the fact that more than half a century ago I went to the famous Derby race at Epsom. I determined, if possible, to see the Derby of 1886, as I had seen that of 1834. I must have spoken of this intention to some interviewer, for I find the following paragraph in an English sporting newspaper, "The Field," for May 29th, 1886:--
"The Derby has always been the one event in the racing year which statesmen, philosophers, poets, essayists, and littérateurs desire to see once in their lives. A few years since Mr. Gladstone was induced by Lord Granville and Lord Wolverton to run down to Epsom on the Derby day. The impression produced upon the Prime Minister's sensitive and emotional mind was that the mirth and hilarity displayed by his compatriots upon Epsom race-course was Italian rather than English in its character. On the other hand, Gustave Doré, who also saw the Derby for the first and only time in his life, exclaimed, as he gazed with horror upon the faces below him, Quelle scène brutale! We wonder to which of these two impressions Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes inclined, if he went last Wednesday to Epsom! Probably the well-known, etc., etc.--Of one thing Dr. Holmes may rest finally satisfied: the Derby of 1886 may possibly have seemed to him far less exciting than that of 1834; but neither in 1834 nor in any other year was the great race ever won by a better sportsman or more honorable man than the Duke of Westminster."
My desire to see the Derby of this year was of the same origin and character as that which led me to revisit many scenes which I remembered. I cared quite as much about renewing old impressions as about getting new ones. I enjoyed everything which I had once seen all the more from the blending of my recollections with the present as it was before me.
The Derby day of 1834 was exceedingly windy and dusty. Our party, riding on the outside of the coach, was half smothered with the dust, and arrived in a very deteriorated condition, but recompensed for it by the extraordinary sights we had witnessed. There was no train in those days, and the whole road between London and Epsom was choked with vehicles of all kinds, from four-in-hands to donkey-carts and wheelbarrows. My friends and I mingled freely in the crowds, and saw all the "humours" of the occasion. The thimble-riggers were out in great force, with their light, movable tables, the cups or thimbles, and the "little jokers," and the coachman, the sham gentleman, the country greenhorn, all properly got up and gathered about the table. I think we had "Aunt Sally," too,--the figure with a pipe in her mouth, which one might shy a stick at for a penny or two and win something, I forget what. The clearing the course of stragglers, and the chasing about of the frightened little dog who had got in between the thick ranks of spectators, reminded me of what I used to see on old "artillery election" days.
It was no common race that I went to see in 1834. "It is asserted in the columns of a contemporary that Plenipotentiary was absolutely the best horse of the century." This was the winner of the race I saw so long ago. Herring's colored portrait, which I have always kept, shows him as a great, powerful chestnut horse, well deserving the name of "bullock," which one of the jockeys applied to him. "Rumor credits Dr. Holmes," so "The Field" says, "with desiring mentally to compare his two Derbies with each other." I was most fortunate in my objects of comparison. The horse I was about to see win was not unworthy of being named with the renowned champion of my earlier day. I quote from a writer in the "London Morning Post," whose words, it will be seen, carry authority with them:--
"Deep as has hitherto been my reverence for Plenipotentiary, Bay Middleton, and Queen of Trumps from hearsay, and for Don John, Crucifix, etc., etc., from my own personal knowledge, I am inclined to award the palm to Ormonde as the best three-year-old I have ever seen during close upon half a century's connection with the turf."
Ormonde, the Duke of Westminster's horse, was the son of that other winner of the Derby, Bend Or, whom I saw at Eaton Hall.
Perhaps some coeval of mine may think it was a rather youthful idea to go to the race. I cannot help that. I was off on my first long vacation for half a century, and had a right to my whims and fancies. But it was one thing to go in with a vast crowd at five and twenty, and another thing to run the risks of the excursion at more than thrice that age. I looked about me for means of going safely, and could think of nothing better than to ask one of the pleasantest and kindest of gentlemen, to whom I had a letter from Mr. Winthrop, at whose house I had had the pleasure of making his acquaintance. Lord Rosebery suggested that the best way would be for me to go in the special train which was to carry the Prince of Wales. First, then, I was to be introduced to his Royal Highness, which office was kindly undertaken by our very obliging and courteous Minister, Mr. Phelps. After this all was easily arranged, and I was cared for as well as if I had been Mr. Phelps himself. On the grand stand I found myself in the midst of the great people, who were all very natural, and as much at their ease as the rest of the world. The Prince is of a lively temperament and a very cheerful aspect,--a young girl would call him "jolly" as well as "nice." I recall the story of "Mr. Pope" and his Prince of Wales, as told by Horace Walpole. "Mr. Pope, you don't love princes." "Sir, I beg your pardon." "Well, you don't love kings, then." "Sir, I own I love the lion best before his claws are grown." Certainly, nothing in Prince Albert Edward suggests any aggressive weapons or tendencies. The lovely, youthful-looking, gracious Alexandra, the always affable and amiable Princess Louise, the tall youth who sees the crown and sceptre afar off in his dreams, the slips of girls so like many school misses we left behind us,--all these grand personages, not being on exhibition, but off enjoying themselves, just as I was and as other people were, seemed very much like their fellow-mortals. It is really easier to feel at home with the highest people in the land than with the awkward commoner who was knighted yesterday. When "My Lord and Sir Paul" came into the Club which Goldsmith tells us of, the hilarity of the evening was instantly checked. The entrance of a dignitary like the present Prince of Wales would not have spoiled the fun of the evening. If there is any one accomplishment specially belonging to princes, it is that of making the persons they meet feel at ease.
The grand stand to which I was admitted was a little privileged republic. I remember Thackeray's story of his asking some simple question of a royal or semi-royal personage whom he met in the courtyard of an hotel, which question his Highness did not answer, but called a subordinate to answer for him. I had been talking some time with a tall, good-looking gentleman, whom I took for a nobleman to whom I had been introduced. Something led me to think I was mistaken in the identity of this gentleman. I asked him, at last, if he were not So and So. "No," he said, "I am Prince Christian." You are a Christian prince, anyhow, I said to myself, if I may judge by your manners.
I once made a similar mistake in addressing a young fellow-citizen of some social pretensions. I apologized for my error.
"No offence," he answered.
Offence indeed! I should hope not. But he had not the "manière de prince", or he would never have used that word.
I must say something about the race I had taken so much pains to see. There was a preliminary race, which excited comparatively little interest. After this the horses were shown in the paddock, and many of our privileged party went down from the stand to look at them. Then they were brought out, smooth, shining, fine-drawn, frisky, spirit-stirring to look upon,--most beautiful of all the bay horse Ormonde, who could hardly be restrained, such was his eagerness for action. The horses disappear in the distance.--They are off,--not yet distinguishable, at least to me. A little waiting time, and they swim into our ken, but in what order of precedence it is as yet not easy to say. Here they come! Two horses have emerged from the ruck, and are sweeping, rushing, storming, towards us, almost side by side. One slides by the other, half a length, a length, a length and a half. Those are Archer's colors, and the beautiful bay Ormonde flashes by the line, winner of the Derby of 1886. "The Bard" has made a good fight for the first place, and comes in second. Poor Archer, the king of the jockeys! He will bestride no more Derby winners. A few weeks later he died by his own hand.
While the race was going on, the yells of the betting crowd beneath us were incessant. It must have been the frantic cries and movements of these people that caused Gustave Doré to characterize it as a brutal scene. The vast mob which thronged the wide space beyond the shouting circle just round us was much like that of any other fair, so far as I could see from my royal perch. The most conspicuous object was a man on an immensely tall pair of stilts, stalking about among the crowd. I think it probable that I had as much enjoyment in forming one of the great mob in 1834 as I had among the grandeurs in 1886, but the last is pleasanter to remember and especially to tell of.
After the race we had a luncheon served us, a comfortable and substantial one, which was very far from unwelcome. I did not go to the Derby to bet on the winner. But as I went in to luncheon, I passed a gentleman standing in custody of a plate half covered with sovereigns. He politely asked me if I would take a little paper from a heap there was lying by the plate, and add a sovereign to the collection already there. I did so, and, unfolding my paper, found it was a blank, and passed on. The pool, as I afterwards learned, fell to the lot of the Turkish Ambassador. I found it very windy and uncomfortable on the more exposed parts of the grand stand, and was glad that I had taken a shawl with me, in which I wrapped myself as if I had been on shipboard. This, I told my English friends, was the more civilized form of the Indian's blanket. My report of the weather does not say much for the English May, but it is generally agreed upon that this is a backward and unpleasant spring.
After my return from the race we went to a large dinner at Mr. Phelps's house, where we met Mr. Browning again, and the Lord Chancellor Herschell, among others. Then to Mrs. Cyril Flower's, one of the most sumptuous houses in London; and after that to Lady Rothschild's, another of the private palaces, with ceilings lofty as firmaments, and walls that might have been copied from the New Jerusalem. There was still another great and splendid reception at Lady Dalhousie's, and a party at Mrs. Smith's, but we were both tired enough to be willing to go home after what may be called a pretty good day's work at enjoying ourselves.
We had been a fortnight in London, and were now inextricably entangled in the meshes of the golden web of London social life.