IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA.
PRINTED BY SAMUEL BENTLEY,
Dorset Street, Fleet Street.
IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA,
DURING THE YEARS 1833, 1834, AND 1835.
BY TYRONE POWER, ESQ.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
LONDON: RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET, Publisher in Ordinary to His Majesty.
THE SECOND VOLUME.
Page NAHANT 1 THE BALLOON 10 Taunton.—Cotton Manufactures.—Pocassett.—Rhode Island.ib. NEWPORT 22 Rhode Island ib. BLOCK ISLAND 28 NEW YORK 32 Rockaway.—A Road Adventure. ib. JOURNAL 40 IMPRESSIONS OF PETERSBURG 82 Virginia ib. A Rhapsody 83 Impressions of Petersburg.—The deserted Church. 87 CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA 93 Total Eclipse of the Sun 102 SAVANNAH 117 COLUMBUS 132 TRAVELLING THROUGH THE CREEK NATION 140 The Alabama River down to Mobile ib. JOURNAL 162 NEW ORLEANS 171 American Theatre ib. French Theatre 175 NEW ORLEANS 178 Journal ib. The Theatre 189 Journal 192 MOBILE 211 NEW ORLEANS 227 THE LEVEE MARKET 247 JOURNAL RESUMED 252 NEW YORK 278 JOURNAL 291 A visit to Quebec, via Lake Champlan and Montreal ib. The Sault au Recollect 305 GENERAL IMPRESSIONS OF THE COUNTRY AND OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE 339 Adieu 354 APPENDIX 357
IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA.
This rocky peninsula is truly a very wild and unworldlike little territory, jutting boldly out as it does into the mighty bay of Massachusetts, and commanding a view of its whole extent, from Cape Cod to Cape Anne, together with the many islands, towns, and villages scattered along the coast; whilst in front spreads out the Atlantic Ocean.
To sit within the upper gallery of this house upon the cliff, and watch the rising moon fling her golden bridge from the far horizon's edge, until it seems to rest upon the beach below, is a sight which would be worth something in a poet or a painter's eyes.
I never, either in the East or in the Mediterranean, beheld anything exceed in colour the glory of these evening skies, or their depth by night. Round about, near to the edge of the cliffs, are scattered a number of dwellings, built in the style of the southern cottage, having low projecting eaves covering a broad gallery which usually encircles the building: these are objects upon which the eye is pleased to rest when the moon deepens their shadows on the barren rock.
One or two of the highest and most conspicuous points, whether viewed from the land or the sea, have been very properly selected for buildings, whose uses, however humble, admitted of classic form. Beneath the roof of a temple to Minerva, built upon the extreme eastern point of the lofty headland, may be found the billiard-table of the hotel; lower down, the little edifice containing a range of baths is entered by a Doric portico. The proportions of these buildings are in good taste; the chaste cold moon clothes them in grace and beauty; and for the material, what matters it, when, by her light, painted pine may be fancied Parian marble! The cliff itself is a very Leucadia, and as well fitted for a leap as love-sick heart could seek: but there are no Sapphos now-a-days; the head of Nahant is likely to remain un-be-rhymed.
A little way to the northward lies a small steep island, between which and the main land the "sarpint" par excellence has been seen more than once rushing along at the rate of a steamboat, with a horned face uplifted some fifty feet above the waves, and a beard blowing about his ears like the tail of a comet.
This account I had from more than one credulous witness: certain it is, if Sarpint be fond of fish, he is no bad judge in selecting this as a residence; for about this same island there are abundance and variety, both to be met with at all hours, as I can testify, having sat in a punt, bearing a wary eye for hours at a stretch, and catching all sorts of things except a sight of the "sarpint."
The nights here are indeed delicious, calm and cool, with air as soft as velvet; during the day, for about two hours after meridian, owing to the absence of all shade without, one is compelled, although the sea-breeze does its best, to keep the house, or else get outside the bay of Boston, away from the land: this I was afforded frequent opportunities of doing, in a very pretty schooner-yacht called the Sylph, which Mr. F——s had down here. She was about eighty tons burthen, capitally appointed, and with rare qualities as a sea-boat; in her I had the happiness to pass many days, when the poor people on shore were pitiably grilled, cruising for codfish, and dishing them up into a sort of soup called chowder; this formed, in fact, the one great object of my present life, and I availed myself of every occasion to pursue it.
One of my pleasantest cruises was made with Captain H——d, in an armed schooner called the Hamilton, attached to the United States' revenue service. We ran down the coast as far as Portsmouth, and on our return passed a night within the snugly enclosed harbour of Marblehead; into which a couple of our cruisers chased an American frigate during the last war, and threatened to fetch her out again, but thought better of it, after putting the natives to a great deal of inconvenience through their anxiety to provide a suitable welcome for the strangers.
Here we landed, and looked about the place: the air was somewhat fishy, but, judging by the ruddy complexions of the people, must be exceedingly salubrious. It is not unlike some of the French fishing-towns on the coast of Normandy, and has an old look that pleased me much. The place is said to have been originally settled by a colony of fishers from Guernsey, whose descendants are found still to retain many of the customs of the islands, and some words of the patois in use there.
The population is famous for industry, and for the summary mode with which they dispense justice amongst themselves on points of local polity affecting the general weal. One instance was fresh enough in memory to be talked of still. A townsman, returning from the Banks with a cargo, passed a vessel in a sinking state, turning a blind eye to their repeated anxious signals. Contrary to all expectation, the crippled bark, after being given up as lost, reached the harbour, and the conduct of the hard-hearted skipper was made public. He was seized instanter, triced up, served out with a dozen or two well told, covered with tar, clothed in feathers, and in this plight was carted about the boundaries of the township, having a label hung about his neck that described his crime and sentence in good set rhymes, which ran as follows:
"This here's old John Hort, That for his hard heart Is tar-ed and feather-ed, And carry-ed in this cart."
This occurs to me as being the best practicable illustration of "poetical justice" I ever heard of, and an example not likely to be lost upon a maritime people.
It was about dusk when we landed; and I was at first greatly surprised by the numbers of pretty and neatly-dressed women we encountered strolling about, or chatting together in groups, wholly unattended by the other sex. I was quickly reminded, however, that at this season of the year the husbands, lovers, and sons of the community are mostly absent in their vessels fishing on the banks of Newfoundland, and not returnable under ten or twelve weeks.
I cannot help observing that it does infinite credit to the moderation of these citoyennes that they forbear from taking the sovereign rule into their own hands at these times, since assuredly they possess the power of numbers to enforce submission, were the resident housekeepers hardy enough to offer resistance.
Early on the morning of next day the Hamilton was once more under weigh; we beat along the coast for some distance, then got before the wind, and, after peeping into the harbours of Salem and Gloucester, bore up for Nahant: when yet distant some five miles from our destined port, the wind fell at once start-calm, without much promise of a breeze till evening; a light gig, however, and four stout hands, soon set us on shore within the shadow of the temple of Minerva, and concluded a very pleasant cruise.
A steam-boat daily plies between this place and Boston: many persons come down here for an hour or two, and return on the same evening; a game of nine-pins and a dinner of fine fish, with advantages of fresh air and a temperature comparatively cool, being the inducements.
The resident families are not numerous, but appear to mix sociably; and, what with a drive or ride upon the fine beach between this and Lynn, a sail in the harbour, or a ramble amongst the rude crags by which the place is environed, find means diversified enough of killing the enemy. For my part, I am pleased with the place; and were it not that my incarnate foes have chosen, contrary to established custom, to make an inroad here, my satisfaction would be complete. But, as it is, they have at length once more prevailed over my patience: with my eyes nearly swollen up and my hands miserably blistered, I find further resistance too painful, therefore have decided upon flight after a fortnight's residence.
One of the preparations for my comfort, at the dinner-table of Mr. P——s, with whose amiable family I have latterly dined, was a cup of rose-water and eau de Cologne, with patches of the rice paper of China, wherewith to allay the intolerable itching that attends the puncture of these winged leeches, whose voracity is incredible. I have at times caught a villain in the act, and watched with patience until from one of the veins of the hand he had drunk blood enough to blow out his little carcase to the shape of a tennis-ball, when he would poise himself upon his long legs, and, spreading his wings, make an effort to rise, but in vain; bloated and unwieldy, his wings refused to sustain him; his usual activity was gone, and there he stood disgustingly helpless, incapacitated by sheer gluttony.
In the first week of August I bade adieu to the rocks of Nahant, and for the last time drove over the beach to Lynn. Not having received any letters during my residence on the little peninsula—which, it appears, is out of the circuit of the post-office department—I called at the establishment of Lynn to make inquiry whether or no any letters had been forwarded here: the young man in attendance "guessed" that there had been one or two, maybe; but if there was, the stage-driver had had them. Now there being a feud between the said driver and the hotel I lodged in, my ever getting my letters appears a doubtful matter: however, "I guess" I'll try.
TAUNTON.—COTTON MANUFACTURES.—POCASSETT.—RHODE ISLAND.
On arriving at Boston, I found the whole city in movement to assist, as the French say, in the ascent of a balloon, constructed by a Mr. Durant, already well known as an experienced and intrepid aeronaut.
Purchasing a ticket for the Amphitheatre, a lofty temporary enclosure with rows of seats running round it, I fell into the crowd, and made my way across the common at the extremity of which the building in question was situated.
Although the day was hot and bright, there was a very strong southerly wind blowing; and rolling away to the north-east, heavy masses of cloud passed over the sun like snow-drifts, promising a rapid flight for the balloon.
This common, flanked as it is by the finest residences of the city, the Bostonians often compare with our Hyde Park. Its surface is broken and irregular, and on this day the whole area was alive with expectant gazers; whilst the several lines of streets leading into it were thronged with hurrying reinforcements.
Selecting a point of vantage, I stood for some time examining the materials out of which this vast congregation was made up, and I have never seen a population whose general appearance would endure so close a scrutiny as well.
I computed that the women outnumbered their less attractive companions by at least a third: these were all in holiday trim, of course; invariably well dressed, but commonly having a pretension to taste and style I have never elsewhere observed so universally prevalent amongst the same class. The men, both in air and dress, were inferior to their female friends; so much so that it was difficult to imagine them belonging to the same order: and this remark, I think, will be found to apply generally throughout the Union.
It is not difficult to account for this discrepancy: a love of adornment is natural to women; the general prosperity which prevails here enables all classes to indulge a taste for dress, whilst the leisure enjoyed by females gives them facilities for acquiring those little aids by which gay attire is disposed and set off to the best advantage.
After a time I slowly made my way to the Amphitheatre, presented my ticket and was admitted within the enclosure, where the arrangements for the flight were in busy progress.
The inflation was nearly complete, and the huge machine rolled about from side to side uneasily abiding the restraint which alone prevented its immediate ascent. It was covered by the netting commonly used; and about this a number of volunteer assistants clung, restraining the balloon whilst the aeronaut made all his little arrangements.
The car was a small wicker basket; its cargo consisted of a few bags of sand for ballast, a barometer, and a couple of small kedges with lines to match. I had no idea a balloon could be brought up, all standing, by so small a cable.
I observed Mr. Durant devoted no small attention to the disposition of a little fellow-passenger he purposed giving a lift to,—a rabbit, muzzled and netted within a small basket, which, being appended to a parachute, was destined to come from aloft with the latest lunar intelligence. Chance, however, robbed the rabbit of the honour of performing this desperate service; for as the balloon was about to mount, the pipe bound within the neck of the valve was by some unlucky pull withdrawn, and, before this could be re-inserted, so much gas had escaped it became necessary to make a proportionate diminution in the freight. The rabbit was at once detached from the car, evidently chagrined at the disappointment, judging by the resistance it made; and several bags of ballast, together with such stores as might be best spared, were also discharged.
During all this time, and the bustle consequent upon the accident, Mr. Durant preserved the most admirable coolness; and, having stopped the leak, next set about repairing his fractured netting with infinite quickness and dexterity.
On a second attempt he rose in good style, loudly cheered by the spectators within the Amphitheatre; but no sooner had he cleared its wall than the shout of the people arose. Making a stoop almost to their heads, he discharged the greater part of the remaining ballast, and mounting again, was borne away to the eastward with great rapidity. The crowd dispersed immediately, but the whole afternoon was filled by the accounts constantly arriving of his route, and the probable result. Report was at an early hour brought that the machine had been seen to alight in the ocean, about sixteen miles north-east of Nahant, where it sank in sight of several schooners, taking its pilot down with it. Soon after it was affirmed that a Portland steamer had rescued the man, and that the balloon alone was drowned.
In this state of uncertainty the public continued until about nine o'clock next morning, at which hour Mr. Durant walked into the hall of the Tremont, where numbers of persons were arguing his probable fate. After the greeting of his friends was over, he gave a very particular and interesting account of the peril he had been rescued from. It appeared that the aerial part of his voyage had terminated, as was reported, in the Atlantic, some miles off Nahant. Sustained by an inflated girdle, he hung on to the balloon, and was dragged after it at no small rate for some time, until a schooner falling in with this strange sail, gave chase, and overhauled the queer craft.
As soon as the schooner got alongside, a line was flung to the aeronaut, which he, solicitous to save his machine as well as himself, made fast to the car, and bade them hoist away: the first hearty pull lifted the balloon from the waves, when, the wind catching it, up it mounted. The line to which it was fastened chanced to be the topsail halliards; and whisk! before a belay could be passed, up flew poor Mr. Durant high over the vessel's mast; after hanging on for a moment, his strength failed, and down he plumped from an elevation of some hundred and fifty feet back into the sea. How deep he dived, or for what length of time he remained below amongst the codling, he did not say, not having calculated "the sum of his sensation to a second:" but he readily "guessed" he would no-how admire such another tumble. His resolution, however, was nothing abated; for he immediately began to repair his balloon, and make ready for a new "sail i' the air."
The day following the return of the adventurous balloonist, I left Boston, accompanied by my friend Captain B——n, taking the land route for Newport, Rhode Island. Our vehicle was a Jersey waggon, with a couple of capital ponies; we started early, breakfasted at a good road-side inn, and reached the town of Taunton about mid-day, where we halted to let the heat of the sun pass over, and dine.
We took a stroll about the little town, which is famous for its cotton manufactures; and were pleased to observe every symptom of prosperity that might be outwardly exhibited,—a well-dressed population, houses remarkably clean and neat, with much bustle in the streets. The military mania, which pervades the whole country, we also saw here exhibited in a way really quite amusing, and by a class to whom it would be well were it confined, since the display was more becoming in them than in any less precocious corps of volunteers I remember to have seen.
Whilst standing in the shade of our hotel, the rattle of drums gave note of some display of war; an event of daily occurrence during this season of the year throughout these northern States, where playing at soldiers is one of the choicest amusements. Captain B——n asked a stander-by what volunteer corps was parading to-day: "Why, I don't rightly know; but I guess it may be the Taunton Juvenile Democratic Lancers."
Our informant was quite right; for whilst, puzzled by the gravity of the man, I was considering whether or no he meant a hoax by the style which he bestowed upon the gallant corps, into the square it marched, with drums beating and colours flying. The colonel commanding was a smart little fellow, about twelve years old, dressed in a fancy uniform jacket, and ample linen cossacks; his regiment mustered about forty rank and file, independent of a numerous and efficient staff: they were in full uniform; most of them were about the colonel's age, some of the cornets perhaps a trifle younger, as became their station; they were armed with lances; and their motto was most magnanimous, being all about glory, death, liberty, and democracy. Nothing could be more steady than the movements of this corps on foot; and, when mounted, I have no doubt they prove as highly efficient a body as any volunteer lancer cavalry in the Union.
This could not be called "teaching the young idea how to shoot," since the corps only bore l'arme blanche; but it was highly creditable to the waggery of the citizens of Taunton, and the most efficient burlesque upon the volunteer system I had yet seen, although I have encountered many more elaborately gotten up.
Whilst we were devising some means of visiting the principal manufactory, a gentleman entered our room, and introducing himself said, that, having recognised me in the street, he had called to know if he could be of any service in showing myself and friend the only lions of the place,—its manufactories.
This act of politeness, which I have found a common occurrence in every part of the Union, at once relieved us from our difficulty, and off we set in company with our civil guide to visit the largest depot of the place.
The designs of the printed cottons, and the colours, both struck me as being exceedingly good; in texture, however, I did not conceive any of the cloths equal to similar stuffs which I had seen at home in manufacturing towns. One of the partners informed me that they supplied large quantities of goods to the markets both of India and of South America: the manufacturer's chief drawback, he said, was found in the cost of labour; indeed, judging by the dress and neat appearance of the young women employed here, they must be exceedingly well paid: a comparison drawn between them and the same class of employees in England would be singularly in favour of the Taunton "Maids of the Mill."
The cool time of the day being come, we once more had our active ponies put to, and away they went as eager to "go a-head" as on our first start. From this place to Pocassett the ride was lovely: our road lay high above the river; and, over the luxuriant foliage, topsail-schooners, large sloops, and other craft, were seen working their different courses, some bound up, others to Providence, Newport, or the ports on the coast.
A few miles from the town we came upon a small clearing by the road-side, evidently in use as a place of burial, and nothing ever struck me as more neglected; a few decayed boards, with an ill-shaped falling head-stone or two, were all the prosperous living had bestowed upon their departed kindred. This neglect of those little decencies with which, amongst most people, places of sepulture are surrounded, is a thing of common observance in this part of the Union, and is one of the reproaches readily noticeable by all strangers. The distinction in this respect between the North and South is remarkable, and highly creditable to the feelings of the latter.
By the time we reached Pocassett it was nearly dark, and here we settled for the night, having driven the ponies fifty odd miles, without their being in the least distressed, and on a day of no ordinary fervor.
In the evening we attended a book sale, and were much amused by the volubility and humour of the Yankee salesman, who, with his coat off in a close crowded room, lectured upon the merits of the authors he offered, whether poetical, religious, historical, mathematical, or political, with equal ease and grace, greatly to the edification of the bystanders. The editions were chiefly American, made to sell, and thus exceedingly cheap. History and novels appeared to be the literature in demand; and Walter Scott, Byron, and Bulwer, the names most familiar in the verbal catalogue galloped over by the "learned gentleman," as our auctioneer advertisements have it.
The hotel here was remarkably neat and clean; we procured an excellent cup of tea, and next morning found a most substantial breakfast. After seeing the population assemble for church, and walking about the banks of the river, which are very beautiful, we about noon set out for our final destination, over a villanous, rough road, reached Rhode Island, by the long substantial causeway connecting it with the main land, and from this point we had a good turnpike, pulling up at Newport by two o'clock.
The public dinner was already over, being Sabbath; but the proprietor of our hotel, a worthy Quaker named Potter, got us a very comfortable meal at five o'clock, according to our wishes: meantime we rid ourselves of the accumulated dust of two days, and were comfortably established in out-quarters, the hotel being full.
The appearance of Newport is much less imposing, as approached by land, than when viewed from the noble harbour over which it looks. It consists of one long line of close-built, narrow streets running parallel with the water about the base of the steep hill, with many others climbing up its side. It is indifferently paved, and has a very light soil; so that upon the least land-breeze the lower town is filled with the dust, which is blown about in clouds.
Before the revolution, Newport was a city of comparative importance, and indeed, whilst the importation of slaves continued a part of the trade of the country, held its own with the most thriving cities of the east coast, through the great advantage it derived from its easy harbour, but with the abolition of that traffic came the downfall of its prosperity; for having no back country by the exportation of whose produce it might sustain itself, it was speedily deserted by the mercantile community, and its carrying trade usurped by Providence, although the latter is situated some thirty miles higher up the river. A railroad from Boston through the wealthy manufacturing districts might nevertheless, I should imagine, bestow upon this place the supremacy which the difficulty of land-carriage alone has withheld from it.
Its great natural advantage to visitors is the charming climate with which it is favoured, owing to its being on all sides surrounded by deep water: this is a point that cannot be changed by a decree in Congress, or removed by order of the Board of Trade, and likely to be of more use to the place, if made the most of, than the dockyard and depot which they seek to establish.
If the English plan was adopted, and small snug cottages built and furnished for the use of families resorting here, these families would naturally quit the arks in which they are now congregated, and live each after the manner of its kind, as all wise animals do; in which case, I cannot anywhere imagine a more charming abode, or one possessing superior advantages.
The general aspect of the neighbourhood puts me in mind of the Lothians; whilst some of the rides amongst the shady lanes, through whose high, loose hedgerows glimpses were constantly occurring of the sea and rocky shore, were not unworthy a comparison with portions of that Eden of our western coast, the Isle of Wight.
The harbour of Newport is of vast extent, easy of entrance, and perfectly secure from all the winds that blow: its advantages in the event of a naval war must ultimately render it the chief general depot of these States. The government appears quite sensible of the policy of rendering this noble station perfectly secure in good season: a series of defences, of first-rate importance, are in a course of erection which, when completed, it is supposed will render the harbour impregnable to any attempt from the sea. To Fort Adams, the rough-work of which is completed, I paid more than one visit; and nothing can be more substantially put together.
The necessity of a dockyard of the first order being established at this point appears to have been long and warmly pressed upon the administration by all naval men who have considered the subject: want of money, the great stumbling-block of a cheap government, has hitherto prevented the plan being carried into execution; but it is imagined that this will not be delayed much longer, after the defences are completed. Since the decease of the gallant Perry, this has ceased to be a naval station; during the last years of his life he held a command here, which was almost nominal.
I visited the place where Perry lies buried beneath a simple obelisk of granite: few heroes appear to have lived so universally loved as was the Conqueror of the Lakes. His short but brilliant career, added to his youth and remarkable personal beauty, made him the idol of the people; whilst his generous disposition and winning manners rendered him the delight of his friends. I never heard the name of this officer mentioned without eulogium, mingled with regret for his premature death.
My condition here is enviable enough: I have a pleasant room, with a fig-tree growing before my window, beneath which Captain B——n and myself breakfast daily, well shaded from sun and dust; not a musquito disputes possession with us; and the dinner-table at the "Pottery" is well served enough, and graced by several very handsome women.
Here is another large hotel near to us, which, from its high bare walls and numerous windows, we have named the "Factory;" and a sort of rivalry may be said to exist between the "Pottery girls" and those of this "Factory." The amusements consist of scandal, bathing, riding, with an occasional boating party, but the men are not enterprising, otherwise the facilities for little pic-nics and country excursions abound. The ladies, who have monopolized all the spirit here, contrive frequently to get up little hops at one house or other, and these are conducted with much gaiety and good humour; albeit, parties hold each other at a wary distance, and, although living in common beneath the same roof, have classifications made upon principles which have hitherto eluded my penetration, and are too numerous to be easily defined by the most accomplished master of the ceremonies Margate ever boasted. The laws of our exclusives, however incomprehensible, are, as elsewhere, arbitrary; and the votary of fashion must be content blindfold to follow the despotic goddess, or quit her ranks.
Whilst here, I had observed for some time an advertisement setting forth that on a certain day a steam-boat would make an excursion to Block Island. This I resolved to join: first, because any change was desirable which might kill a day; and next, because I knew the place had been a sort of station whereat our squadron managed to hang on during the war, although singularly wild and harbourless.
Early in the morning, the steamer employed in this service quitted Providence with a full live cargo; and at Newport it brought up for about an hour, during which time several recruits, myself amongst the number, joined her.
It blew fresh from about east by south; and, in consequence, no sooner had we cleared the harbour, than we were met by a heavy head-sea, and nothing was to be seen on all sides but sickness, and the misery consequent upon the dilapidation of the pretty caps and bonnets of the fair Providencials. Never was a party of pleasure-seekers in a more woe-begone plight than was this of ours when we arrived in the open roadstead of the most inhospitable-looking shores of Block Island.
Before we could bring up, the boats of the natives, apprised of our purpose, surrounded the ship, offering, for a consideration of about a quarter dollar per head, to land us upon their territory. The boats were presently filled; and from the larger ones, after they had grounded on the beach, we were by degrees landed in shallops.
On terra firma we encountered a few men in no outward way differing from the fishermen of the main, but with a confirmed craving after coin, which, however common to all civilized beings, is seldom so openly and importunately exposed as amongst these simple citizens. Boys of seventeen and eighteen years of age thought no shame to solicit a cent from the passing strangers, and were not readily got rid of.
The island, over which I wandered in common with others of the goodly company of adventurers, presented one uniform view: a rolling surface, without any considerable elevation; sea-bound, without a single harbour, or a village in the least attractive; half-a-dozen huts are scattered here and there in irregular lines, indifferently built, and having no care bestowed in the way of out-door adornment; not a tree appears on the place, although in the sheltered situations I should, imagine they would thrive: in short, a less attractive islet I never remember to have visited, or one so utterly divested of interest. The only pleasure I derived was from a view of the open roadstead, where our gallant ships used to ride out the hardest blows, much to the surprise of the natives, who yet spoke of the event with wonder.
Perhaps, on a visit like this, we did not see the best sample of this isolated community: I hope not, for their sake; for our followers had a greedy, overreaching air and manner really disgusting, and in all our little transactions exhibited a sordid grasping propensity one could not expect to meet with in a people so out of the world, and who are in the possession of great plenty: their island yields abundance of corn and common vegetables, the sea upon their shores is famous for the quantity and quality of its fish, and therefore is this grasping spirit a matter of some marvel. I found all my American fellow-voyagers who had been on shore, equally struck with the singularity of our reception, and especially mortified at the exhibition of pauperism never to be met with upon the main. I passed two years in America, and the only place where I ever was importuned by a native beggar was at this island.
Our voyage back was quickly accomplished, being before the wind; but the rolling of the vessel occasioned a da capo of the morning's scene, anything but pleasant, crowded as we were. This was my very first attempt at a "steam-boat excursion," the allurements of which are daily set forth, coloured after anything but nature, in all the journals: a man may be excused for doing a foolish thing once; this is one of the follies I can safely pledge myself never to commit again. The Rhode Island party was landed at Newport early in the evening, and in so much had the advantage of the pleasure seekers from higher up the river. If ever there should chance such another tempting of "Providence," I hope, for sake of its pretty girls, it may be successfully resisted.
On the 27th of August I took leave of Newport and its pleasant atmosphere and sociable visitors; and certainly think that it would be difficult to select a place better adapted for a summer's residence, were there any means of conserving one's individuality a little: the situation and climate being unexceptionable.
ROCKAWAY.—A ROAD ADVENTURE.
Finding a hot day in New York on my arrival, I accompanied Mr. R——d and his lady to Rockaway, a fine beach on Long Island, and upon which a subscription hotel of enormous dimensions has this year been built.
At this palace of the sand-hills, outside of which nothing attractive is to be found save a breeze, I encountered many of my New York friends. The crowd was now thinned daily by departures; but if the persons who had departed were as agreeable as those yet remaining, and animated by a similar spirit of enjoyment, their absence was a serious loss. A spirit of sociability and good-humour seemed to prevail here; and the inducements for walking being limited to loose sand-hills, without the least shade, on a rough shingle beach, the fun was all reserved for the evening, when the inmates assembled in the drawing-room, where each contributed a quota; and music, conundrums, waltzing, a quadrille, or a Virginian reel, made a couple of hours literally fly away. Here, as in most of the watering-places of the country, early hours appeared a standing rule.
This house is well arranged, and the table exceedingly good. My stay was limited to three or four days, a circumstance I regretted the less on account of finding that most of my intimate acquaintance were returning to their homes.
On Sunday, September 14th, at two o'clock P.M., embarked on board the mail-boat for Amboy, taking with me a nag I had used as a saddle-hack throughout the summer months; my purpose being to ride through the country intervening between the Raritan and the Delaware rivers, as I had done on more than one occasion, but never before by the same route exactly which I now intended to pursue by way of changing the scene.
I found five horses on board the boat, bound for Bordenton races, and about five o'clock we were all landed at Amboy, whence I directly pushed on for my next stage, Hightstown. The road was a track of light white sand, and ran through a close dwarf forest, stocked with a fine growth of musquitoes, but having no one attraction to call for the halt of a minute. By half-past seven I had reached my quarters for the night; saw my horse well taken care of under the superintendence of a good-humoured Irish boy, who was ostler, and, as he informed me, deputy waiter, besides having a "power of other things to be doin';" next, partook of a comfortable supper, and, after a short walk about the village, to bed; my purpose being to reach Bordenton next morning by six o'clock, to take the early boat for Philadelphia.
About three o'clock A.M. I was roused by my host, who brought me a light. He had made a good guess at the time; but it would have been as well had he slept an hour or two later. My horse was soon got ready, and I set forward to feel my way, with an assurance that I had nothing to do but keep right a-head, the road being as straight as a hickory pole.
The morning was fine, but cold: the stars yet twinkled brightly; but their light did not suffice to make my way very clear to me; so I followed my directions implicitly, and for some time briskly. Unluckily, a sea of mist was to be passed as I went through the low grounds; and, whilst in this, I could not discern my horse's ears for the soul of me, notwithstanding that the punctuality of the steamer demanded that I should lose no time.
I had a good nag under me, however, and rattled on merrily enough, thinking to myself what a very priggish person it must have been who first promulgated the saying, that no wise traveller ever quits his hostel before the sun gets up, or remains out of it after the sun has gone to bed. "There were no steamers at six A.M. in those times," said I to myself, as I conned over the musty aphorism; "and travelling must have been done by this methodical person at a very slow pace." At this moment I heard the rattle of boards, and became aware that I was on a bridge: I instantly reined up, when, rattle! up tilts some loose plank, and in goes one of my nag's legs up to the shoulder. To fall back upon his haunches, make a rear up, and, in answer to a sharp blow of the spur, suddenly to bolt over something and into somewhere, was the action of a moment: in the tumble, that succeeded his leap, I got a couple of confounded hard raps on the side of the head, which convinced me I had not lighted among feathers.
My horse was either the most stunned or the most frightened, for I was first on my feet; and after scrambling up a hank below the end of the bridge, I made shift to urge my nag to get on his legs and regain the road.
My upper story was a good deal confused, but knowing there was no time to be lost, after ascertaining that the horse's knees were not broken, and that my bones though shaken were all whole, up I got and away we started, with a new, and, as it turned out, a bad departure. I congratulated myself on being so easily let off; for, had a plank turned on the middle of the bridge instead of the extremity, the forward spring of my horse would have precipitated us into the river, which was less desirable infinitely than the dry ditch down whose bank we had rolled.
On I pushed, and up got the day, slowly but, brightly enough: a spire appeared in view, and I considered myself at Bordenton; the village was quickly gained, but proved some place unknown to me. On I went, and about a quarter of an hour after saw a second spire. "Here we are in port at last, thank Heaven," said I, for never did sixteen miles appear so long to me: but no, all was yet strange, not a point could I recognise. At a moment when my perplexity was complete—for, though confused, I felt assured I had covered more than the ground lying between my harbours—I saw a man with a horse and cart leaving a yard upon some early errand: riding up to him therefore, I inquired,
"Pray, sir, how far is it to Bordenton?"
"Exactly eighteen miles," was the answer.
I conceived at first that my question was not rightly understood; therefore, to make all sure, reiterated the inquiry, adding, "I mean Bordenton, where Joseph Bonaparte lives."
"When he's there, you mean," says the man: "I guess I mean that too."
"Bordenton eighteen miles off!" ejaculated I. "My friend, it's not possible; either you or I must be a little mad!"
"I'm quite the contrary," observed my sharp-witted informant, "bein' uncommon sensible; I don't know how you feel about the head notwithstanding."
I now began to imagine he was quizzing me; therefore, in order to make him feel that my questions were urged in anything but a jesting spirit, I made known my object in taking the road thus early, and concluded by saying,
"I have been riding for two hours on the way to Bordenton, being but sixteen miles distant from it at starting; so how, my good friend, do you make it out?"
"Well, I don't know," was his reply, given in a most unsympathising sort of tone; "but I reckon you'll about double the distance if you ride for two hours more on this road, as you are now a-going."
"How so?" said I, "Is not this the road?"
"O yes! I guess it is, only you're looking towards the wrong ind on it, if you want to fetch Bordenton; but, maybe, you're bound for Amboy all the time, mister?"
"And where the devil is Hightstown?" said I.
"About two miles and a half behind you. I'm going there myself."
At this moment I do not think it would have been difficult to have made me doubt my own identity, so utterly bothered was I; but my informant was quite right, for, turning about, I entered the village for the third time this morning, just three hours after I took my first departure from it, during which I must have ridden at least twenty-four miles.
Not wanting to answer many questions, I alighted at the rival hotel, ordered breakfast, and looked at my horse's legs. I found the hair just rubbed off one knee, and that he was scratched on the other leg from the fetlock joint to the fore-arm, but nowhere badly cut. After a hasty breakfast I returned to the road, and got safely to my destination in time for the second boat. It was a blundering adventure, but served me with a hearty laugh when it was over; I must, however, have been a good deal bothered by my fall, or I should never have headed the wrong way, dark as it was. My left temple continued swollen for two or three days; and my horse was laid up for a month, the glands of his neck swelling, until a serious abscess was formed, owing to his having pitched with his head against the bank in falling. I narrowly inspected the place a few weeks after this morning, and only wonder both our necks were not broken.
Philadelphia, Sept. 16th.—The climate just now is delicious; and these clean quiet streets, with the trees which shade them, have all the freshness of spring. Many Southern strangers are here, enjoying the delightful residence this city affords at this season of the year. Chestnut-street, if not so crowded, quite as gay as Broadway just now, being daily filled with pretty women. Theatre crowded.
24th.—Colonel B——ke and his family arrived en route for Washington, which they are desirous of visiting previous to their departure for England. It is a pity they are so late in the season, or rather so early: the capital is deserted now, and hot as Jamaica; even our hospitable minister, Sir Charles, has not yet, I fancy, resumed his good housekeeping.
25th.—Had the pleasure of driving Mrs. B——ke and Miss M——e to the works at Mount Pleasant, and thence along the south bank of the Schuylkill: the day was sunny, yet not over warm; the river and its beautiful banks were never seen to greater advantage; the foliage, just touched by the hand of Autumn, was changing fast, not "into the sear and yellow leaf," but into the most lovely livery in which nature ever dressed her forests; I had the satisfaction of hearing my favourite haunt sufficiently lauded by the whole party. Dined with Colonel B——ke.
27th.—After a long ride in the morning, accompanied Colonel B——ke and ladies to dinner at Mrs. W——gs. In the evening, a small party, with music. A sister of our hostess, Madame P——t, who is an accomplished musician, sang some duets with Count S—— in excellent taste; and we had Mrs. W——gs' harp in perfection. She is certainly the best lady harpist I ever heard; her taste and feeling are both good, her execution certain and brilliant, and her touch nearly as firm, if not quite so vigorous, as Bochsa's, whose pupil indeed she is; and infinite credit does she do her master.
Is it that music is more cultivated as a science in Philadelphia, or that I have chanced to light upon a more musical circle here than it has been my fortune to encounter elsewhere? Certain it is, I have not, in the other great cities, met any women whose musical education appears so exceedingly good, though a love for the art, I should say, is general throughout the country.
28th.—At seven A.M. left Chestnut-street for Baltimore. Whilst steering through the waters of the Chesapeake, perceived a large steamer standing right for us, with a signal flying. Learned that this was the Columbus, bound for Norfolk, Virginia, for which place we had several passengers, who were now to be transhipped to the approaching vessel.
We were out in the open bay, with half a gale of wind blowing, and some sea on; it therefore became a matter of interest to observe how two large ships of this class would approach each other.
The way they managed this ticklish affair was really admirable: before we neared, I observed the Norfolk ship was laid head to wind, and just enough way kept on to steer her; our ship held on her course, gradually lessening her speed, until, as she approached the Columbus, it barely sufficed to lay and keep her alongside, when they fell together, gangway to gangway: warps were immediately passed, and made secure at both head and stern; and in a minute the huge vessels became as one.
Here was no want of help; the luggage and the passengers were ready at the proper station, so that in a handful of minutes the transfer was completed without bustle or alarm. Meantime the interest of this novel scene was greatly increased by the coming up of the inward-bound Norfolk-man, which flitted close by us amidst the roar occasioned by the escaping steam of the vessels lying-to, a noise that might have drowned the voice of Niagara.
As we thus lay together, I noticed that the upper or promenade deck of the Columbus was completely taken up by a double row of flashy-looking covered carts, or tilt-waggons, as they are called here. Upon inquiry, I found that these contained the goods, and were, indeed, the movable stores, or shops, of that much enduring class, the Yankee pedlars, just setting forth for their annual winter cruise amongst the plantations of the South: where, however their keen dealing may be held in awe, they are looked for with lively anxiety, and their arrival greeted as an advent of no little moment.
They form a hardy and enterprising class, and ought to be well paid for the risks and great labour they undergo; being, in fact, the mercantile pioneers of the continent, every corner of which they penetrate from the Atlantic to the Pacific, supplying, in their route, the frontiers with little luxuries that else would never find a way there for years to come. They thus keep the chain of civilization entire, binding the remotest settlers to the great Union by their necessities, to which it administers through these its adventurous agents, whose tempting "notions" constantly create new wants amongst the simple children of the forest and prairie.
Arranged in a half circle about the bow on the main-deck, I observed the horses of these royal pedlars: they stretched their necks out to examine us with a keenness of look worthy their knowing masters' reputation and their own education.
Our business being completed, the hissing sound of the waste-steam pipe ceased, this force being once more applied to its right use; the paddles began to move, the lashings were cast off, and away the boats darted from each other with startling rapidity; the Columbus, with the gale aft, rushing down the great bay of the Chesapeake, and the Washington breasting its force right for Baltimore.
Our captain, I soon perceived, was bent upon overtaking the steamer that had passed whilst we were busied alongside the Columbus; and so quickly did he overhaul her, that, although we had not over fourteen miles to go, he left her astern far enough before entering the harbour to satisfy his honour, and prove the George Washington the fastest boat. About four o'clock P.M. we approached the wharf, amidst the usual cries of "coach!" "want a coach, your honour?" given in accents always welcome to my ears, for they remind me of home.
I am here tempted to recall a little personal anecdote, which is illustrative of the character of this class of my countrymen, and proves that the ready address for which they are so famous at home does not desert them on this side the water.
During the first visit I paid this city, I had of course made particular acquaintance with one or two Jarveys; for I lived a long way from my work, and their attention was serviceable. On my next arrival at the harbour, it was late: we had encountered a snow storm, and I, being wet and wretched enough, was anxious to get to the hotel, having to play that night. I was on the look-out as we touched the wharf, and with great delight heard a voice most melodiously bawl out,
"O! blur' an' oons, boys, if here isn't Mr. Power!"
The planks were shoved over, and, at the same moment, half a dozen voices greeted me with the accustomed
"Here's a coach, Mr. Power!"
"Och! sure your honour'll go wid me this turn, for luck!"
"You're welcome, Mr. P——: long life to yez! it's I've the coach'll whip you up to ould Barnums', snug and dry, in no time."
In the midst of this din, whilst I was yet on the plank, I perceived a tall raw-boned Tipperary lad, who had evidently decided on appropriating me, making his way most unceremoniously through the crowd, shouting out in a tone that drowned all competitors,
"Och! thin', will yez stop yer bawling, and don't bother Mr. Power, when his own carriage has bin waiting for him here these two hours."
An appeal like this was not to be resisted: I therefore accompanied my friend to my own carriage; and whatever doubts I might entertain as to this part of my friend's statement, the fact of its having been in waiting for "these two hours" I could readily credit; for I found it half full of snow. I observed upon its condition, saying that, as I was expected, my carriage might have been better looked after.
"Wasn't I below looking afther ye're honour, and that's the way the snow got in without my seein' it: indeed, we're not a dale used to snows here away; but I'll have it out and turn the cushions, and powdher you up to the hotel in a minute."
All this was said and done in an accent and with a manner that made me for a moment forget the wharf of Baltimore, and fancy myself at the foot of Essex bridge, or landing on the pier of Kingston.
Just as I was sitting down to dinner, received a note from Mr. S——r, offering kindly, that, if I felt so disposed, they would next morning take out the hounds, and see if a fox could not be found. I accepted the invitation with pleasure, and dined no worse with the prospect of a run in the distance.
To the theatre, and early to bed, after giving directions to be called at half-past five A.M., fox-hunting being an early business here; in fact, the moment the sun is fairly out, the moisture vanishes from the ground, and afterwards it becomes hard to find. Slept like a dormouse; dreamed of dogs, dykes, and red-foxes, until I was awakened by my horse backing at a Virginia rail-fence, and giving me a nearer prospect of his ears than was consistent with the true principles of equation—found Sam shaking me by the shoulder, with warning that it was time to rise.
29th.—Took a cup of coffee, and mounted the nag Mr. S——r had sent for my use, with a saddle ample enough for a camel, a double bridle, a martingale, and all kinds of traps equally perplexing. The martingale, judging from the pony's make and carriage, I at once took objections to; but the white-headed negro groom received my directions to take it off with such evident horror, saying with tears in his eyes, "Dat he not at all good, no how neber, widout da martin-gal," that out of courtesy I felt compelled to retain it for the present, but with the mental resolution to remove it when we got to cover.
I soon discovered that my pony at his ordinary gait was a "fiddler," besides exhibiting slight symptoms of musical talent; he was, however, cobby and well-built, showed much spirit, and had a good spice of breeding about him; presuming his pluck to be answerable, I did not despair of being somewhere.
In the suburbs we unkennelled the dogs: the pack consisted of twenty, all counted; ill-matched as to size and bone, but appearing healthy, clean, full of spirits, and in good working trim.
The huntsman, an old builder, of sporting character, turned out with his dogs, mounted on a powerful bay horse nearly thorough-bred, with capital pins, and real Irish quarters; as is the uniform custom here, I observed he rode with a martingale, having slips of leather on the reins to prevent the rings from drawing close to the cheek. How the devil are they to jump tired nags with these things! says I to myself; but we shall see!
Our huntsman, albeit his equipment would not have won him credit or recognition as "a sporting man" at a costermonger's skurry in Battersea-fields, had the quick eye, bright look, and keen expression of feature common to all knowing ones in the noble art of venerie: he managed to make his dogs obedient, and kept them well together during a ride of some six or eight miles, although no two couple were at all matched in weight or power.
At length we cast off into as likely a looking cover as ever hound was put through, and in ten minutes after we received good information from a dependable quarter that Reynard was there or thereabouts; the scent was, judging by the tongue, not a very warm one, but our huntsman appeared confident that all was right.
In a few minutes the cry grew more cheery, the lively dogs more anxious; and whilst poking through the cover, I saw the fox, a grey one, stealing outward, and tally-ho'd him.
The dogs were wide abroad, but all busy as ants; the leaders confident, and showing no signs of being at fault; the old man declined to hark 'em-to, preferring that they should find their own way: this, after a good deal of doubling, they certainly did; an old hound hit the right scent, by inspiration as it were; and went away to it as straight as a rifle-ball, and almost as quick; taking out of this cover across a small meadow that divided it from another, into which the fox struck as quickly as possible.
It became evident, after a little dodging about, that Reynard had made up his mind to trust to these neighbour covers for safety; the dogs could not get him off: we viewed the rascal several times; and at one time I hoped he had resolved to change his plan and go-away, for he dashed from the cover-edge and tried his speed with the dogs, leading them gallantly for a few minutes; but the beast had no real game in his nature, for he doubled back for another corner of his bush.
Thus he ran and thus we rode from cover to cover, nearly always in the same line, for full two hours and a half; when the cur being brought fairly to a stand-still, was caught and killed near to where he was first tally-ho'd. The only interest afforded by this sort of chase arose from the extreme tenacity with which the hounds held on to the trail as they ran their prey through all his doubles in covers closely set with trees, and having an undergrowth of thick brushwood and bramble, all but impassable.
I was also much amused by observing the behaviour of two young English hounds, that had been imported this season only, by Captain Stockton, from the kennel of Sir Harry Goodricke, and marked H. G. on the off-side. The slut took to this rough work as keenly as any of the old hounds, and was well up with the leading dogs throughout; but the dog would not face the cover; he stuck close to the heels of the last horse in every skurry, and never evinced the least desire to do credit to his gallant breeding.
About three o'clock got back to Baltimore, with but a poor opinion of Transatlantic fox-hunting, if this may be considered a specimen. My excellent and sport-loving friend, S——r, informs me, however, that the red fox when found is another affair altogether, possessing great speed, and having courage to rely upon it.
In search of one of this family, I have promised to ride on Friday, wind and weather permitting; at present both are more variable than I can describe, the extreme changes of the temperature, and the suddenness of these, utterly surpassing all my experience. One day I have a large fire, and the next, windows and doors open in search of cool air: in the course of the afternoon a change of twenty degrees is a common occurrence. The Indian summer has not yet set in, but when the influence of the equinox is over, we shall have, I hope, a few of those divine days that made last fall so enjoyable a season.
Since my last visit, a very handsome hotel has been completed adjoining the Exchange, of which building it forms indeed a part; it is to be conducted after the manner of the Mansion-house at Philadelphia. This is the work of two or three public-spirited men, and the benevolence of their design merits the thanks of the travelling community; for the more such hotels are multiplied, the better for them.
30th.—Accompanied by Mr. G——s, went to look over a small collection of pictures belonging to a Mr. Gilmour. I was struck by a couple of portraits painted by Lawrence: they were the likenesses of the proprietor of the house and his wife. The gentleman was done in the best style of this master; and the lady, an exceedingly lovely woman, was also an admirable as well as a most attractive portrait; but lacking, I imagined, that quiet simple grace which makes his female figures so refined, so inimitable.
Here were several good pictures of both the Italian and Dutch schools, amongst others a Cuyp, said to be undoubtedly original; but, viewed through the medium of closely-curtained drawing-rooms, on a dull day, it was not possible to form a correct judgment as to the true character of any of the subjects. The whole thing was however in good taste; and numberless articles of virtu gave evidence of the refinement and love of art which distinguishes the owner, who, I regretted to learn, was at this time confined to his bed by severe illness. I had the honour of being presented to the lady of the house; and, although many years have passed since she sat to our late President, I at once recognised her for the original of the charming portrait to which I have alluded.
October 3rd.—Friday, at seven A.M., left Barnum's to seek for a red fox in company with my friend S——r, and that fine old man, Mr. Oliver, now no more. We were joined on the way by three or four other gentlemen, and on we pushed for the Neck, where the landing took place under Ross, our ground being the field of battle. The morning was insufferably sultry; but, as it had rained all the previous day, it was decided by the knowing ones that the scent would lie well.
I observed that we had on this day a new huntsman, and, upon inquiry for our former companion, learnt that he was compelled to stay by his brick-field. His successor, a queer-looking fish, who was hailed as Colonel A——, afforded me much amusement by the singularity of his equipment; as we neared our hunting-ground, my attention was yet more strongly fixed upon the colonel by old Mr. Oliver, who made several humorous allusions to a former hard run of our huntsman's over the same line of country; allusions which called forth loud laughter from all present, including the subject of them, although I observed his merriment to be accompanied by a whimsical air of embarrassment.
I was quickly put up to the fun by one of our party, who informed me, that on the day of the fight which took place here, it was the colonel's fortune to command a battalion of militia fifteen hundred strong; he had been stationed with his battalion behind a fence, with orders to make it good as long as possible; but the general commanding on the field perceiving that the position was turned at some distance by a corps of the British, sent an aide to the gallant colonel, directing him to change his front so as to face the advancing enemy, and retire to the next field, where his flank would be covered.
The colonel, whose military eye now clearly perceived that his position was the evident aim of the advancing British column, whose quick step was rapidly shortening the distance between, listened to the message of his commander with some impatience, replying to the aide with admirable promptitude.
"Why, look'ee, major, as to changin' front and all that, I calculate you'd best do it yourself: but I dare say what you tell me about retiring is all right; I see no possible objections to that; therefore, I wish you a very good day."
The colonel kept his word: no sooner said than done; retiring instantly in the direction of home, and never halting for breath until he reached the city, a march of about seven or eight miles, which was accomplished in a time that proved highly creditable to the wind and bottom of both himself and such of his corps as stuck to their chief throughout this rapid movement.
The worthy militia colonel was tried by court-martial, and broke, for this wise exercise of his judgment; he still, notwithstanding, rejoices in his military title; and follows the hounds stoutly at a good healthy old age, which in all human probability would never have arrived had he waited to change his front with a veteran corps actively deploying on his flank in open field.
We drew a great extent of cover, but found no fox; indeed, if we had, the day came on too hot for either dogs or horses to have followed far. I was sufficiently delighted with my ride; the woods were beautiful, and from the Neck both the harbour and city show to great advantage.
During this visit to Baltimore, I had changed my scene of action from the "Front Street" to the "Holiday Theatre;" smaller, but more comfortable than my first quarters: this city is not so theatrical as the others I have visited, but no audience can be more agreeable; they certainly ought to like a play, for when they do come they enjoy it heartily; and during my present visit the house was unusually well attended. As a residence I like Baltimore much; its market is equal to any other in the States, and cheaper than either Philadelphia or New York.
The great race-meeting, on the central course here, being to take place on the 21st of this month, I resolved to attend it; and spent my intervening fortnight between Philadelphia and Princeton, where I passed a few days at Mr. S——n's, quail-shooting, in company with a countryman, whose society made the longest day light, and sometimes indeed did as much for the longest night. On the 18th I again quitted the hospitable Princeton, and accompanied Captain S——n to Bristol, via Trenton. In the latter place we found the whole community rejoicing over the triumph of the democratic or Jackson party, in favour of which the past election had proved most decisive. At Bristol we took the steamer for Philadelphia, and next day on to Baltimore for the races: the weather for the last ten days unexceptionable.
Tuesday, 21st.—Attended the central course: a pleasant ride of six miles or so. On this day was made the first attempt at running three-year old horses with our weight and for our distance, instead of the four-mile heats usual here; the attempt was a decided failure: an evident prejudice existed against it amongst the sporting men; only six horses were entered, and of these four paid forfeit: the race became a match therefore, and went off tamely. I doubt whether the experiment will ever succeed here, if even it is repeated.
Nothing can be more meagre than the ordinary accessories of an American race-course: here is no assemblage of the beau-monde, no populace, no four-in-hand drags, no costermongers, no donkeys, no dukes, no thimble-rig, no gipsies; in short, "no nothin'," except a few quiet-looking hacks and a sprinkling of sulkies.
On this day, I observed about a dozen ladies in the comfortless stand: these were here in order to qualify for the race-ball, the stewards having given out that no invites would be extended to any ladies who did not, on one day at least, grace the course with their presence.
24th.—A better assemblage on the course than I have yet seen: a good deal of excitement stirring in consequence of "Shark" being entered once more to run against the pet of the South, "Trifle." The stand presented quite a goodly show of women: a greater number of pretty ones it would be difficult to collect in any city of the size.
The race was won by the favourite "Trifle" in two four-mile heats, two of the horses entered being distanced in the first: the time of the first heat was seven minutes 28 seconds; and of the second, seven minutes 27 seconds.
"Shark" again ran under great disadvantages; for, during his journey from Princeton in New Jersey, he had thrown out a bad curb on his off-hock, close to the articulation of the joint. Captain S——n was resolved, however, that there should be no disappointment, and started him accordingly. He was badly ridden, and ran lame for the first three miles, but came well in. For the second heat his rider was changed, and he made a slashing race, coming in close to the little mare. "Shark" is an Eclipse colt, of remarkable power and beauty, and will yet, I think, turn out one of the first race-horses of the country.
In the evening, the race-ball took place, and here were congregated most of the assembly-going beauty of Baltimore; but, I should say, the cathedral is the place where the greatest portion may be seen. I do not know whether or not my judgment is correct, but the general style of dress struck me to be in better taste here than I had elsewhere observed it; perhaps because it was plainer, a style that suits my fancy better than any mode having more pretension.
A good supper was one of the provisions not least admirable; a majestic corned round of beef stood on a side-table; an object of admiration not often presented to view in the States, but of whose beauty there could be no two opinions: for myself, I did more than admire; I at once addressed it ardently, and for its return of tenderness can avouch: I gratefully remember it, still cherishing the fond recollection.
A compassionate countryman of my own, who saw me drinking iced champagne, bade me follow him: with that provident attention to trifles, so characteristic of Ireland on similar occasions, this thoughtful soul had not "forgotten to remember" that a little whisky-punch might be acceptable on a cold night before facing the air of morning. The compound in question had been prepared by an experienced hand, and the material was great indeed; I was assured that the spirit had been just fifteen years away from its native city, Cork. Honoured be its parent. Still! may the turf ever burn bright beneath it, and the New World long rejoice in its fruitfulness!
"For Oh! there's a spell
In its every drop, 'gainst the ills of mortality. Talk of the cordial that sparkled for Helen, Her cup was a fiction, but this a reality."
Sunday, 26th.—Was called early, having an engagement to pass a couple of days with Mr. C——l at his country-house: found a gale of wind blowing, with an accompaniment of heavy rain: countermanded the vehicle I had ordered, and returned to bed, since a country excursion on this day was out of the question.
27th.—Accompanied Mr. S——r to Carrol's Island, having arranged to visit this celebrated ducking-ground on our way to Mr. Oliver's seat.
We reached the house about eleven o'clock, the distance being sixteen miles: the cottage, which forms the head-quarters of the club of gentlemen who farm this sporting-stand, was plain enough for the most republican spirit. One sitting-room, and a couple of dormitories containing a camp-bed for each member, with pegs and racks for arms and implements, formed the whole of the appointments and furniture; but the sport is first-rate; and the plain simplicity of this menage gives increased zest to the meeting, and promotes the hardihood essential both to the successful pursuit of game and to the healthful enjoyment of the sport.
Before the hour of dinner, we walked down on to the long neck of land where the shooters patiently abide the flight of the ducks: on one side is the Seneca, and on the other the Gunpowder river; both favourite feeding-grounds of all the water-fowl frequenting this region of creeks, rivers, and bays. About the central line of the neck of land, a dozen or so of stands are ranged at equal distances, built about four feet high, each large enough for two gunners; with shelves within for the various traps needful, a plank floor, and a couple of stools.
Here the men on duty take post; and, chewing the quid of "sweet and bitter fancies" patiently abide the moment when it may please the canvass-back to give his bosom to the breeze, and quit one river for the other. Half a dozen Retrievers, of a mixed breed, lay lounging on the grass in front of this line of watch-boxes, awaiting the moment when work should be cut out for their Sagacities. These were admirably trained to their vocation, as I had an opportunity of judging whilst a looker-on here. On the occasion of a small flight, a couple of long shots were made, and a duck winged slightly: it made a good downward slant, and fell forty yards from the shore into the Seneca: at the same moment in dashed four dogs after it, helter-skelter: there was a little sea on, and the object of their search at first unseen by them: a wave of the hand from the sportsman was the signal by which their line was regulated, and for this one of the four would occasionally look back. The wounded bird, on being neared, dived, followed by the foremost dog; the others staunchly pursuing the line of their under-course, directed by the air-bubbles rising to the surface: in a little time, up came the duck ahead of its pursuers, and the dog close upon it; being hard pressed, down again went the duck, and down went another dog; and for several times was this repeated, until the chase was nearly a mile from the beach, when the dogs were recalled from a pursuit which is rarely successful unless the game has received some bodily wound, or has a limb broken,—so active and so strong are these birds in the water.
At two o'clock we sat down to a most capital dinner,—a joint of roast-beef, fine fish, and Canvass-backs, that had been on the wing within a couple of hours, together with the Red-head, Teal, and two or three other specimens; all excellent in their way, but not comparable for delicacy, fat, or flavour with that inimitable work of nature the right Canvass-back duck of these waters, where the wild celery on which they love to feed abounds, and to which they owe the delicate aromatic flavour so prized by the gourmand.
At five o'clock P.M., after witnessing some sport, S——r gave the word to mount, and off we set for Mr. Oliver's. An hour's ride brought us within his domain, where lofty deer-fences, blackthorn hedge-rows, well-made drives, and carefully cultivated land, formed a striking change from the wild but beautiful forest-country through which we had ridden.
We first came upon the farm-yard and offices of the estate, all well-arranged and in good order: here we left our horses, and walked on to the house,—a plain sporting-lodge, without any outward appearance or pretension. It is well situated upon a gentle eminence overlooking a couple of fine reaches of the Gunpowder river; on the land side the deer-park spreads away to the forest, being divided from the lawn by an invisible fence.
Himself an ardent lover of the sports of the field, Mr. Oliver, for a time, took infinite pains to cultivate a legitimate taste for it; but, I believe, without much success, although he pursued his plans on a scale and at a cost not often imitated in this country. Indeed, to say truth, men of fortune have little encouragement here to be liberal in this way; since, when a gentleman has surrounded himself with all the appliances to sporting, it is next to impossible to bring them fairly into play; or, however social his own spirit may be, yet harder to find persons possessing the time and taste for their enjoyment.
The worthy old sportsman gave me a grievous list of difficulties which he had encountered from a desire to promote on this fine estate the breed of certain animals and birds. Keepers were provided from Europe with first-rate characters; but they found all their ancient habits were to be unlearned here, and were soon completely at fault.
The foxes killed his pheasants; the neighbouring farmers, or boatmen from the rivers, had decoyed his dogs and shot down his deer; and, after a hopeless struggle, he had given up his hounds: the deer alone he managed to domesticate and increase, his stock at present amounting to four hundred head.
No spot could have been better chosen for an experiment of this kind, as the whole estate lies within a natural ring-fence, bounded by deep waters on two sides, and cut off from all neighbours on the other by a belt of close forest. Under other laws, time would be afforded for the regular improvement of this domain, and the plans of the founder might be carried out by his successors; but, as it is, the present worthy possessor once laid beneath the turf, the object of all his pains-taking and labour will, in all probability, be cut up into small farms, or be allowed once more to degenerate into forest, as may appear most profitable to his heirs.
This plan may be decidedly the most advantageous for the community at large, and I have no doubt is, since it works well here; but it has a chilly and depressing effect on the mind when viewed by one who would desire—and who does not?—to live in the creations which owe their existence to his labour or his taste, and who would revisit in the spirit the pleasant place enjoyed by his children, for whose dear sakes it was first projected.
After supper our spirited old host gave the hour of muster for five o'clock A.M., and we severally sought our beds in order to make the most of the brief time left for sleep. Much as I love a fox-hunt, I freely confess that this early rising did seem a mighty hard bargain.
28th.—Not choosing to be laggard, as the thing was to be done, I was first afoot for the honour of Britain;—the whole party, indeed, were exceedingly punctual;—and after a hearty breakfast, away we rode for cover, with a slight crisping of frost under hoof, and a warm-looking sky just opening over head, heralding a sun that gave promise of making woodland and meadow smoke again within the next hour or two; at present, however, the air was nippingly shrewd, to say the least of it, and set me to blowing my fingers like a trumpeter. At the end of about an hour's ride the dogs were laid on, and almost immediately hit off the scent, and went away merrily through the wood at a slashing rate. The rider is here kept wide awake by the vicinity of the trees, many of which are spreading and low-branched, requiring a quick eye and some suppleness to keep one's hat from getting hurt when going "the pace," and, by St. Hubert! these hounds in woodland appear anything but slow.
Many dark dells and lovely open glades did we thus hurrah by, and across, with barely a glimpse in passing. In one place the path was completely blocked up by two forest-trees, apparently but recently rooted up; they had been rent from the earth, and flung here from opposite sides, as though a mere stack of rushes, in the pride of their vigour and in the full bloom of their beauty; and here they lay to wither boll, and branch, and leaf.
A whirlwind had evidently descended on this very spot probably within a few days; I say descended, for the whole circumference of the circle devastated did not exceed twenty yards at most. One other tree, yet fixed in the soil, presented an awful example of the might of the tornado. It was a chestnut of the largest size, the trunk near the base being seven or eight feet in circumference; it reclined at what seemed to have been the very focus of the whirlwind; its roots yet clung to earth; but, through the resistance thus offered, the tree had been literally twisted round and round, until it was split into laths, the trunk having the appearance of a great bundle of saplings peeled and twined together by the hand of a Titan, as lads twist withy-wands; the sturdy limbs and spreading branches, although little broken, were wound about and knotted together in a way so curiously complicated as hardly to be made comprehensible without the aid and evidence of sight.
Attracted by this singular forest wreck, I took to moralizing like the melancholy Jaques, though in a strain not quite so well worthy of record; and, losing sight of my company, was for some time thrown out. When I caught the dogs up, it was found Reynard was fairly gone to earth in an inaccessible ravine; so we even left him of necessity to his repose, which had been tolerably well earned by a rattling burst of full six miles on end.
In half an hour after we found again, when we got a second run, which, with a couple of short checks, held us in sport for an hour and a half, with a similar result.
By this time the day was growing smoking hot, whilst the dogs and horses were anything but fresh; so it was agreed to collect our, by this time, scattered forces, and turn the rein once again for the Lodge. To the sound of "merrie horn and loud halloo" we took our way through the pathless forest, picking up now a strayed hound and now a man astray, until, by the time home was reached, all our company was well accounted for; and so ends my last fox-chase in America.
Let me here insert that my hospitable host never followed hound again: he on this day, I remember, regretted to me that a pain in his chest, with a growing difficulty of respiration, prevented his riding as he had once done; within a few weeks after he died, leaving a gap in the hospitality of Baltimore that will be felt by hundreds. Mr. Oliver was one of a class of excellent open-house men, of which class there are specimens to be found in every part of this Union, men whose frank hospitality is of itself sufficient to keep up the reputation of the country amongst strangers: many of these yet live, and I trust will long live, to the lasting honour of the States.
By birth, the subject of this notice was an Irishman; but his affections, his sympathies, his prejudices, were all on the side of his adopted country, which in his eyes had no equal in the world. It was amusing to hear him speak of his visits to Europe: to England only did he cede the right even of comparison; and on the subject of our wines he was quite a sceptic, although he had dined at the best tables, and spoke most warmly of his entertainers. He protested against the wines of England being at all comparable to those of America; nay, I remember he was heretic enough to deny us the supremacy of a rump-steak, and raised his voice against the majesty of Dolly's.
I would not have so much heeded his advancing this heterodox doctrine before Americans, had he not at the same time come well prepared to prove himself qualified to give judgment by producing, hot-and-hot, a steak that even I was compelled to admit might have been entered as A.1. at Lloyd's.
They possess in the States generally as good beef as need be desired; but, strange to say, with this exception, I have rarely met a tolerable steak, according to our idea of the matter; the secret of which is, the meat is not kept, is full of blood and fibre, and, although excellent of flavour, is not easily disposed of by those who reject the bolting principle, and desire to adhere to the more toilsome plan of mastication.
29th.—Quitted the pleasant banks of the Gunpowder, and, with my old sporting companion, returned to Baltimore. Same day, embarked on board steam-boat for an excursion as far as Petersburg, Virginia, via Norfolk; we had a fine day and night whilst steering through this great bay of the Chesapeake: went to bed late in consequence.
30th.—Coming out of the cabin this morning at an early hour, found we were off the old fort, Point Comfort. Fort Calhoun, a work on which enormous outlay has been made, is not yet completed: the great difficulty appears to be the unstable nature of the bank on which the works are placed: upon the elevation of the terre-plain alone, nearly four thousand cubic yards of sand have been employed; all of which is shipped from the main, and deposited within the fort. It is computed that, by the time this place is fitted to receive a garrison, one hundred thousand tons of stone will have been expended on the works and breakwater which are required as an exterior support to the pressure from within.
The completion of this truly great military work must, in a great measure, depend upon the decrease of the subsidence to which the soil is liable, and for which it is necessary to pause after every year's addition of pressure, in order to proportion such a resistance as may restore the equilibrium and secure the foundation. When I was here, one of these pauses in the engineering department had place; but it was said, the President had intimated his design of passing the hot season upon this spot, when the works would be vigorously resumed under his inspection.
Sailing up the Elizabeth river, so famous in the gallant Raleigh's story, we reached Norfolk at eight o'clock A.M., when a portion of our living freight was quickly transferred to the Virginia steamer for Charleston; another portion, to which I was attached, being, with similar promptitude, handed over to the Pocahontas ditto, bound for Richmond, the capital of Virginia. In less than an hour we were sailing back through the well-closed harbour of Norfolk; whence, crossing the Elizabeth river, we entered, in a couple of hours, the noble stream now rightly called, after its legitimate sovereign, the Powhatan, but better known as the James's river,—"a great sinking in the poetry of the thing," though Jamie also was a king, "but no more like his brother," &c.
Upon the southern banks rise a constant series of fine bold bluffs, mostly crowned with forest trees of great beauty, now dressed in that rich-coloured foliage so often lauded by poet and painter, but as yet, I fancy, never done full justice to. Scott and Turner, those inspired illustrators of nature, might have done this: as it is, I hope America will, before many years are past, find, amongst her own sons, pens and pencils worthy to give her beauties to the admiration of the Old World.
We arrived off the original city founded in the "Old Dominion," having some passengers to land upon the beach, now almost as wild as when first trodden by the adventurous foot of the bold Captain Smith. Within a few yards of the landing-place stood the first Christian church erected on this mighty continent: I grieve to add, this interesting altar to the true God no longer bears his holy word: a dilapidated, but sturdy-looking square tower of brick, alone remains to mark the site of church and city; indeed, without timely care is bestowed by some gentle, generous spirit, even this most interesting memorial will speedily disappear. At present this forms one of the very few objects to which the term picturesque may properly be applied, existing in the States; and, linked as it is with the recollections of its gallant founders, I confess it laid strong hold of my imagination, absorbing my eyes and interest as long as I could keep it in view.