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.
TO THE BRITISH PUBLIC.
Most persons have a Patron, from whose power and influence they have derived support, and of whose favour they feel proud.
I cannot claim to be of the few who are above this adventitious sort of aid, self-raised and self-sustained; on the contrary, I have a Patron, the only one I ever sought, but whose favour has well repaid my pains of solicitation.
The Patron I allude to is yourself, my Public, much courted, much abused, and commonly accused of either being coldly neglectful or capriciously forgetful of all sorts of merit. To me, at least, you have proved most kind, and hitherto most constant.
Yes, my Public, throughout my humble career, I have at all times of doubt or despondency invariably turned to you, and never have I been coldly regarded. I have leaned heavily upon you, yet have never found your aid withdrawn.
As an Actor, when managers have appeared indifferent, or critics unkind, and my hopes have sunk within me, I have turned to your cheering plaudits, and found in them support for the present and encouragement for the future.
As an Author, this appeal is founded solely upon my desire, not only to amuse, but to make you better acquainted with an important part and parcel of yourself, to which, although widely sundered, you are naturally and morally allied, and of which, as emanating from yourself, and in no way degenerate, you ought to feel very proud.
If happily I succeed in effecting this—if I dissipate one common error, eradicate one vulgar prejudice, or kindle one kindly feeling between you and the people of whom I write, I shall feel that, by so doing, I have at length made you some return for the high favour with which you have repaid my efforts to please you.
In presenting this offering to you, I am aware, at this the ninth hour, that it abounds in errors; and I would furnish a copious list of errata from each sheet, if I thought you would find patience to compare them. But you also know how my time has been employed since my return to you. Whilst you have nightly laughed with me at the playhouse, I have nightly had the devil waiting for a contribution at home, and he is an imp importunate and insatiable. To soothe him, I have worked whilst you have slept.
I do not tell this to deprecate the censure my crude publication merits, but only to excuse the impertinence of dedicating it to you. Nevertheless, being the best commodity I have to lay at your feet, I beg you to accept it, with the very sincere declaration that I am, my only Patron and gentle Public,
Your devoted, Humble servant, TYRONE POWER.
Bolton Street, May Fair, Dec. 23rd, 1835.
 i.e. Printer's devil!
Although I have hitherto forborne all preface or dedication on exhibiting my small ware to the public, concluding that the less I said about the matter the better, and from having some scruples about tacking any lady's or gentleman's name to bantlings from which I had withheld my own; yet, in the present case, do I consider myself bound, in a like spirit of honesty, to provide this book with a few words descriptive of its quality, lest my Readers, being disappointed, may charge me with having deluded them under false "Impressions."
I seek, then, to describe America as I saw it,—a mighty country, in the enjoyment of youth and health, and possessing ample room and time for the growth, which a few escapades incident to inexperience and high blood may retard, but cannot prevent. Heaven has written its destinies in the gigantic dimensions allotted to it, and it is not in the power of earth to change the record.
I seek to describe its people as I saw them,—clear-headed, energetic, frank, and hospitable; a community suited to, and labouring for, their country's advancement, rather than for their own present comfort. This is and will be their lot for probably another generation.
To those, then, who seek scandalous innuendos against, or imaginary conversations with, the fair, the brave, and the wise amongst the daughters and sons of America, I say, Read not at all; since herein, though something of mankind, there is little of any man, woman, or child, of the thousands with whom I have reciprocated hospitality and held kind communion.
On the other hand, it can be objected that I set out by giving evidences of a partiality which may cause my judgment to be questioned.
Frankly do I avow this fault, and in my justification have but to add, that the person who, for two years, could be in constant intercourse with a people, to the increase of his fortune, the improvement of his health, and the enlargement of all that is good in his mind, yet feel no partiality in their favour, I pity for coldness more than envy for philosophy.
But whilst I am by nature incapable of repaying kindness by aspersion, I feel that I am no less above the meanness of attempting a return in that base coin—flattery; that which I saw I say, and as I saw it. I blame none of my predecessors for their general views, but claim the right of differing from them wherever I think fit; and if my account of things most on the surface even, should sometimes appear opposite to theirs, I would not, by this, desire to impeach their veracity, since the changes working in society are as rapid, though not quite so apparent, as those operating on the face of these vast countries, whose probable destinies do in truth render almost ridiculous the opinions and speculations of even the sagest of the pigmies that have bustled over their varied surface.
THE FIRST VOLUME.
Page EUROPE 1 The Eve of Sailing ib. Sailing Day 4 The Europe Packet 7 The Europe continued.—Change of Affairs. 21 Journal at Sea 28 Land, ho! 34 Port 39 NEW YORK 47 First Impressions of the City ib. A Bivouac 49 Cato's! 58 Theatre 60 PHILADELPHIA 74 The Theatres.—Walnut and Chestnut. 87 JOURNEY TO BOSTON 90 The East River.—Hurl-Gate.—The Sound.—Point Judith.—Newport Harbour.—Providence. ib. BOSTON 101 State Prison 114 Tremont Hotel 117 The Tremont Theatre 123 JOURNAL 127 BALTIMORE 135 Baltimore.—Journal continued. 140 The Temperance House 145 Journal 153 Journal continued.—New Year's Day in New York. 166 The Dutch and Irish Colonies of Pennsylvania. 181 THE STEAM-BOAT 188 Delaware.—Newcastle.—Railroad.—French-Town.—Elk River.—North Point.—Bay of Chesapeake.—Baltimore. ib. WASHINGTON 200 Theatre, Washington 210 Pierce's Garden 215 The Garden, Poetical and Political 221 The Falls of the Potomac 225 Impressions of Washington Society, public and private 240 Impressions of Alexandria.—A blank day. 246 The Fancy Ball 252 LIONS OF WASHINGTON 260 The Indian Cabinet.—House of Legislature.—Senate.— Ladies.—Senators.—President. ib. BOSTON 284 Journey across the Alleghany Mountains.—Pittsburg. ib. PITTSBURG 309 THE HUDSON 341 ALBANY 347 JOURNEY TO COOPER'S TOWN.—OTSEGO LAKE 361 TRENTON FALLS 369 BUFFALO 386 NIAGARA 391 ERIE CANAL 412 Packet-boat.—Heat.—Cedar Swamp, Long Swamp, and Musquito Swamp.—Utica. ib. LITTLE FALLS 420 Saratoga.—Ballston.—Albany.—Mountain-House.— Catskill.—Hyde Park.—Lynn. ib.
IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA.
THE EVE OF SAILING.
In youth's wild days, it cannot but be pleasant This idle roaming round and round the world, With wildfire spirits and heart disengaged. Anster's Faustus.
When one first contemplates a voyage of many thousand miles, attended with long absence, loss of old associates, together with all the charms of home, country, and friends, often too lightly estimated whilst possessed, but always sorely missed when no longer within call; one is yet, and this through no lack of sensibility, apt to regard the sacrifice about to be made to duty as sufficiently light, and, with the aid of manhood and a little philosophy, easy of endurance. The very task, which a resolution of this grave nature necessarily imposes, of making as little of the matter as possible to those dear ones who yield up their fears, and subdue their strong affections, in obedience to your judgment, serves for a time the double purpose of hoodwinking oneself as well as blinding those on whom we seek to practise this kind imposition. Next comes the bustle of getting ready, assisted and cheered by the redoubled attentions of all who love, or feel an interest in one's fortunes. Amidst the excitement, then, of these various feelings, the deep-seated throb of natural apprehension, or home regret, if even felt, struggling for expression, is checked or smothered in the loud note of preparation. The day of departure is fixed at length, it is true; but then it is not yet come: even when contemplating its near approach, one feels wondrous firm and most stoically resolved: at last, however, come it does; and now our chief friend Philosophy, like many other friends, is found most weak when most needed. In vain do we invoke his approved maxims, hitherto so glibly dealt out to silence all gainsayers; yet now, they are either found inapt or are forgotten wholly, until, after a paltry show of defence, braggart Philosophy fairly takes to his heels, and leaves us abandoned to the will of old mother Nature. Now, indeed, arrives the tug; and I, for my part, pity the man who, however savagely resolute, does not feel and own her power. The adieus of those one loves are, at best,—that is, for the shortest absence,—sufficiently unpleasant; but when there lie years, and, to the eye of affection, dangers, in the way of the next meeting, as the old Scotch ballad has it, "O but it is sair to part!" I should, I confess, were I free to choose, prefer the ignominy of cowardly flight, to the greatest triumph firmness ever yet achieved, and be constrained to hear and respond to that last long "good-b'ye!"
As I honestly own that, for various good reasons, I set out with the intention of keeping such a close record of my feelings and doings as my errant habits might permit, with the premeditated design also of giving them to that public which from the beginning had decided that I should do so, I concluded there was nothing like an early start; and finding these thoughts preface, or rather commence, my journal, so do I give them like precedence here.
Liverpool, Tuesday, July 16th, 1833.
I am not usually very particular about dates; but, as there is an odd coincidence connected with the 16th, I desire to note it. On this day, then, about 3 P.M. I was rumbled from Bold-street down to St. George's Dock, accompanied by a few friends, who were resolute to extend their kindness to the latest limit time and tide, those unyielding agents, might allow.
Arrived at the ship's side, I found a number of my own poor countrymen, agricultural speculators, filling up a leisure moment before seeking harvest, in seeing "Who in the world was going to America, all that way," with which country there are now few of the humbler class of Irish but have some intimate associations. Disposing amongst the boys the few shillings I had left in my pocket, I jumped on board the packet-ship Europe, without cross or coin, saving only a couple of luck-pennies, the one an American gold eagle, the present of an amiable gentlewoman; the other a crooked sixpence, suspended by a crimson ribbon, the offering of a fair "maid of the inn," given to me on the very eve of sailing-day with many kind wishes, all of which have been realized.
The wind had been all the morning, and was still, away from the south-west; that is, right into the harbour; and I had heard many doubts expressed whether or not we should sail at all before night tide; doubts which, I am almost ashamed to confess, did not offend my ears so very much, considering my avowed impatience to be gone; nay, I do further admit having observed carelessly that I would as soon we did not sail until night tide, though wherefore I should thus have sought to keep chords on the stretch already too painfully braced, I leave to the wise to resolve.
Once on board, however, doubt was at an end; since the task of warping out from the tier was already commenced, and the noisy steamer might be heard bellowing and fuming, impatient of delay, from where she awaited us without the pier. We were moored inside several other ships; and the dock being quite full of craft, to the unpractised eye there appeared no possibility of winning a passage without doing or sustaining damage. However, what with warps and checks, careful and well-timed hauling, and ready backing, the gallant-looking Europe was quickly and safely handed over to the turbid waters of the Mersey without suffering a rub on her bright sides.
The steamer now took us in tow, and in a few minutes the busy docks and crowded pier-heads had passed away. Our companion vessels at parting were three only—a large private Indiaman, (the Albion,) a smaller ship for the coast of Africa, and a little gaily-painted Irish schooner called the Shamrock. These, it appeared, were dependent upon their own resources, and were soon left behind contending hardily with a strong beating wind; whilst the Europe, with yards pointed and sails closely furled, steadily and swiftly followed in the wake of the George the Fourth, looking like a noble giant led captive by some sooty dwarf. The Black Rock was soon gained, Crosby and its pretty cottages showed dimly distant; the mountains of Wales opened grandly forth before us; and, after one last long look, I dived to my state-room, partly to busy myself with seeing all my traps arranged and set in trim for sea, and partly to be alone.
THE EUROPE PACKET.
"This goodly ship our palace is, Our heritage the sea."
It will doubtless appear to many who shall win their way thus far into this book, a work of impertinent supererogation to describe at large an American packet-ship, together with the mode of living on board a regular Liner, considering that there are some three or four of these departing every week from Liverpool, London, and Havre, and at this same point I can fancy some hot fellow, who has performed his twentieth trip, here toss by my unoffending volume, with "Devil take the chap! does he think he knows about all this better than us?"
But, hold hard, my fiery friend, whilst I remind your worship that there are some thousands of the lieges out of the countless numbers who will be our readers, who, insular though they be, and well used to ships, have yet no conception of these wonders of the water; that is, provided the "Europe" is to be taken as a true sample of the service she belongs to: not to mention that what was new and notable to me, who have voyaged much, can hardly fail to interest some gentlemen "who live at home at ease."
Let, then, the reader who knows what a "between-decks" is, step below with me, and there picture to himself a room forty feet long, not taking in the deep transom, by sixteen in breadth, having on either hand a range of inclosed state-rooms about eight feet square, each with its own door and window, of bird's-eye maple curiously inlaid with variously grained wood, polished as glass. The upper part of the door and the whole of the side window are latticed; so that on both being closed, the occupant is hidden, yet the air admitted freely.
Each of these state-rooms is furnished with a washhand stand, containing a double service, a chest of drawers, with handles of cut glass, a shelf or two for books, &c. and a brace of berths or bed-places of ample dimensions, well appointed with mattress and linen, white as ever lassie lifted off the sunny side of a brae, at whose foot brawled the burn to which her labour owed its freshness.
Now, although each room is fitted up for two insides, you may nevertheless conserve your individuality,—the which I recommend,—at the cost of an additional half-fare, or, in all, about fifty-five pounds sterling.
Being here installed, then, solus, you will be roused from your sound night's sleep in the morning at eight bells, or eight o'clock A.M., by the tinkling of a shrewish-sounding hand-bell, which says, as plainly as ever the chimes of Bow hailed Whittington lord mayor of London, "Arise, and shave, and make your toilet, and prepare to come forth; for the cow is milking, and the kettle is screeching, and the hot rolls beginning to get over-brown."
Upon this welcome summons, if you are not sea-sick, which Heaven forbid! or insensible to the goods here by the gods provided for you, you will bounce or creep out of your crib, according as the waves and your agility may determine; and popping your head out of window, loudly bawl "Thomas!" or plain "Tom!" or "Steward!" according to the terms of friendship and familiarity on which you may stand with this dignitary, who, by the way, has a vote on board worth canvassing for;—I say bawl out, because, firstly, your mincing and Clarendon-like lisp of "Waiter!" would not be heard by one used to listen to the rush of the tempest and the shriek of the scourged Atlantic; also, for that your stirring call may remind some wretched skulker of a circumstance which he is miserably dozing out of remembrance, viz. that breakfast is under weigh. "Yes, sir!" is the prompt response from the larboard corner of the cabin, where the steward and his gang are installed with all their appointment of glass and crockery ranged neatly within reach. Your next call will be, "Bring me a bottle of Saratoga water"—a chalybeate, cool and brisk on the palate as soda water, a commendable morning draught, and such a trumpet to appetite!—well, having swallowed of this, your pint or so, dress, mount the deck, and inquire "how she heads," and what she has done during the long hours of night whilst you lay sleeping like a sea-bird in your wave-borne nest.
You next take a look over the weather quarter, sweep the horizon knowingly with your best eye, and after, walk forward towards the galley or kitchen, pricking your ears at certain sputtering and hissing sounds, the which, backed up by sundry savoury sniffs caught under the tack of the main-sail, give you foretaste of broiled ham, spitch-cock, eggs, frizzled bacon, and mutton cutlets.
One by one your messmates tumble up the companion, or cabin-stair; some hungry and blooming as sound stomachs and clear consciences can make them, others showing a leetle blue and bilious-like; but each and all resolute to essay the onslaught, which the train of polished covers, making rapid transit from the caboose down the steward's hatchway, proclaim about to begin.
Tinkle, tinkle, ting! again sounds the steward's bell; and, without any pauses of ceremony, down dive the convives, turning en que the foot of the stair, some to windward, others to leeward, but all facing right aft—a double game of "follow my leader."
"Oh! 'tis a goodly sight to see," the show which here presents itself;—covers of all sizes glisten under the flickering rays of the morning sun, stealing in through the open deck-light, and dancing about to the heave of the ship over a well-laid cloth flanked by ready plates and the weapons of attack.
The signal is made, the covers drawn; and, appetite or no appetite, here is temptation for all. If the incipient voyager will benefit by my experience, as he might well have done by my example had we been happy enough to have possessed his amiable society on board the Europe, he will develope his main battle against the mutton chops au naturel; then gossip over a slice of broiled Virginy ham, with an egg or twain, whilst his souchong is getting pleasantly cool; then, having emptied his cup, flirt with a couple of delicate morsels raised from the thin part of a salted shad-fish, the which shad, for richness and flavour is surpassing.
To his second cup he will dedicate the upper crust of a well-baked roll with cold butter; and, after having duly paused a while, choose between Cognac and Schiedam for a chasse. If he will yet walk with me, I say unhesitatingly, try Schiedam, in the absence, reverently be it spoken, of Isla or Innishowen.
Now, my pupil, if this breakfast would, which it could not fail to do, raise the bastard appetite of your close-curtained, feather-bedded coal-smoked, snivelling in-dweller of the city, judge of the influence it must exercise over a child of ocean, who inhales the breath of heaven freshly as generated beneath the blue sky that vaults his watery world, pure, uncorrupted, untainted by touch of anything more earthly.
Why, man, it is worth a life of ordinary vegetation to be stirred but for once by the sensations, such a morning as I draw from, in such a place, create; and to those who sagely shake the head and doubt, if any such cavillers there be, I say, "Pay your just debts; make your tenants easy, that their prayers may be in your sails; forgive your enemies, kiss your wife, draw up and add in her favour a codicil to your testament; and your duties being thus fulfilled, with a clean heart, backed by forty-eight clean shirts, go and try; and if you 'fall not' of my advice before you again embrace your mother country, curse Fortune for a perverse wench, and set your humble servant down for false counsel."
Leaving you now, my pupil, to write, to read, to practise shooting with ball at a bottle swinging from some outstanding spar, or to follow whatever pursuit most engages your fancy, for the space of some four hours, we will just name an intermediate and somewhat tempting meal, ycleped luncheon, chiefly indeed for the purpose of advising you to eschew it as you value unimpaired digestion, and would appreciate a four o'clock dinner. If, however, you are obstinately self-willed, and choose to obey a villanous unappeasable appetite, in place of following my wholesome advice, I pray you, at least, not to sit down knife in hand, as I have noted "some shameless creatures do;" but lift a piece of pilot biscuit, request some kind soul to shave the under side of the corned round for you, then desiring the steward to follow with a tumbler of Guiness's porter, fly the place and seek the deck.
Shuffle-board, chess, and backgammon, with exercise and pleasant converse, will while away the intervening hours so quickly, that, if you do not keep a bright look-out, you will be surprised by the dinner-bell before you think of your toilet, which, if a luxury to you on shore, will be thrice welcome at sea, besides being a pleasant way of disposing of twenty minutes; not to mention the ladies, who, at all times sensibly alive to any neglect in us, become doubly so here, where there is so much to remind them that they are not ruling in their own pretty drawing-rooms, though, as the old song has it,
"Queens they be On the boundless sea,"
as indeed they are, and ought to be, everywhere.
Mem.—Do not trust your appetite to forewarn you of approaching dinner, since I have been more than once deceived by over-confidence in that quarter: truth is, you have the cry of "wolf" from that insatiable look-out so early and so often, that you learn after a time to treat the call as impertinent and troublesome, and so strive to cut it until the cutting moment really and unexpectedly comes upon you.
I have been so elaborate upon the head of breakfast, which meal, I freely confess to be my foible, that I feel as though any description of dinner would now come comparatively weak; besides, to speak verily, one might, with time and prudent choice, get as good a dinner, perhaps, a-shore in favoured countries: but for a breakfast, pho! the thing is beyond reach, away from the stores of a well-regulated Yankee packet. I challenge Europe, including Scotland, with all her Finnanhaddies, herrin's, cakes, and preserves, to back her.
Suffice it then to say, that here is a dinner of three courses, with pastry and various confitures which would not shame Gunter; and, for boisson, sherry, madeira, hock, and claret, with port for those who indulge in strong potations, and three or four times a week well-iced champagne.
A variety of dried fruits compose the dessert, since, although they sometimes raise small salad, I feel bound to admit that they have not yet attained to the comfort of a pinery on board: nor, let me add, did I see finger-glasses in use; and how persons get on who have never dined without them, I cannot guess, this not being my case, since luckily, even in England, I had sometimes roughed it in very good society without these necessaries. Once seated to dinner, there you remain, and imbibe until discretion bids you hold your hand, for other check have you none, cellar and servants remaining at your disposal.
After a walk on deck, and a cup of tea or coffee, you form your party for whist or some round game, or join the ladies in their boudoir, which I ought to have mentioned before as leading out of the great room forward, being a pretty square apartment, fitted up with sofas, mirrors, loo-table, and other little elegancies which ladies love to look upon and be surrounded by. Entre nous, between the lights this snuggery affords tolerable convenience for a little flirtation, if you are lucky enough to get one up;—this broken off, you play your play, and at the conclusion of your rubber of whist, or parti d'ecarte, you prepare for bed,—early hours forming here one of those sanitary laws which the wise feel little inclined to impinge.
Now I am quite well aware that on the head of night-caps every biped has his own fancy, and most of the genus I also know to be infernally pig-pated on this seemingly simple point; such incurables I abandon, to supper, porter, night-mare, and all the other nameless horrors that rouse them to avenge an ill-used stomach; but to the willing ear and ductile mind I whisper again, "try mine." Imprimis—one cigar, one tumbler of weak Hollands' grog, better named swizzle, all to be disposed of in pleasant company during some half-hour's walk on deck; when, if you should sometimes, as I hope you often may, fall in with a soft downy south-west breeze, a clear deep-blue sky over head, gemmed full with little stars, and fringed about, down into the watery round, by a broad border of jet-black cloud, against which each curling wave appears to break, and the goodly ship seems as though delving through a lake of quick-silver—when the track of the swift porpoises show like long furrows of dazzling flame, and over the whirling eddies of the keel's deep wake is seen to hover a strange unearthly light,—a thin bluish, devilish, vaporous haze, which, in the silent watch of night, maketh the lonely gazer's flesh to creep, and conjures through the brain every wild legend whispered of the "vasty deep," fascinating the eyes, and holding them with spell-like power, until—until what?—why, until a sharp twitch on the lip from the fire of the close-burned cigar we recommended awakens you to a due sense of such a "lame and most impotent conclusion."
Jump off the spare spar on which you have been perched whilst gazing so dreamily over the ship's quarter, give the last half of your grog to the old lad at the wheel, peep in on the compass, find she heads about west-north-west, and, well satisfied, descend the stair. The steward lights the waxen taper which fixes on a branch before your glass; when, having performed such ceremonies as you delight in, thank God and sleep: and thus ends the chapter of a day.
And, gentle pupil, if you would learn yet more especially to enjoy all this, which I have for your benefit somewhat lengthily detailed, give directions to the steward to rouse you at deck-washing; that is, about six A.M.; put on drawers and jacket of fine cotton, and, sunshine or cloud, calm or squall, run on deck, leave your robe de chambre in the round-house, and slide down into the lee gangway, where, according to previous contract, you see a grim-looking seven-foot seaman—pick out the tallest—waiting for you with a couple of buckets of sea-water, one held ready in his claw, with a half-grin upon his puckered phiz as he inwardly blesses the simplicity of the landsman who turns out of his hammock in the morning-watch to be soused like the captain's turtle in cold salt water; and i' faith! startlingly cold it gets when on the Banks, even in July, especially if within the influence of an ice-berg or twain: think not, however, of this, the infliction is light in comparison with the after enjoyment.
Being seated in the lee-scuppers, give the word; up goes the bucket, and wush! down pours the deluge on your oil-capped crown. "Hah!" you cry involuntarily, for the flesh will quiver, &c. You then compress your lips a little closer, whilst Jack's giggle expands into a broad grin, and in a steadier stream descends the second shower; which, having abided to the last drop, away you scurry along the wet deck, that is, always provided you avoid a fall or two by the way, into the round-house, on gown, and down to your little den; where a coarse towel, and a couple of flesh-brushes smartly applied for five minutes, will produce such a circulation throughout your inward man, that, like bold Waterton, you feel as though you could back an alligator, take the sea-serpent by the beard, or kick a noisy steamboat fairly out of water.
I have, since I am at confession, sometimes in very bad weather been tempted into bed after this ablution, when such an hour's nap awaits one! But this is a luxury Xerxes would have given a Satrapie to have tasted, and not to be indulged in over-often, lest it lead to effeminacy, which is as far removed from comfort as is sensuality from pleasure.
I have often heard objected to these fine ships the discomfort and difficulty attending toilet; but, for my own part, I did not discover these. Having a state-room, and possessed of the same appliances, with perhaps a little more trouble, a man may be as scrupulously nice as in any other dressing-room; provided always he be not prostrated by that unsparing nausea, sea-sickness; from the which I wish you, gentle reader, the full exemption I enjoy, and so commend you to repose.
THE EUROPE CONTINUED.—CHANGE OF AFFAIRS.
"Life's like a ship in constant motion: Sometimes smooth, and sometimes rough."—Song.
"Oh! the pleasures of a summer trip across the Atlantic!" Thus sung and chorused my good friends one and all; some from experience, most from hearsay, but ever in unison.
"You'll have quite a party of pleasure," says one. "The only thing to be dreaded will be the ennui arising out of long calms, gentle breezes, eternal sunshine by day and moonlight by night," says another.
One would have fancied, according to their account, that sun and moon alternated like buckets in a well, one up, the other down, with the exception that both were to be always at full.
So constant, however, were these remarks about heat, and sun, and summer air, that I packed up every article of clothing heavier than duck or cachmere; nay, had not some worthy matter-of-fact soul let slip a stray hint about ice and sleighing parties in December, I verily believe, hating as I do all superfluous baggage, I should have left my greatcoats to the moth and fog of Old England.
But whew! from such airs the Lord preserve me!—whilst at the tail of our honest, grimy, grumbling steamer, cutting through the Mersey or along the coast of Wales, we were, I admit, tolerably sunned and warm enough, though not even here bedazzled or over-heated; but on the second morning out, what a change!
I came on deck just before six A.M. to take my shower-bath; the wind was about west by south, blowing a brisk gale, the ship under double-reefed topsails, with top-gallant sails set over them, making all smoke again—on one hand lay the Isle of Rathlin, with the north coast of Ireland, bleak and bare; on the other, the Mull of Kyntyre, with a tide of its own rushing by like a mill-race, and over it the cloudy crest of Isla, looming through the flitting vapours, cold, dark, and hard-visaged, as though no drop of whisky had ever been brewed therein. One could not recognise the misty monster, thus grimly shadowed forth, to be the parent of that glorious sunny spirit.
We had full time afforded to become well acquainted with the changing aspects of these and the other localities hereabouts, for we had to battle it with their ally the wind, and with their waters, for full sixty hours; and although we at length fought our course seaward, it was to feel that such another victory would be anything but serviceable to the gallant ship.
Oh that infernal Rathlin! I shall not soon forget it; it is a spot I always held in ill odour ever since Miss Porter's "Scottish Chiefs" taught my unsophisticated youth to weep over the wrongs of Wallace wight. Now, although I abominate the place more, I have learned to compassionate her ill-starred hero less, since to have been carried southward through "merrie England" from such a place of exile, albeit the journey ended in hanging, was yet a deliverance especially to be rejoiced in.
We had a near view of the natives too, one day, trying to catch us in a whale-boat, whilst we were hugging the land sculking from the strength of the tide of flood: but, thank Heaven! they missed taking us as we went about on the opposite tack, the which I shall ever consider a providential escape, although at the time, a heedless confidence in our numbers led Captain Maxwell to throw them the end of a rope. They failed to lay hold on it, however, and away we dashed by them like a whirlwind; whilst the disappointed men gesticulating fiercely, with their red "fell o' hair" blowing to the four corners of the earth, and their wild eyes and ogre mouths agape, yelled forth a volley of strange sounds, soon drowned by the louder roar of these summer waves. This was happily the only danger we incurred from the natives; we saw no more of them, and right glad were all-hands when the last glimpse of the Hebrides, or Western Isles, as they are called in their charts, faded away in their mist.
After this date one heavy blow succeeded another until the first of August, with seldom sun enough to afford an observation: yet it mattered not; like sea-birds we "rode and slept," for the excellence of the boat, and the way in which she was handled, was evident enough to inspire even the nervousness of inexperience with confidence; and the efficiency of our domestic arrangements bade defiance to the anger of the elements;—uninfluenced by their frowns as by their smiles, on went the work, and meal succeeded meal with faultless regularity.
On the second of August we passed within the immediate atmosphere of a huge iceberg. We had for some time previous been enveloped in fog, which suddenly lifting, showed us this isle of ice, and two other smaller ones.
The main island, by which we were most attracted, lay about a quarter of a mile to leeward, of dazzling whiteness, and picturesque of form, having at one end a lofty cone-shaped mountain, and at the other an angular bold mound, crowned by what we decided to be an extensive Gothic fortalice or castle, not unworthy the Ice-king himself if bent on a summer trip round the gulf stream: between these promontories lay a deep valley thickly tenanted by tribes of the white gull.
Three sides of Castle-hill were regularly scarped, the fourth communicated by a neatly kept slope with the valley, and along this radiated a number of well-trodden paths, all uniting at the castle gate, at once giving evidence of considerable population, and great hospitality on the part of the worthy castellan.
The position of these islands was unusual, and their appearance occasioned a little surprise, although the fall of the thermometer, and the change in the temperature of the water, had led Captain Maxwell, some hours before we met them, to decide upon their vicinity.
On the banks of Newfoundland they are common at this season of the year, and form, indeed, the danger most to be dreaded of the voyage; since, if the weather should prove thick, and the ice swim deep, scarce showing above the surface, as is commonly the case, a ship going quickly through the water may strike before any measures can be taken to avoid the encounter.
A fine packet, the Liverpool, but nine days out, on her first trip was totally lost on one of these in the summer of 1822; and this very year our captain coasted to the southward for seventy miles along the edge of a field of ice, in which he had previously been locked-up for fifty hours, till released by a lucky shift of wind. On this occasion he had one on board whose experience among ice had been well tested, and was about to be yet again tried; for Lieutenant Back was here on his perilous adventure in quest of the long lost Captain Ross and his crew.
For the succeeding sixteen or seventeen days of our voyage the weather was generally fine. Upon the western edge of the Banks we had a few days' calm, which taking advantage of, I turned my morning shower-bath into a plunge from the bowsprit, and had a delicious swim round the ship. The passengers, however, got wind of my fun, and in obedience to the kindly meant remonstrances of one or two of them, I forbore a pleasure which never occurred to me to be perilous, for I have practised it in many parts of the ocean, always taking care that there was no way upon the ship.
We had no casualties except amongst the pigs, sheep, and poultry; and as yet no great loss of spars, indeed in all our blows, we only sprung a main-topsail yard, carried away a fore-topmast, and made a few stu'n-sail booms,—for the latter, we had very little use, not having the wind abaft the beam over five days, all counted, out of a passage of thirty-five; and how it was accomplished in the time under the circumstances, is yet to me a matter of some wonderment.
 To homeward-bound ships these visits of the Rathlineans, often prove sufficiently welcome, as they generally provide themselves with a cargo of ancient, fish-like milk, and fine potatoes. The Europe having an excellent dairy and a poultry-yard of her own, stood in no need of their supplies.
JOURNAL AT SEA.
This is usually a very monotonous task to the journalist, and can hardly fail of soon becoming tiresome to the reader, since a voyage away from the land affords but little to record; still, as it is my intention occasionally to refer to this current report of my Impressions and every-day-doings, I may as well transcribe literally a page or two illustrative of every-day life in this, our "Europe."
July 31st.—Sixteen days out this afternoon; during which time, with but forty-four hours that we could fairly lay our course, the good ship has knocked off forty degrees of westing, a prodigious slant under the circumstances. The last two days up to meridian, we have run ten degrees of longitude and two of latitude.
Thursday, August 1st.—Going about seven knots, heading west by north; all well and mighty agreeable. Rifle-shooting and backgammon the great antagonists of time before dinner—whist after. Various wagers are daily made against time, as to the length of our passage, as well as for or against certain ships that preceded or were to follow us. Most persons have named some date for our arrival at New York, and backed it for more or less; finding that these days were selected more in accordance with the desires of the betters than their judgment, I selected an outsider, and took the longest date named for my day, August 20th. The odds fluctuate daily in the market, according to the view the knowing ones take of the weather: these bets form a subject of interest and banter which daily rises in importance.
Wednesday, 7th.—About meridian carried away our main-topsail yard, whilst two hands were employed rigging in the studding-sail boom; one fell into the top, and the other caught hold of the rigging, receiving much fright but small damage. Had they fallen on the deck or over-board, why their chance would have been exceeding small. There surely is "a sweet little cherub that sits up aloft," &c. or these careless rogues could not escape so often scot-free.
To-day we have a rattling north-easter with sunshine: and the sea, which yesterday was wild, dreary, and dark, is now beaming and light as a beauty at a birth-day ball; and as radiant, for it sparkles in diamonds of its own.
All hands in high spirits, the ship the favourite for odds; Time gone back sadly; the 13th inst. named for very long odds; I offered eight to one against it, and was taken up at a word. Made two or three entries in my book after dinner; against the 20th, my day; take all that offers, but have made a leetle hedge on the 18th by way of a break-water.
Saturday, 9th.—A very heavy gale from north-west, a rare occurrence at this season; it stuck to us for fifty hours, hauling gradually round to the south'ard. No business done to-day; 'change deserted; not a time-bargain to be had for love or money; most of the bulls in bed.
Tuesday, 13th.—One of the most lovely days possible: all the morning we have been observing a large ship right a-head, on which we draw rapidly, though a stern chase is proverbially a long chase. The alley all alive, books and pencils in great demand: odds offered freely that this ship is the Tallahassie, Captain Glover, which sailed from Liverpool on the morning of the day we left; but owing to our taking the north channel, whilst she pursued the south, had thus gotten a decided pull upon us, besides being a very fine ship. Consultations frequent, as we neared, between the mate and the backers of the Tallahassie, adjournments to the top-gallant forecastle constant; every spy-glass in requisition.
We drew near; the odds rose in favour of this being the ship in question—she was a large ship, square-built and long, so was Tallahassie—she was flush deck, so was Tallahassie—had stump-royal masts, and a storm-house abaft, so had Tallahassie, hurrah! Nearer we came, less ardour amongst the backers of Tal.—nearer still, they are all silent; the alley is deserted for the forecastle—a straggler now comes aft, with a sneaking offer of a hedge: no takers.
One of the opposite side's scouts next comes aft. "This can't be the Tallahassie—this ship has no copper, Tallahassie had; she has a white line over her bright side, Tallahassie had not—her top-rail is white, and the yards tipped with the same colour, the Tallahassie's were black.—In short, it could not be the Tallahassie, as any one with half an eye might have seen from the first, and might see now."
The latter part of the proposition was already demonstrated, for we were by this time right a-beam; the former might have been disputed, although it certainly was not the Tallahassie.
Trifles like this were all-sufficient occupation for the day, and served as subjects of conversation after. On this occasion we had for nearly the first time a complete muster of our crew, the exceeding fineness of the day brought out even our sick, and there they lounged about in the sun, like weary birds plumeing their ruffled feathers.
Sunday, 18th.—Wind north-west; weather fine. We are now within one hundred and sixty miles of our port. Betting-market a little anxious, but a good deal of business doing in a quiet way; my odds looking well, but to-morrow, the 19th, by far the favourite, Captain Maxwell himself indeed, considering it a hollow thing. Got a notion in my head, however, in favour of my day, and accordingly took the odds; resolute to abide by the 20th, and either "mak' a spune or spoil a horn."
All hands well and in motion; the crew busily employed getting the sea-service off the rigging, and setting it all up in holiday order. The mate is peering about jealously on all sides, eyeing his ship as a mother would a beauty dressing for her first drawing-room, and to the full as anxious about her appearance.
Monday, 19th.—In the middle watch had a heavy squall, and carried away our foretop-gallant mast. At nine o'clock, A.M. made the American shore off Jersey, to the southward of Barney Gat. Wind light, no betting, but anxious speculations on the probability of our getting within Sandy Hook this day. Tuesday a hollow thing, feel "cock sure:"—about noon, wind died away; and, right enough, it was not until
Tuesday, August 20th, that at three o'clock, A.M. I was called on deck to look upon the Hook lights, and count my wagers won. I received the omen as a good one, and so it proved.
I had often, and with much pleasure, heard intelligent Americans describe the restless anxiety with which they approached the shores of Britain; the almost painful degree of excitement created by the various associations crowding on the imagination, and jostling each other for supremacy, as they looked for the first time on their father-land.
The veneration with which they pictured her ivy-clad towers, and the throb with which they caught the names of places long familiar to memory and hallowed by historical events, to all of which they felt their claim inherited from their ancestors, whether from Thames, or Tweed, or Shannon.
To all of this I have, I say, listened with great pleasure, and with a full sympathy in feelings at once natural and generous, yet can I hardly admit them to possess more force, or their nature to be more exciting, or richer in the material whence Fancy frames her chequered web, than the recollections awakened in a well-stored imagination by a near approach to the shores of America. Although differing widely, these are to every philosophic mind, especially to a subject of Britain, at least equally stirring.
When it is first remembered, that on all the long line of coast extending from the St. Lawrence to the Gulf of Mexico there was not, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, one European family settled, or a Christian voice that woke the forest with the name of God,—not a civilized man from Canada to Florida, who placed his foot upon the soil to call it home. Yet now, within this immense range may be reckoned the mightiest States of the Union; and over its wide circumference are scattered great cities, towns aspiring to be cities, and villages fast growing into busy towns—possessing a population which for wealth hardly need yield to the oldest countries of Europe, and in the general diffusion of intelligence and education offering indeed to most of these an example worthy of their imitation.
When it is called to mind that the waters of her vast line of coast, now daily ploughed by thousands of busy prows, were at this same not very distant day as desert as her swamps and as unfurrowed, except where the canoe of the scared Indian left its light track behind, when driven from the shelter of some near river:—silent and shadowless, except when the sail of the adventurous explorer flitted slowly over the waves, as he steered his doubtful course filled with the many wonders seen and fancied by his watchful, credulous crew,—some band of daring spirits tempted hither in search of gold, or wild adventure, perhaps to perish suddenly by the arrow of the savage, or slowly to wither beneath the influence of the climate—God! what wonderful changes have been wrought here, and what a living marvel is this land! Changes, which it has required the labour of ages to accomplish elsewhere, have here been effected by the energy of a few busy generations, whose toil was begun and carried on amid want, and sickness, and a struggle against ignorance and neglect without, as well as a war of extermination within; a war which may be said to exist even to this day, for yet is the ever-growing frontier from time to time awakened by the night whoop of the savage and the answering shot of the hardy pioneer.
Then come the recollections connected with the war of the Revolution,—the noble declaration of independence, for truly noble it was: no dark compact of a crew of ruffian conspirators, but a generous bond that their aggrieved country should be freed, given by a band of citizen gentlemen, husbands, fathers, and brothers, to the fulfilment of the which they pledged unto each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honour; and having placed their hands to this bold deed, they gave it to their people and the world.
Their bond is cancelled, and they are dismissed beyond the hearing of praise or censure; yet shall these, the names of their country's fathers, be read and blessed by ages yet to come, and shall stand for ever, each a synonyme for patriot honour.
Washington, and the long wars he conducted through defeat and disaster to such a glorious end for his country, together with that large list of famous names connected with those and later events formed no mean subject for reverie, and these were the fancies conjured through my brain by a near approach to the shores of America. I confess I contemplated her triumphs with a participation in her glory where England was not a party, with no other feeling than regret when she was,—with regret that the hands of brothers should ever have been opposed in deadly enmity.
I give back in love of country to no man, and to no foe under heaven would I yield up one jot due to Britain's well-won supremacy, but to the United States we may surely spare without envy the leaf she so hardily plucked from our thick laurels. The glory of having given her birth, language, and laws, she cannot rob us of; this will endure until her mountains crumble: and all else she has acquired at the expense of Britain, Britain can well spare, and still stand foremost on the roll of Fame.
On the morning of Tuesday, August 20th, I was roused, according to a request I had left to that effect with Captain Maxwell, to look on the Hook Lights, the entrance to the outer bay and harbour of New York. It was three o'clock in the morning, a fresh yet bland breeze was just giving motion to the smooth sea, and above, the firmament showed thickly studded with heaven's lights; but the dazzling pharos of the Hook, to my mind, were brighter at this hour than the best twinklers on the floor of heaven,—so welcome were they.
While waiting on deck, a couple of sky-rockets were discharged from the storm-house by way of signal for a pilot. The effect of the sudden blaze was fine; and the rush of each fiery messenger on its upward mission, as it burst away from the Europe's deck, seemed a glad sound of welcome, for it spoke of safe arrival, and consequent freedom from our present thrall; for, however pleasant a ship may be, and however poetical our notions about the "deep sea," after having been in the one and on the other for five or six weeks, there are few bipeds who do not hail the shore as a type of recovered liberty, and, however barren it may be, right joyfully embrace it.
About 7 A.M.—for here it appears pilots do not hurry themselves—we made out a couple of schooner-rigged boats standing right for us, which were at first taken for pilots, but proved to be news-boats. Several such are, as it appears, kept in commission by the New York journals, and the struggle for early intelligence between the rivals occasions a display of considerable adventure not unattended with risk, since these news-boats are out in all weathers, and from a great distance often bring to the city a ship's letters, &c. many days before she makes her own appearance.
The news-collectors were welcomed civilly by our captain, bagged their papers, made out a list of the passengers, and in a few moments were again on the wing for shore, looking right into the wind, and with smooth water and a light breeze, they drew rapidly away from the heavier ship. I must observe that our Mercury's correctness was by no means commensurate with his activity; for such ingenious changes did this worthy contrive in the names of the passengers, that the mothers of some would have failed to have discovered the arrival of their sons, except upon instinct.
At length, after long watching, a couple of pilot-schooners were discovered standing out from under the high land, and in due time their boats boarded us nearly together; and hence arose a dispute as to whose particular prey the good Europe was to be considered.
Each Pilot was voluble, and accused the other of violating the laws made and provided in such cases for their better government: who was wrong in this case it was difficult to say, but I very clearly made out that both parties had cheated on former occasions, were willing to cheat in this, and resolute to continue a like commendable practice in all others that might offer, as far as in them lay. What arrant rogues are we in all climes and under whatever rule, quoth I, internally, as I listened to these wordy disputants; for, to do messieurs the pilots justice, the matter was conducted in a manner more worthy the courts, better argued, and in language less offensively figurative, than similar disputes at which it has been my chance to assist between angry members of our own bars.
At length the elder pilot left the deck, and returned to his attendant yawl, in evident dudgeon and disgust; when the junior, being hailed by his comrades in the schooner on the opposite quarter, was advised to give up the Europe, since they had made out a second ship quite as large in the offing.
Whether this information, or a latent sense of justice prevailed, it is hard to say; but on the tidings our man hailed his irate senior—who was borne away amidst deeply-muttered vows of vengeance—desired him to return, and told him he would give up the ship. Thereon, back rowed our ancient mariner; and after a few explanatory sentences, mutually offered as salvos to their hurt honour, the rivals parted, to all outward seeming as good friends as ever.
Which had right I know not, but one of them had fish, and we of the Europe had no cause to mourn the departure of that one, since, having gained his deck, he sent us back a basket of newly-taken porgies, and various other fishes with unpoetical names but of marvellous sweetness, and sumptuous was our dejeuner in consequence of this unlooked-for addition.
Henceforward, all between-decks presented a scene of bustle and preparation; the most sluggish natures amongst us appeared now inspired, whilst on all sides were heard good-humoured congratulations and glad anticipations. I confess, although a very experienced voyager, I felt a little touch of softness striving to sneak into and coil about my heart, as the words,—home—friends, with other household sounds, fell thick upon my hearing; for, all our passengers being American, I stood alone here on this day of happy greeting, a stranger amongst strangers.
Let me add, that this was the last day on which I felt so during my long sojourn in the hospitable land; and even on this I possessed buoyancy enough of spirit to keep down these selfish reflections, and, I thank Heaven, sympathy enough to rejoice in the gladness of my comrades.
I did not lack amusement, either after the first hurry was past; an intelligent friend or two busied themselves pointing out to me the various localities in detail, with whose general character Carey's excellent atlas had already made me tolerably conversant.
The day was clear and cloudless; and when to this advantage is added a light head wind, which compelled us to work our way inward, no harbour could be approached under auspices more favourable, or better calculated to afford a complete and varying view of its beauties.
Just as we had opened the Narrows, the entrance to the inner bay so called, the wind grew so unpromising that a party of us decided to engage the pilot vessel to take us as far as Staten Island, which they "calculated" they could reach before the departure of the steamer for New York.
Bidding adieu to the Europe, away we dashed in the little witch of a pilot, a craft of some eighty tons' burthen, but, viewed from a short distance, not looking more than half that size, so snug was her build, as well as from the absence of every kind of hamper; her shrouds were without ratlins, and her deck without even the protection of a rough-tree—a nakedness I should by no means like in bad weather. The afterpart, however, or stern-sheets, is sunk about four feet; and as the bowsprit is a mere stump, and the sheets of both foresail and jib lead aft, all the work may be done here when under snug sail.
The necessity, during our trip in the schooner, of working up between the shores of Long and Staten Islands, was a chance that added to the charm of our approach.
Standing into the Narrows, under the guns of a formidable fort, the pretty-looking village of Staten, where quarantine is performed, first presented itself: the smoke of the steamer assured us she had not yet departed, and two or three tacks brought us within signaling distance, just as she broke away from the shore: our desire was readily understood, and, slightly changing her course, she soon after received us in addition to her already crowded freight.
I found the upper deck of the Bolivar, the name of our steamer, uncommonly hot, but it afforded a good place from which to view the harbour and city as they were now rapidly unfolded: here, therefore, I planted myself, all eyes; and certainly have rarely been better repaid for a broiling.
As we neared the Battery, we were afforded a passing glance up the East and North Rivers,—the great waters which give wealth to Manhattan, and jealously clip her beauty about, in equal participation. The coup d'oeil thus taken is very imposing, and at once awakens the stranger to a sense of the commercial importance of the entrepot whose walls he perceives shaded by such a forest of lofty masts.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE CITY.
On landing at the Battery, our first visit was to an office of the customs here; and, instead of the dogged, sulky, bribe-demanding scowl, too commonly encountered from our own low-class officials, who seem to consider the custom-house as a means rather of annoyance to the lieges than a protection to trade, we were met by civility, respect, and prompt despatch. The luggage we had brought with us on shore was not subjected to the least examination, and we went on our way highly pleased. First impressions give their colour to succeeding matters; and surely those derived from my encounter with the officials of a service at best annoying, were much in favour of the land.
On entering the quiet Bowling Green, where many of the houses have coloured fronts, and all gaily painted jalousies, with trees shadowing the stoups, I was reminded of Cape Town: but the impression was momentary; a few yards on, and the long line of Broadway, with its crowded side walks, showy shops, and numerous hotels, at once transports you back to Europe; and, were it not for the sprinkling of black faces with which the mass is chequered, one might swear oneself in Paris on some portion of the Boulevards not altogether familiar to the eye, but offering most of the points needful to prove identity, from the monkey and hurdy-gurdy of the Savoyard, the blouse of the carman and Conducteur, to the swagger of the citizen-soldier, and the mincing step and "tournure charmante" of the belles. The fronts of the cafes and hotels, too, as you pass along, you perceive to be covered by chairs occupied by similar loungers to those on the Boulevards.
Such were my impressions whilst moving on a hot day from the Battery to the City Hotel, and so give I them place here; since I have often, after a long residence in a place, found myself referring back to these first glimpses, when desirous to present it at once fresh and comprehensive to the eye of the stranger, and for such these sketches are chiefly designed.
The day after my arrival, I was both interested and amused by accidentally falling on the bivouac of a Swiss family of emigrants.
I had risen early for the purpose of bathing, and was making my way to the fort through the grounds of the Battery as the rising sun was just adding new light and life to the most beautiful of harbours, when I came suddenly upon the barriers of a little encampment perfectly Teutonic in its arrangement; it was, however, no surprisal to the hive within, for their morning operations had already begun.
Within a circular rampart, formed out of various articles of household gear,—three or four antique-looking spinning-wheels, a pair of churns, a few clumsy chairs, a large chest, together with a couple of small heavy waggons not yet placed upon the wheels,—were a few as lively recruits as any land desirous of population could wish to welcome.
The party consisted, first, of a right venerable-looking old man, the patriarch of the tribe, as he told me, seventy-four years old; six men, his sons and grandsons; seven lively boys, his great-grandchildren, and about an equal number of girls, the patriarch's wife, nearly as aged as himself, but with a shrill piercing voice and the activity of a girl of nineteen, with four other women, the wives of the ancient's sons.
At the moment I came upon them the whole camp was rousing into full activity. The grandmother, assisted by a couple of her young women, found ample occupation in first catching and next washing the junior branches of the colonists: these appeared already aware of their being in a country where every individual thinks for himself, or at least thinks he does, which comes to the same thing, for they stoutly resisted, to the last extremity, the soapless saline ablutions profusely administered by their great grandam.
Meantime a couple of the more staid of the youngsters, who had been passed outside the lines, were busied beneath the trees collecting fallen sticks, leaves, &c. for keeping up the fire already lighted and presided over by one of the females, whose task it evidently was to prepare breakfast.
A couple of the men yet slept soundly; another pair were composedly leaning against a waggon smoking their pipes; whilst a third, the youngest of the grown men, and evidently the beau-garcon of the party, was busied about the completion of a careful toilet before six square inches of looking-glass, held up to him by a young lass, rather good-looking, who, kneeling before this Adonis in evident admiration, most patiently abided the completion of his equipment previous to commencing her own.
My course was at once arrested by a scene so new and unexpected; and I stood for a long time contemplating the repose of this little group, camping here in the midst of a busy population on the banks of the Hudson, in the same manner and after the same fashion their ancestors are described to have followed by the Rhone and the Danube in the time of Caesar.
There was an air of confident security about the whole arrangement, that spoke equally in favour of the hardy simplicity of these strangers and the courtesy and honesty of their adopted country; for I know no European capital wherein such a group could have sat them down and passed a summer night, unhoused and unwatched, without receiving annoyance, if not suffering loss.
I learned that the family had been landed late on the preceding afternoon from a French ship; so that, not being able, as is the wont of this people, to depart for their destination immediately, they had in the most prompt and orderly manner pitched their tents here for the night, and were now preparing for their march into the wilderness.
This sight, striking in itself, was no less illustrative of the country and the time: these arrivals are of daily occurrence here during the season; every one of the northern nations of Europe is contributing her quota out of the most enterprising of her children to swell the numbers, and give additional pith and vigour to the population, of this land of wonder.
About three hours after this first rencounter, whilst seated in our parlour at breakfast, I pointed out to my friend P—— the whole family passing the city hotel en route.
They had now gotten one of their clumsy waggons mounted, and rudely harnessed to a stout-looking horse, and on this vehicle was piled all their worldly store. The males, pipe in hand and marching four abreast, strode boldly on before; next came the waggon, surrounded and followed by the women and children: the heads of one or two of the youngest of these, by the bye, might just be seen poking out from the lumber amongst which they were ensconced upon the car.
I observed that the old dame now carried in her hand a wicker-cage, containing a little captive of the goldfinch tribe, some home-bred favourite, whose simple notes will often call up the memory of father-land, when this family of humble adventurers shall be located, happily I trust, on some wild stream of the far west, for thither were they bound, and, with the appliances I have sketched, were cheerfully setting forth to perform a journey of some two thousand miles. These, however, are the sort of persons who may look most to benefit by such a change; after a few to them trifling privations, and an industrious struggle, they have the certain satisfaction of beholding their offspring surrounded by comfort, and their means yearly increasing. They presently exchange want for plenty, and cease to look upon the coming time with fear or doubt for even their children's children; since generations must rise and pass away before enterprise and honest industry will feel any lack of elbow-room here.
The weather was awfully hot during the last week of this month; and great was my delight, on entering the parlour of a morning, to look upon the butter luxuriating beneath a large wedge of clear ice: only for the cutting up, I should have gloried in being a Pat of butter myself. This article of ice is presented here in a purity of form, and is withal so plentiful, that it almost makes amends for the dog-days.
Our breakfasts were excellent—fish, fruit in abundance, chickens, omelette, &c. with good coffee, and the best black tea I ever drank. The parlour was a very large well-furnished room, level with and fronting on the busiest part of Broadway; and a more amusing stand than one of the windows, for a stranger, it would be difficult to select. The whole busy population, I should imagine, passed in review here once, at least, in six hours; together with samples of all the nondescript vehicles city or country rejoices in.
To one worthy I owe many a hearty laugh,—who knows but I may have repaid the good soul in kind?—I hope I have, for my gratitude is his. Let the reader imagine a long street, very crowded, and about noon shadeless, with the thermometer at 98 deg. in the sun. In the very middle of this broiling thoroughfare, fancy a low carriage on four wheels, ycleped a Jersey waggon, having a seat with a high back hung by straps athwart-ships; over this seat a buffalo robe of vast dimensions, the thick fur outside and a red lining within, falling in heavy folds to the waggon floor; upon this buffalo skin, seated right in the centre, with knees and elbows spread as far apart as possible, a huge mass of humanity clothed in a dark jacket of home-spun cloth, with vest and trousers of blue cotton; his pumpkin-like head covered by a broad-leafed straw hat, a Dutch pipe on his lip, and before him a hard-mouthed awkward little horse pulled about by both hands, now right, now left, but rarely going out of a walk. Above a high shirt-collar his full-blown cheeks might be seen, as he sucked in the hot air and rejected it again like a blowing porpoise: cravat he had none, because he had no neck to tie it about; but in lieu of this article he carried, knotted over his broad shoulders, a little red handkerchief. Daily did I ask myself for a whole week "Will it walk again?" and, so surely as the shadeless hour of noon arrived, did my Dutch fire-king arrive with it, steering his waggon through the sweltering mass with a composure—coolness I could not call it—most enviable.
I would have given anything to have known him and his history; but though I had opportunities of pointing him out to my friends occasionally, no one knew him. Son of a thousand burgomasters, may your shadow never grow less! for I owe to you the beguilement of many a hot hour: but I fear me my friend must be "larding six feet of lean earth," somewhere in the vicinity of Manhattan, since for the last year I have, on every day that the sun shone intensely with the glass over 90 deg., watched in vain for his coming.
In the cool of the afternoon, if there chance to be any cool, it is a common custom for the young men of all classes to drive or ride some five or six miles along the north avenue,—an excellent road leading to the pretty village of Harlaem; and on this line, about sunset, the amateur of horse-flesh may see done, the fastest pace in the trotting world; double-horse waggons of the neatest and lightest construction, gig, sulky, and saddle, all are alike borne along by trotters or pacers at a speed varying from the pair that are doing their mile in three minutes, to the sulky or saddle nag flying at the rate of a mile in two minutes, thirty seconds.
The first time I was whirled along this road at the heels of one of the crack goers of the city, amidst clouds of dust through which the rushing of other vehicles might be dimly made out, and startled by the wild cries used by the rival drivers, at once to encourage their horses and prove the impossibility of scaring them into breaking up, I thought it one of the most exciting things I had ever met; and on getting down at Cato's, involuntarily found myself drawing a long breath.
And what is Cato's? and who is Cato? Shade of Rome's patriot and sage, anger not! for Cato is a great man, foremost amongst cullers of mint, whether for julep or hail-storm; second to no man as a compounder of cock-tail, and such a hand at a gin-sling!
Cato is a gentleman of colour who presides at a little tavern, named after its proprietor, lying just off the dust of the road between two sharp hills, and situated some four miles from New York—a good breathing distance for a fast burst—and here consequently most men halt to give their horses breath, and wash the dust out of their own throats with some one of Cato's many excellent compounds. The convenience of the place is enhanced by the manner of its master, who for courtesy and bienseance might serve as a model to most of his young friends. His society indeed is of the very best, including all the first sporting youths of the city; and his liquors are equal to his breeding.
Cato will give a few select friends breakfast too on a hot morning, if it be especially ordered; and, certes, a woodcock and toast as served up by him on these occasions is a thing not to be forgotten. It was my fortune, under the auspices of my friend, Mr. M'L—d, an especial favourite of "mine host," to pay several visits to Cato's, and to come away at each with added respect for the great man, and increased regard for his excellent entertainment.
Great heat—doubts, dubitations, and debut.
I do not intend to bore my readers with a series of play-bills, or a journal of my theatrical career; but I feel that on this head there may be some little curiosity, and that it would on my part be an affectation to eschew the subject, as well as an injustice to my American comrades of the buskin, to whom I owe some kind mention, since it was my lot to add considerably to their labours. I will therefore just notice my appearance in each city as it occurred, and that as briefly as may be consistent; when any fun turns up, I promise the reader the benefit of it. I shall also give my impressions of the various audiences I encountered; because I think there is no place where the characteristics of a people are more clearly shown than at a theatre, where all mix upon a footing more purely democratic than in any other whatever, and each man having a right to evince his taste after his own fashion, opinion becomes the only conservation of propriety.
To my first night at New York, then, I looked with much anxiety, and not without reason. I had, contrary to the advice of many friends, given up a large income, the continuance of which the increasing favour of the public gave me reasonable promise of. I had vacated my seat and quitted my country on no other engagement than one for twelve nights at New York, the profits of which were wholly dependent upon my success, as were my engagements in other cities dependent upon my reception in this.
One kind soul assured me that every drama I possessed had been already anticipated; another, that they had no taste for Irish character, or that accustomed, as they had long been, to associate with the representative of my poor countrymen a ruffian with a black eye, and straw in his shoes, the public taste was too vitiated to relish a quiet portrait of nature undebased.
This was flattering, but not pleasant: the only man whose views appeared sanguine was Mr. P——, who had been my companion on the voyage, and whose cheering reply to all doubters was, "I tell you, sir, it must do."
The theatre was announced to be re-opened on the 28th of August, with the "Irish Ambassador" and "Teddy the Tiler." The day was one of the hottest we had known, and towards night it became oppressively close.
No strange actor of the least note could open in New York, to anything short of a full house; it seems to be a hospitable principle to give the aspirant for fame a cordial welcome and a fair hearing; let it not be considered egotistical, therefore, when I say that the house was crowded; from pit to roof rose tier on tier one dark unbroken mass; I do not think there were twenty females in the dress circle; all men, and enduring, I should imagine, the heat of the black hole at Calcutta. I at the time regretted the absence of the ladies, when, had I been less selfish, I should have rejoiced at it.
The moment came when "Sir Patrick" was announced; and amidst greetings as hearty as ever I received in my life, I made my first bow to the Park audience. I saw no coats off, no heels up, no legs over boxes—these times have passed away; a more cheerful, or apparently a more English audience, I would not desire to act before.
I was called for at the end of the play, and thanked the house for its welcome. If the performance had not gone off with that electric and constant laughter and applause to which I had grown accustomed at home, I had received positive assurance that my new clients were intelligent and very attentive, and I therefore no longer entertained fears for the result.
Not so, however, one or two of my friends, whose anxiety and kind wishes it would have been hard indeed for any measure of applause to have satisfied: amidst the congratulations they brought me were therefore mixed up little cautionary drawbacks.
"It was capital," said one; "but you must not be so quiet: give them more bustle."
"In some other piece," replied I; "here it is not in the bond."
"You must paint a little broader, my dear fellow," says another:—"you're too natural for them; they don't feel it."
"If it's natural they must feel it," said I, adding, "each of my characters are, according to my ability, painted from nature; they are individual abstractions with which I have nothing to do; the colouring is a part of each, and I can't change it as I change my audience:—'tis only for me to present the picture as it is; for them to like or dislike it."
For the six following evenings the houses, though not great, were equal and good; each night I found my audience understanding me better, and felt that I was grappling them closer to me. The arrival of Mrs. and Mr. Wood earlier than the manager counted upon, created a difficulty; to obviate which I waived my claim to six of my nights, as my acting must have kept them idle.
A day or two before my departure for Philadelphia, I witnessed the first appearance of this lady and her husband. Her reception was enthusiastic, but Malibran had left impressions it was difficult to compete with; and, although her brilliant talent was on all hands admitted, I am not sure whether her husband's manly style of singing a ballad was not to the full as much considered as her execution of the most brilliant scena.
The Park Theatre is, as well as I could judge, about the size of the old Lyceum, of the horse-shoe form; has three tiers of boxes; is handsome, and in all respects as well appointed as any theatre out of London.
The orchestra is at present excellent, and under the direction of a very clever man—Penson, formerly leader at Dublin. The company I found for my purpose a very fair one, my pieces requiring little save correctness from most of those concerned, except where old men, like "Aspen," "Frederick II." &c. occur, and all such parts found an excellent representative in an American actor, called Placide. Descended of a long line of talented players, he possesses a natural talent I have rarely seen surpassed, together with a chastity and simplicity of style that would do credit to the best school of comedy; yet he has never been away from his own country. I trust the model may not be lost on those who have to follow him.
There is a representative of old women here, too, a native, Mrs. Wheatley, an inartificial charming actress, with a perfect conception of all she does, and a humorous espieglerie of manner that is admirable. This lady has a daughter, a girl of fourteen, one of the cleverest mimics I ever saw: she would imitate Miss Fanny Kemble throughout a whole character, or think, talk, and walk, like her in private,—all with a slight dash of caricature, but in a spirit of truth and acute observation worthy of the inimitable Matthews himself.
With these exceptions, the company is, I think, made up of English actors, many of whom have held respectable situations in the London houses.
I had heard a good deal of the disorder of the American stage, and the intractability of American actors; with this specimen I had therefore every reason to be pleased. I am rather a hard drill, too; but I also know how painful is the task of studying and practising long parts for the star of the day, to be thrust out by some fresh stuff got up for his successor: I am aware of this, and therefore strive to make the pill less bitter by doing my "spiriting gently," where I see a desire to be attentive on the part of my friends.
As I may not have occasion to revert to New York theatrically again, let me here say that, after repeated renewal of my engagements during two years, my last were amongst the greatest I made in this city: how, after this, the American public can be called cold or fickle, I at least have no means of judging.
After a stay of three weeks in New York, rendered as agreeable as fine weather, kind friends, warm welcome, and success could make it, I took my departure for Philadelphia by the Camden and Amboy line of steam-boat and rail-road. Punctual to the minute advertised, we left the wharf; and, although the day was cold for the season, I was charmed with our trip across the harbour towards Raritan Creek.
From about half-way over this channel, which separates Staten Island from the city, I should say, after some experience, the best general view of New York and its most prominent environs may be obtained.
Behind you rise the heights of Brooklyn, undulating along your left to the passage of the Narrows, through which you catch a glimmer of the sea beyond; close on your right lies the picturesque-looking old city of Jersey; and immediately beyond, the village of Hoboken, famous for turtle and pistol-matches: its neighbourhood to the Elysian fields renders it a singularly lucky site for the fire-eaters, since, if shot, they have no Charon to pay; the turtle-eaters here find, no doubt, equal facilities. Far to the north, the dark promontory of the Palisadoes beetles broadly forth, marking the course of the Hudson.
In the middle distance lies the city, looking as though it floated deep upon the bosom of the ready waters that encompass it about. It is happier in its place of rest than most Dutch towns, and well merited the name of New Amsterdam, given it by its founders. The ground it covers was at one time divided into hill and dale; but with eyes wide open to business, and close sealed against taste, the conscript fathers of our infant Rome shaved smooth every ant-hill that rose in their path, and to their inheritors have bequeathed a love of their trim lines of beauty, for they are proceeding on the levelling system with a worthy pains-taking that will in due time render the whole island as flat as a tulip-bed.
The passage up the Raritan or Amboy Creek, between Staten Island and the main, is uninteresting enough; the channel reminding one very much of the left bank of the Thames about Erith,—swampy levels, with flat barges, and river-side public houses. The village of Perth Amboy is the first attractive object; it is built upon the face of a hill rising gently from the water, and is well shaded, looking healthy, fresh, and neat. Here the steamer stops for a minute to land or receive passengers, and then makes for Amboy landing, about a couple of miles distant. Here we left our boat, and were immediately transferred to the cars of the new railroad connecting the Raritan with the Delaware, and pursued our way to Bordentown, through a dreary, barren-looking country, whose only attractions were occasional orchards of a most fruitful kind, if one might judge by the plenteous gathering already in progress. In many places were piled up little mountains of apples, destined chiefly for the cider press.