OUR HUNDRED DAYS IN EUROPE
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
MY DAUGHTER AMELIA
(MRS. TURNER SARGENT)
MY FAITHFUL AND DEVOTED COMPANION
THIS OUTLINE OF OUR SUMMER EXCURSION
IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED
A PROSPECTIVE VISIT
OUR HUNDRED DAYS IN EUROPE.
I. THE VOYAGE.—LIVERPOOL.—CHESTER.—LONDON.—EPSOM
III. LONDON.—ISLE OF WIGHT.—CAMBRIDGE.—OXFORD.—YORK.—EDINBURGH
IV. STRATFORD-ON-AVON.—GREAT MALVERN.—TEWKESBURY.—BATH.—SALISBURY. —STONEHENGE
V. STONEHENGE.—SALISBURY.—OLD SARUM.—BEMERTON.—BRIGHTON
VII. BOULOGNE.—PARIS.—LONDON.—LIVERPOOL.—THE HOMEWARD PASSAGE
VIII. GENERAL IMPRESSIONS.—MISCELLANEOUS OBSERVATIONS
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES AT THE AGE OF 82. From a painting by Sarah W. Whitman
MAGDALEN COLLEGE, OXFORD
PLACE DE LA CONCORDE
A PROSPECTIVE VISIT.
After an interval of more than fifty years, I propose taking a second look at some parts of Europe. It is a Rip Van Winkle experiment which I am promising myself. The changes wrought by half a century in the countries I visited amount almost to a transformation. I left the England of William the Fourth, of the Duke of Wellington, of Sir Robert Peel; the France of Louis Philippe, of Marshal Soult, of Thiers, of Guizot. I went from Manchester to Liverpool by the new railroad, the only one I saw in Europe. I looked upon England from the box of a stage-coach, upon France from the coupe of a diligence, upon Italy from the cushion of a carrozza. The broken windows of Apsley House were still boarded up when I was in London. The asphalt pavement was not laid in Paris. The Obelisk of Luxor was lying in its great boat in the Seine, as I remember it. I did not see it erected; it must have been an exciting scene to witness, the engineer standing underneath, so as to be crushed by the great stone if it disgraced him by falling in the process. As for the dynasties which have overlaid each other like Dr. Schliemann's Trojan cities, there is no need of moralizing over a history which instead of Finis is constantly ending with What next?
With regard to the changes in the general conditions of society and the advance in human knowledge, think for one moment what fifty years have done! I have often imagined myself escorting some wise man of the past to our Saturday Club, where we often have distinguished strangers as our guests. Suppose there sat by me, I will not say Sir Isaac Newton, for he has been too long away from us, but that other great man, whom Professor Tyndall names as next to him in intellectual stature, as he passes along the line of master minds of his country, from the days of Newton to our own,—Dr. Thomas Young, who died in 1829. Would he or I be the listener, if we were side by side? However humble I might feel in such a presence, I should be so clad in the grandeur of the new discoveries, inventions, ideas, I had to impart to him that I should seem to myself like the ambassador of an Emperor. I should tell him of the ocean steamers, the railroads that spread themselves like cobwebs over the civilized and half-civilized portions of the earth, the telegraph and the telephone, the photograph and the spectroscope. I should hand him a paper with the morning news from London to read by the electric light, I should startle him with a friction match, I should amaze him with the incredible truths about anesthesia, I should astonish him with the later conclusions of geology, I should dazzle him by the fully developed law of the correlation of forces, I should delight him with the cell-doctrine, I should confound him with the revolutionary apocalypse of Darwinism. All this change in the aspects, position, beliefs, of humanity since the time of Dr. Young's death, the date of my own graduation from college!
I ought to consider myself highly favored to have lived through such a half century. But it seems to me that in walking the streets of London and Paris I shall revert to my student days, and appear to myself like a relic of a former generation. Those who have been born into the inheritance of the new civilization feel very differently about it from those who have lived their way into it. To the young and those approaching middle age all these innovations in life and thought are as natural, as much a matter of course, as the air they breathe; they form a part of the inner framework of their intelligence, about which their mental life is organized. To men and women of more than threescore and ten they are external accretions, like the shell of a mollusk, the jointed plates of an articulate. This must be remembered in reading anything written by those who knew the century in its teens; it is not likely to be forgotten, for the fact betrays itself in all the writer's thoughts and expressions.
The story of my first visit to Europe is briefly this: my object was to study the medical profession, chiefly in Paris, and I was in Europe about two years and a half, from April, 1833, to October, 1835. I sailed in the packet ship Philadelphia from New York for Portsmouth, where we arrived after a passage of twenty-four days. A week was spent in visiting Southampton, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Wilton, and the Isle of Wight. I then crossed the Channel to Havre, from which I went to Paris. In the spring and summer of 1834 I made my principal visit to England and Scotland. There were other excursions to the Rhine and to Holland, to Switzerland and to Italy, but of these I need say nothing here. I returned in the packet ship Utica, sailing from Havre, and reaching New York after a passage of forty-two days.
A few notes from my recollections will serve to recall the period of my first visit to Europe, and form a natural introduction to the experiences of my second. I take those circumstances which happen to suggest themselves.
After a short excursion to Strasbourg, down the Rhine, and through Holland, a small steamer took us from Rotterdam across the Channel, and we found ourselves in the British capital.
The great sight in London is—London. No man understands himself as an infinitesimal until he has been a drop in that ocean, a grain of sand on that sea-margin, a mote in its sunbeam, or the fog or smoke which stands for it; in plainer phrase, a unit among its millions.
I had two letters to persons in England: one to kind and worthy Mr. Petty Vaughan, who asked me to dinner; one to pleasant Mr. William Clift, conservator of the Hunterian Museum, who asked me to tea.
To Westminster Abbey. What a pity it could not borrow from Paris the towers of Notre Dame! But the glory of its interior made up for this shortcoming. Among the monuments, one to Rear Admiral Charles Holmes, a descendant, perhaps, of another namesake, immortalized by Dryden in the "Annus Mirabilis" as
"the Achates of the general's fight."
He accompanied Wolfe in his expedition which resulted in the capture of Quebec. My relative, I will take it for granted, as I find him in Westminster Abbey. Blood is thicker than water,—and warmer than marble, I said to myself, as I laid my hand on the cold stone image of the once famous Admiral.
To the Tower, to see the lions,—of all sorts. There I found a "poor relation," who made my acquaintance without introduction. A large baboon, or ape,—some creature of that family,—was sitting at the open door of his cage, when I gave him offence by approaching too near and inspecting him too narrowly. He made a spring at me, and if the keeper had not pulled me back would have treated me unhandsomely, like a quadrumanous rough, as he was. He succeeded in stripping my waistcoat of its buttons, as one would strip a pea-pod of its peas.
To Vauxhall Gardens. All Americans went there in those days, as they go to Madame Tussaud's in these times. There were fireworks and an exhibition of polar scenery. "Mr. Collins, the English PAGANINI," treated us to music on his violin. A comic singer gave us a song, of which I remember the line,
"You'll find it all in the agony bill."
This referred to a bill proposed by Sir Andrew Agnew, a noted Scotch Sabbatarian agitator.
To the opera to hear Grisi. The king, William the Fourth, was in his box; also the Princess Victoria, with the Duchess of Kent. The king tapped with his white-gloved hand on the ledge of the box when he was pleased with the singing.—To a morning concert and heard the real Paganini. To one of the lesser theatres and heard a monologue by the elder Mathews, who died a year or two after this time. To another theatre, where I saw Listen in Paul Pry. Is it not a relief that I am abstaining from description of what everybody has heard described?
To Windsor. Machinery to the left of the road. Recognized it instantly, by recollection of the plate in "Rees's Cyclopedia," as Herschel's great telescope.—Oxford. Saw only its outside. I knew no one there, and no one knew me.—Blenheim,—the Titians best remembered of its objects on exhibition. The great Derby day of the Epsom races. Went to the race with a coach-load of friends and acquaintances. Plenipotentiary, the winner, "rode by P. Connelly." So says Herring's picture of him, now before me. Chestnut, a great "bullock" of a horse, who easily beat the twenty-two that started. Every New England deacon ought to see one Derby day to learn what sort of a world this is he lives in. Man is a sporting as well as a praying animal.
Stratford-on-Avon. Emotions, but no scribbling of name on walls.—Warwick. The castle. A village festival, "The Opening of the Meadows," a true exhibition of the semi-barbarism which had come down from Saxon times.—Yorkshire. "The Hangman's Stone." Story told in my book called the "Autocrat," etc. York Cathedral.—Northumberland. Alnwick Castle. The figures on the walls which so frightened my man John when he ran away from Scotland in his boyhood. Berwick-on-Tweed. A regatta going on; a very pretty show. Scotland. Most to be remembered, the incomparable loveliness of Edinburgh.—Sterling. The view of the Links of Forth from the castle. The whole country full of the romance of history and poetry. Made one acquaintance in Scotland, Dr. Robert Knox, who asked my companion and myself to breakfast. I was treated to five entertainments in Great Britain: the breakfast just mentioned; lunch with Mrs. Macadam,—the good old lady gave me bread, and not a stone; dinner with Mr. Vaughan; one with Mr. Stanley, the surgeon; tea with Mr. Clift,—for all which attentions I was then and am still grateful, for they were more than I had any claim to expect. Fascinated with Edinburgh. Strolls by Salisbury Crag; climb to the top of Arthur's Seat; delight of looking up at the grand old castle, of looking down on Holyrood Palace, of watching the groups on Calton Hill, wandering in the quaint old streets and sauntering on the sidewalks of the noble avenues, even at that time adding beauty to the new city. The weeks I spent in Edinburgh are among the most memorable of my European experiences. To the Highlands, to the Lakes, in short excursions; to Glasgow, seen to disadvantage under gray skies and with slippery pavements. Through England rapidly to Dover and to Calais, where I found the name of M. Dessein still belonging to the hotel I sought, and where I read Sterne's "Preface Written in a Desobligeante," sitting in the vehicle most like one that I could find in the stable. From Calais back to Paris, where I began working again.
All my travelling experiences, including a visit to Switzerland and Italy in the summer and autumn of 1835, were merely interludes of my student life in Paris. On my return to America, after a few years of hospital and private practice, I became a Professor in Harvard University, teaching Anatomy and Physiology, afterwards Anatomy alone, for the period of thirty-five years, during part of which time I paid some attention to literature, and became somewhat known as the author of several works in prose and verse which have been well received. My prospective visit will not be a professional one, as I resigned my office in 1882, and am no longer known chiefly as a teacher or a practitioner.
BOSTON, April, 1886.
OUR HUNDRED DAYS IN EUROPE
I begin this record with the columnar, self-reliant capital letter to signify that there is no disguise in its egoisms. If it were a chapter of autobiography, this is what the reader would look for as a matter of course. Let him consider it as being such a chapter, and its egoisms will require no apology.
I have called the record our hundred days, because I was accompanied by my daughter, without the aid of whose younger eyes and livelier memory, and especially of her faithful diary, which no fatigue or indisposition was allowed to interrupt, the whole experience would have remained in my memory as a photograph out of focus.
We left Boston on the 29th of April, 1886, and reached New York on the 29th of August, four months of absence in all, of which nearly three weeks were taken up by the two passages; one week was spent in Paris, and the rest of the time in England and Scotland.
No one was so much surprised as myself at my undertaking this visit. Mr. Gladstone, a strong man for his years, is reported as saying that he is too old to travel, at least to cross the ocean, and he is younger than I am,—just four months, to a day, younger. It is true that Sir Henry Holland came to this country, and travelled freely about the world, after he was eighty years old; but his pitcher went to the well once too often, and met the usual doom of fragile articles. When my friends asked me why I did not go to Europe, I reminded them of the fate of Thomas Parr. He was only twice my age, and was getting on finely towards his two hundredth year, when the Earl of Arundel carried him up to London, and, being feasted and made a lion of, he found there a premature and early grave at the age of only one hundred and fifty-two years. He lies in Westminster Abbey, it is true, but he would probably have preferred the upper side of his own hearth-stone to the under side of the slab which covers him.
I should never have thought of such an expedition if it had not been suggested by a member of my family that I should accompany my daughter, who was meditating a trip to Europe. I remembered how many friends had told me I ought to go; among the rest, Mr. Emerson, who had spoken to me repeatedly about it. I had not seen Europe for more than half a century, and I had a certain longing for one more sight of the places I remembered, and others it would be a delight to look upon. There were a few living persons whom I wished to meet. I was assured that I should be kindly received in England. All this was tempting enough, but there was an obstacle in the way which I feared, and, as it proved, not without good reason. I doubted whether I could possibly breathe in a narrow state-room. In certain localities I have found myself liable to attacks of asthma, and, although I had not had one for years, I felt sure that I could not escape it if I tried to sleep in a state-room.
I did not escape it, and I am glad to tell my story about it, because it excuses some of my involuntary social shortcomings, and enables me to thank collectively all those kind members of the profession who trained all the artillery of the pharmacopoeia upon my troublesome enemy, from bicarbonate of soda and Vichy water to arsenic and dynamite. One costly contrivance, sent me by the Reverend Mr. Haweis, whom I have never duly thanked for it, looked more like an angelic trump for me to blow in a better world than what I believe it is, an inhaling tube intended to prolong my mortal respiration. The best thing in my experience was recommended to me by an old friend in London. It was Himrod's asthma cure, one of the many powders, the smoke of which when burning is inhaled. It is made in Providence, Rhode Island, and I had to go to London to find it. It never failed to give at least temporary relief, but nothing enabled me to sleep in my state-room, though I had it all to myself, the upper berth being removed. After the first night and part of the second, I never lay down at all while at sea. The captain allowed me to have a candle and sit up in the saloon, where I worried through the night as I best might. How could I be in a fit condition to accept the attention of my friends in Liverpool, after sitting up every night for more than a week; and how could I be in a mood for the catechizing of interviewers, without having once lain down during the whole return passage? I hope the reader will see why I mention these facts. They explain and excuse many things; they have been alluded to, sometimes with exaggeration, in the newspapers, and I could not tell my story fairly without mentioning them. I got along well enough as soon as I landed, and have had no return of the trouble since I have been back in my own home. I will not advertise an assortment of asthma remedies for sale, but I assure my kind friends I have had no use for any one of them since I have walked the Boston pavements, drank, not the Cochituate, but the Belmont spring water, and breathed the lusty air of my native northeasters.
My companion and I required an attendant, and we found one of those useful androgynous personages known as courier-maids, who had travelled with friends of ours, and who was ready to start with us at a moment's warning. She was of English birth, lively, short-gaited, serviceable, more especially in the first of her dual capacities. So far as my wants were concerned, I found her zealous and active in providing for my comfort.
It was no sooner announced in the papers that I was going to England than I began to hear of preparations to welcome me. An invitation to a club meeting was cabled across the Atlantic. One of my countrywomen who has a house in London made an engagement for me to meet friends at her residence. A reverend friend, who thought I had certain projects in my head, wrote to me about lecturing: where I should appear, what fees I should obtain, and such business matters. I replied that I was going to England to spend money, not to make it; to hear speeches, very possibly, but not to make them; to revisit scenes I had known in my younger days; to get a little change of my routine, which I certainly did; and to enjoy a little rest, which I as certainly did not, at least in London. In a word, I wished a short vacation, and had no thought of doing anything more important than rubbing a little rust off and enjoying myself, while at the same time I could make my companion's visit somewhat pleasanter than it would be if she went without me. The visit has answered most of its purposes for both of us, and if we have saved a few recollections which our friends can take any pleasure in reading, this slight record may be considered a work of supererogation.
The Cephalonia was to sail at half past six in the morning, and at that early hour a company of well-wishers was gathered on the wharf at East Boston to bid us good-by. We took with us many tokens of their thoughtful kindness; flowers and fruits from Boston and Cambridge, and a basket of champagne from a Concord friend whose company is as exhilarating as the sparkling wine he sent us. With the other gifts came a small tin box, about as big as a common round wooden match box. I supposed it to hold some pretty gimcrack, sent as a pleasant parting token of remembrance. It proved to be a most valued daily companion, useful at all times, never more so than when the winds were blowing hard and the ship was struggling with the waves. There must have been some magic secret in it, for I am sure that I looked five years younger after closing that little box than when I opened it. Time will explain its mysterious power.
All the usual provisions for comfort made by seagoing experts we had attended to. Impermeable rugs and fleecy shawls, head-gear to defy the rudest northeasters, sea-chairs of ample dimensions, which we took care to place in as sheltered situations as we could find,—all these were a matter of course. Everybody stays on deck as much as possible, and lies wrapped up and spread out at full length on his or her sea-chair, so that the deck looks as if it had a row of mummies on exhibition. Nothing is more comfortable, nothing, I should say, more indispensable, than a hot-water bag,—or rather, two hot-water bags; for they will burst sometimes, as I found out, and a passenger who has become intimate with one of these warm bosom friends feels its loss almost as if it were human.
Passengers carry all sorts of luxuries on board, in the firm faith that they shall be able to profit by them all. Friends send them various indigestibles. To many all these well-meant preparations soon become a mockery, almost an insult. It is a clear case of Sic(k) vos non vobis. The tougher neighbor is the gainer by these acts of kindness; the generosity of a sea-sick sufferer in giving away the delicacies which seemed so desirable on starting is not ranked very high on the books of the recording angel. With us three things were best: grapes, oranges, and especially oysters, of which we had provided a half barrel in the shell. The "butcher" of the ship opened them fresh for us every day, and they were more acceptable than anything else.
Among our ship's company were a number of family relatives and acquaintances. We formed a natural group at one of the tables, where we met in more or less complete numbers. I myself never missed; my companion, rarely. Others were sometimes absent, and sometimes came to time when they were in a very doubtful state, looking as if they were saying to themselves, with Lear,—
"Down, thou climbing sorrow, Thy element's below."
As for the intellectual condition of the passengers, I should say that faces were prevailingly vacuous, their owners half hypnotized, as it seemed, by the monotonous throb and tremor of the great sea-monster on whose back we were riding. I myself had few thoughts, fancies, emotions. One thing above all struck me as never before,—the terrible solitude of the ocean.
"So lonely 'twas that God himself Scarce seemed there to be."
Whole days passed without our seeing a single sail. The creatures of the deep which gather around sailing vessels are perhaps frightened off by the noise and stir of the steamship. At any rate, we saw nothing more than a few porpoises, so far as I remember.
No man can find himself over the abysses, the floor of which is paved with wrecks and white with the bones of the shrieking myriads of human beings whom the waves have swallowed up, without some thought of the dread possibilities hanging over his fate. There is only one way to get rid of them: that which an old sea-captain mentioned to me, namely, to keep one's self under opiates until he wakes up in the harbor where he is bound. I did not take this as serious advice, but its meaning is that one who has all his senses about him cannot help being anxious. My old friend, whose beard had been shaken in many a tempest, knew too well that there is cause enough for anxiety.
What does the reader suppose was the source of the most ominous thought which forced itself upon my mind, as I walked the decks of the mighty vessel? Not the sound of the rushing winds, nor the sight of the foam-crested billows; not the sense of the awful imprisoned force which was wrestling in the depths below me. The ship is made to struggle with the elements, and the giant has been tamed to obedience, and is manacled in bonds which an earthquake would hardly rend asunder. No! It was the sight of the boats hanging along at the sides of the deck,—the boats, always suggesting the fearful possibility that before another day dawns one may be tossing about in the watery Sahara, shelterless, fireless, almost foodless, with a fate before him he dares not contemplate. No doubt we should feel worse without the boats; still they are dreadful tell-tales. To all who remember Gericault's Wreck of the Medusa,—and those who have seen it do not forget it,—the picture the mind draws is one it shudders at. To be sure, the poor wretches in the painting were on a raft, but to think of fifty people in one of these open boats! Let us go down into the cabin, where at least we shall not see them.
The first morning at sea revealed the mystery of the little round tin box. The process of shaving, never a delightful one, is a very unpleasant and awkward piece of business when the floor on which one stands, the glass in which he looks, and he himself are all describing those complex curves which make cycles and epicycles seem like simplicity itself. The little box contained a reaping machine, which gathered the capillary harvest of the past twenty-four hours with a thoroughness, a rapidity, a security, and a facility which were a surprise, almost a revelation. The idea of a guarded cutting edge is an old one; I remember the "Plantagenet" razor, so called, with the comb-like row of blunt teeth, leaving just enough of the edge free to do its work. But this little affair had a blade only an inch and a half long by three quarters of an inch wide. It had a long slender handle, which took apart for packing, and was put together with the greatest ease. It was, in short, a lawn-mower for the masculine growth of which the proprietor wishes to rid his countenance. The mowing operation required no glass, could be performed with almost reckless boldness, as one cannot cut himself, and in fact had become a pleasant amusement instead of an irksome task. I have never used any other means of shaving from that day to this. I was so pleased with it that I exhibited it to the distinguished tonsors of Burlington Arcade, half afraid they would assassinate me for bringing in an innovation which bid fair to destroy their business. They probably took me for an agent of the manufacturers; and so I was, but not in their pay nor with their knowledge. I determined to let other persons know what a convenience I had found the "Star Razor" of Messrs. Kampf, of New York, without fear of reproach for so doing. I know my danger,—does not Lord Byron say, "I have even been accused of writing puffs for Warren's blacking"? I was once offered pay for a poem in praise of a certain stove polish, but I declined. It is pure good-will to my race which leads me to commend the Star Razor to all who travel by land or by sea, as well as to all who stay at home.
With the first sight of land many a passenger draws a long sigh of relief. Yet everybody knows that the worst dangers begin after we have got near enough to see the shore, for there are several ways of landing, not all of which are equally desirable. On Saturday, May 8th, we first caught a glimpse of the Irish coast, and at half past four in the afternoon we reached the harbor of Queenstown. A tug came off, bringing newspapers, letters, and so forth, among the rest some thirty letters and telegrams for me. This did not look much like rest, but this was only a slight prelude to what was to follow. I was in no condition to go on shore for sight-seeing, as some of the passengers did.
We made our way through the fog towards Liverpool, and arrived at 1.30, on Sunday, May 9th. A special tug came to take us off: on it were the American consul, Mr. Russell, the vice-consul, Mr. Sewall, Dr. Nevins, and Mr. Rathbone, who came on behalf of our as yet unseen friend, Mr. Willett, of Brighton, England. Our Liverpool friends were meditating more hospitalities to us than, in our fatigued condition, we were equal to supporting. They very kindly, however, acquiesced in our wishes, which were for as much rest as we could possibly get before any attempt to busy ourselves with social engagements. So they conveyed us to the Grand Hotel for a short time, and then saw us safely off to the station to take the train for Chester, where we arrived in due season, and soon found ourselves comfortably established at the Grosvenor Arms Hotel. A large basket of Surrey primroses was brought by Mr. Rathbone to my companion. I had set before me at the hotel a very handsome floral harp, which my friend's friend had offered me as a tribute. It made melody in my ears as sweet as those hyacinths of Shelley's, the music of whose bells was so
"delicate, soft, and intense, It was felt like an odor within the sense."
At Chester we had the blissful security of being unknown, and were left to ourselves. Americans know Chester better than most other old towns in England, because they so frequently stop there awhile on their way from Liverpool to London. It has a mouldy old cathedral, an old wall, partly Roman, strange old houses with overhanging upper floors, which make sheltered sidewalks and dark basements. When one sees an old house in New England with the second floor projecting a foot or two beyond the wall of the ground floor, the country boy will tell him that "them haouses was built so th't th' folks upstairs could shoot the Injins when they was tryin' to git threew th' door or int' th' winder." There are plenty of such houses all over England, where there are no "Injins" to shoot. But the story adds interest to the somewhat lean traditions of our rather dreary past, and it is hardly worth while to disturb it. I always heard it in my boyhood. Perhaps it is true; certainly it was a very convenient arrangement for discouraging an untimely visit. The oval lookouts in porches, common in our Essex County, have been said to answer a similar purpose, that of warning against the intrusion of undesirable visitors. The walk round the old wall of Chester is wonderfully interesting and beautiful. At one part it overlooks a wide level field, over which the annual races are run. I noticed that here as elsewhere the short grass was starred with daisies. They are not considered in place in a well-kept lawn. But remembering the cuckoo song in "Love's Labour's Lost," "When daisies pied ... do paint the meadows with delight," it was hard to look at them as unwelcome intruders.
The old cathedral seemed to me particularly mouldy, and in fact too high-flavored with antiquity. I could not help comparing some of the ancient cathedrals and abbey churches to so many old cheeses. They have a tough gray rind and a rich interior, which find food and lodging for numerous tenants who live and die under their shelter or their shadow,—lowly servitors some of them, portly dignitaries others, humble holy ministers of religion many, I doubt not,—larvae of angels, who will get their wings by and by. It is a shame to carry the comparison so far, but it is natural enough; for Cheshire cheeses are among the first things we think of as we enter that section of the country, and this venerable cathedral is the first that greets the eyes of great numbers of Americans.
We drove out to Eaton Hall, the seat of the Duke of Westminster, the many-millioned lord of a good part of London. It is a palace, high-roofed, marble-columned, vast, magnificent, everything but homelike, and perhaps homelike to persons born and bred in such edifices. A painter like Paul Veronese finds a palace like this not too grand for his banqueting scenes. But to those who live, as most of us do, in houses of moderate dimensions, snug, comfortable, which the owner's presence fills sufficiently, leaving room for a few visitors, a vast marble palace is disheartening and uninviting. I never get into a very large and lofty saloon without feeling as if I were a weak solution of myself,—my personality almost drowned out in the flood of space about me. The wigwam is more homelike than the cavern. Our wooden houses are a better kind of wigwam; the marble palaces are artificial caverns, vast, resonant, chilling, good to visit, not desirable to live in, for most of us. One's individuality should betray itself in all that surrounds him; he should secrete his shell, like a mollusk; if he can sprinkle a few pearls through it, so much the better. It is best, perhaps, that one should avoid being a duke and living in a palace,—that is, if he has his choice in the robing chamber where souls are fitted with their earthly garments.
One of the most interesting parts of my visit to Eaton Hall was my tour through the stables. The Duke is a famous breeder and lover of the turf. Mr. Rathbone and myself soon made the acquaintance of the chief of the stable department. Readers of Homer do not want to be reminded that hippodamoio, horse-subduer, is the genitive of an epithet applied as a chief honor to the most illustrious heroes. It is the last word of the last line of the Iliad, and fitly closes the account of the funeral pageant of Hector, the tamer of horses. We Americans are a little shy of confessing that any title or conventional grandeur makes an impression upon us. If at home we wince before any official with a sense of blighted inferiority, it is by general confession the clerk at the hotel office. There is an excuse for this, inasmuch as he holds our destinies in his hands, and decides whether, in case of accident, we shall have to jump from the third or sixth story window. Lesser grandeurs do not find us very impressible. There is, however, something about the man who deals in horses which takes down the spirit, however proud, of him who is unskilled in equestrian matters and unused to the horse-lover's vocabulary. We followed the master of the stables, meekly listening and once in a while questioning. I had to fall back on my reserves, and summoned up memories half a century old to gain the respect and win the confidence of the great horse-subduer. He showed us various fine animals, some in their stalls, some outside of them. Chief of all was the renowned Bend Or, a Derby winner, a noble and beautiful bay, destined in a few weeks to gain new honors on the same turf in the triumph of his offspring Ormonde, whose acquaintance we shall make by-and-by.
The next day, Tuesday, May 11th, at 4.25, we took the train for London. We had a saloon car, which had been thoughtfully secured for us through unseen, not unsuspected, agencies, which had also beautified the compartment with flowers.
Here are some of my first impressions of England as seen from the carriage and from the cars.—How very English! I recall Birket Foster's Pictures of English Landscape,—a beautiful, poetical series of views, but hardly more poetical than the reality. How thoroughly England is groomed! Our New England out-of-doors landscape often looks as if it had just got out of bed, and had not finished its toilet. The glowing green of everything strikes me: green hedges in place of our rail-fences, always ugly, and our rude stone-walls, which are not wanting in a certain look of fitness approaching to comeliness, and are really picturesque when lichen-coated, but poor features of landscape as compared to these universal hedges. I am disappointed in the trees, so far; I have not seen one large tree as yet. Most of those I see are of very moderate dimensions, feathered all the way up their long slender trunks, with a lop-sided mop of leaves at the top, like a wig which has slipped awry. I trust that I am not finding everything couleur de rose; but I certainly do find the cheeks of children and young persons of such brilliant rosy hue as I do not remember that I have ever seen before. I am almost ready to think this and that child's face has been colored from a pink saucer. If the Saxon youth exposed for sale at Rome, in the days of Pope Gregory the Great, had complexions like these children, no wonder that the pontiff exclaimed, Not Angli, but angeli! All this may sound a little extravagant, but I am giving my impressions without any intentional exaggeration. How far these first impressions may be modified by after-experiences there will be time enough to find out and to tell. It is better to set them down at once just as they are. A first impression is one never to be repeated; the second look will see much that was not noticed before, but it will not reproduce the sharp lines of the first proof, which is always interesting, no matter what the eye or the mind fixes upon. "I see men as trees walking." That first experience could not be mended. When Dickens landed in Boston, he was struck with the brightness of all the objects he saw,—buildings, signs, and so forth. When I landed in Liverpool, everything looked very dark, very dingy, very massive, in the streets I drove through. So in London, but in a week it all seemed natural enough.
We got to the hotel where we had engaged quarters, at eleven o'clock in the evening of Wednesday, the 12th of May. Everything was ready for us,—a bright fire blazing and supper waiting. When we came to look at the accommodations, we found they were not at all adapted to our needs. It was impossible to stay there another night. So early the next morning we sent out our courier-maid, a dove from the ark, to find us a place where we could rest the soles of our feet. London is a nation of something like four millions of inhabitants, and one does not feel easy without he has an assured place of shelter. The dove flew all over the habitable districts of the city,—inquired at as many as twenty houses. No roosting-place for our little flock of three. At last the good angel who followed us everywhere, in one shape or another, pointed the wanderer to a place which corresponded with all our requirements and wishes. This was at No. 17 Dover Street, Mackellar's Hotel, where we found ourselves comfortably lodged and well cared for during the whole time we were in London. It was close to Piccadilly and to Bond Street. Near us, in the same range, were Brown's Hotel and Batt's Hotel, both widely known to the temporary residents of London.
We were but partially recovered from the fatigues and trials of the voyage when our arrival pulled the string of the social shower-bath, and the invitations began pouring down upon us so fast that we caught our breath, and felt as if we should be smothered. The first evening saw us at a great dinner-party at our well-remembered friend Lady Harcourt's. Twenty guests, celebrities and agreeable persons, with or without titles. The tables were radiant with silver, glistening with choice porcelain, blazing with a grand show of tulips. This was our "baptism of fire" in that long conflict which lasts through the London season. After dinner came a grand reception, most interesting, but fatiguing to persons hardly as yet in good condition for social service. We lived through it, however, and enjoyed meeting so many friends, known and unknown, who were very cordial and pleasant in their way of receiving us.
It was plain that we could not pretend to answer all the invitations which flooded our tables. If we had attempted it, we should have found no time for anything else. A secretary was evidently a matter of immediate necessity. Through the kindness of Mrs. Pollock, we found a young lady who was exactly fitted for the place. She was installed in the little room intended for her, and began the work of accepting with pleasure and regretting our inability, of acknowledging the receipt of books, flowers, and other objects, and being very sorry that we could not subscribe to this good object and attend that meeting in behalf of a deserving charity,—in short, writing almost everything for us except autographs, which I can warrant were always genuine. The poor young lady was almost tired out sometimes, having to stay at her table, on one occasion, so late as eleven in the evening, to get through her day's work. I simplified matters for her by giving her a set of formulae as a base to start from, and she proved very apt at the task of modifying each particular letter to suit its purpose.
From this time forward continued a perpetual round of social engagements. Breakfasts, luncheons, dinners, teas, receptions with spread tables, two, three, and four deep of an evening, with receiving company at our own rooms, took up the day, so that we had very little time for common sight-seeing.
Of these kinds of entertainments, the breakfast, though pleasant enough when the company is agreeable, as I always found it, is the least convenient of all times and modes of visiting. You have already interviewed one breakfast, and are expecting soon to be coquetting with a tempting luncheon. If one had as many stomachs as a ruminant, he would not mind three or four serious meals a day, not counting the tea as one of them. The luncheon is a very convenient affair: it does not require special dress; it is informal; it is soon over, and may be made light or heavy, as one chooses. The afternoon tea is almost a necessity in London life. It is considered useful as "a pick me up," and it serves an admirable purpose in the social system. It costs the household hardly any trouble or expense. It brings people together in the easiest possible way, for ten minutes or an hour, just as their engagements or fancies may settle it. A cup of tea at the right moment does for the virtuous reveller all that Falstaff claims for a good sherris-sack, or at least the first half of its "twofold operation:" "It ascends me into the brain; dries me there all the foolish and dull and crudy vapors which environ it; makes it apprehensive, quick, forgetive, full of nimble, fiery and delectable shapes, which delivered over to the voice, the tongue, which is the birth, becomes excellent wit."
But it must have the right brain to work upon, and I doubt if there is any brain to which it is so congenial and from which it brings so much as that of a first-rate London old lady. I came away from the great city with the feeling that this most complex product of civilization was nowhere else developed to such perfection. The octogenarian Londoness has been in society,—let us say the highest society,—all her days. She is as tough as an old macaw, or she would not have lasted so long. She has seen and talked with all the celebrities of three generations, all the beauties of at least half a dozen decades. Her wits have been kept bright by constant use, and as she is free of speech it requires some courage to face her. Yet nobody can be more agreeable, even to young persons, than one of these precious old dowagers. A great beauty is almost certainly thinking how she looks while one is talking with her; an authoress is waiting to have one praise her book; but a grand old lady, who loves London society, who lives in it, who understands young people and all sorts of people, with her high-colored recollections of the past and her grand-maternal interests in the new generation, is the best of companions, especially over a cup of tea just strong enough to stir up her talking ganglions.
A breakfast, a lunch, a tea, is a circumstance, an occurrence, in social life, but a dinner is an event. It is the full-blown flower of that cultivated growth of which those lesser products are the buds. I will not try to enumerate, still less to describe, the various entertainments to which we were invited, and many of which we attended. Among the professional friends I found or made during this visit to London, none were more kindly attentive than Dr. Priestley, who, with his charming wife, the daughter of the late Robert Chambers, took more pains to carry out our wishes than we could have asked or hoped for. At his house I first met Sir James Paget and Sir William Gull, long well known to me, as to the medical profession everywhere, as preeminent in their several departments. If I were an interviewer or a newspaper reporter, I should be tempted to give the impression which the men and women of distinction I met made upon me; but where all were cordial, where all made me feel as nearly as they could that I belonged where I found myself, whether the ceiling were a low or a lofty one, I do not care to differentiate my hosts and my other friends. Fortemque Gyan fortemque Cloanthum, —I left my microscope and my test-papers at home.
Our friends, several of them, had a pleasant way of sending their carriages to give us a drive in the Park, where, except in certain permitted regions, the common numbered vehicles are not allowed to enter. Lady Harcourt sent her carriage for us to go to her sister's, Mrs. Mildmay's, where we had a pleasant little "tea," and met one of the most agreeable and remarkable of those London old ladies I have spoken of. For special occasions we hired an unnumbered carriage, with professionally equipped driver and footman.
Mrs. Bloomfield Moore sent her carriage for us to take us to a lunch at her house, where we met Mr. Browning, Sir Henry and Lady Layard, Oscar Wilde and his handsome wife, and other well-known guests. After lunch, recitations, songs, etc. House full of pretty things. Among other curiosities a portfolio of drawings illustrating Keeley's motor, which, up to this time, has manifested a remarkably powerful vis inertice, but which promises miracles. In the evening a grand reception at Lady Granville's, beginning (for us, at least) at eleven o'clock. The house a palace, and A—— thinks there were a thousand people there. We made the tour of the rooms, saw many great personages, had to wait for our carriage a long time, but got home at one o'clock.
English people have queer notions about iced-water and ice-cream. "You will surely die, eating such cold stuff," said a lady to my companion. "Oh, no," she answered, "but I should certainly die were I to drink your two cups of strong tea." I approved of this "counter" on the teacup, but I did not think either of them was in much danger.
The next day Rev. Mr. Haweis sent his carriage, and we drove in the Park. In the afternoon we went to our Minister's to see the American ladies who had been presented at the drawing-room. After this, both of us were glad to pass a day or two in comparative quiet, except that we had a room full of visitors. So many persons expressed a desire to make our acquaintance that we thought it would be acceptable to them if we would give a reception ourselves. We were thinking how we could manage it with our rooms at the hotel, which were not arranged so that they could be thrown together. Still, we were planning to make the best of them, when Dr. and Mrs. Priestley suggested that we should receive our company at their house. This was a surprise, and a most welcome one, and A—— and her kind friend busied themselves at once about the arrangements.
We went to a luncheon at Lansdowne House, Lord Rosebery's residence, not far from our hotel. My companion tells a little incident which may please an American six-year-old: "The eldest of the four children, Sibyl, a pretty, bright child of six, told me that she wrote a letter to the Queen. I said, 'Did you begin, Dear Queen?' 'No,' she answered, 'I began, Your Majesty, and signed myself, Your little humble servant, Sibyl.'" A very cordial and homelike reception at this great house, where a couple of hours were passed most agreeably.
On the following Sunday I went to Westminster Abbey to hear a sermon from Canon Harford on A Cheerful Life. A lively, wholesome, and encouraging discourse, such as it would do many a forlorn New England congregation good to hear. In the afternoon we both went together to the Abbey. Met our Beverly neighbor, Mrs. Vaughan, and adopted her as one of our party. The seats we were to have were full, and we had to be stowed where there was any place that would hold us. I was smuggled into a stall, going through long and narrow passages, between crowded rows of people, and found myself at last with a big book before me and a set of official personages around me, whose duties I did not clearly understand. I thought they might be mutes, or something of that sort, salaried to look grave and keep quiet. After service we took tea with Dean Bradley, and after tea we visited the Jerusalem Chamber. I had been twice invited to weddings in that famous room: once to the marriage of my friend Motley's daughter, then to that of Mr. Frederick Locker's daughter to Lionel Tennyson, whose recent death has been so deeply mourned. I never expected to see that Jerusalem in which Harry the Fourth died, but there I found myself in the large panelled chamber, with all its associations. The older memories came up but vaguely; an American finds it as hard to call back anything over two or three centuries old as a sucking-pump to draw up water from a depth of over thirty-three feet and a fraction. After this A—— went to a musical party, dined with the Vaughans, and had a good time among American friends.
The next evening we went to the Lyceum Theatre to see Mr. Irving. He had placed the Royal box at our disposal, so we invited our friends the Priestleys to go with us, and we all enjoyed the evening mightily. Between the scenes we went behind the curtain, and saw the very curious and admirable machinery of the dramatic spectacle. We made the acquaintance of several imps and demons, who were got up wonderfully well. Ellen Terry was as fascinating as ever. I remembered that once before I had met her and Mr. Irving behind the scenes. It was at the Boston Theatre, and while I was talking with them a very heavy piece of scenery came crashing down, and filled the whole place with dust. It was but a short distance from where we were standing, and I could not help thinking how near our several life-dramas came to a simultaneous exeunt omnes.
A long visit from a polite interviewer, shopping, driving, calling, arranging about the people to be invited to our reception, and an agreeable dinner at Chelsea with my American friend, Mrs. Merritt, filled up this day full enough, and left us in good condition for the next, which was to be a very busy one.
In the Introduction to these papers, I mentioned the fact that more than half a century ago I went to the famous Derby race at Epsom. I determined, if possible, to see the Derby of 1886, as I had seen that of 1834. I must have spoken of this intention to some interviewer, for I find the following paragraph in an English sporting newspaper, "The Field," for May 29th, 1886:—
"The Derby has always been the one event in the racing year which statesmen, philosophers, poets, essayists, and litterateurs desire to see once in their lives. A few years since Mr. Gladstone was induced by Lord Granville and Lord Wolverton to run down to Epsom on the Derby day. The impression produced upon the Prime Minister's sensitive and emotional mind was that the mirth and hilarity displayed by his compatriots upon Epsom race-course was Italian rather than English in its character. On the other hand, Gustave Dore, who also saw the Derby for the first and only time in his life, exclaimed, as he gazed with horror upon the faces below him, Quelle scene brutale! We wonder to which of these two impressions Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes inclined, if he went last Wednesday to Epsom! Probably the well-known, etc., etc.—Of one thing Dr. Holmes may rest finally satisfied: the Derby of 1886 may possibly have seemed to him far less exciting than that of 1834; but neither in 1834 nor in any other year was the great race ever won by a better sportsman or more honorable man than the Duke of Westminster."
My desire to see the Derby of this year was of the same origin and character as that which led me to revisit many scenes which I remembered. I cared quite as much about renewing old impressions as about getting new ones. I enjoyed everything which I had once seen all the more from the blending of my recollections with the present as it was before me.
The Derby day of 1834 was exceedingly windy and dusty. Our party, riding on the outside of the coach, was half smothered with the dust, and arrived in a very deteriorated condition, but recompensed for it by the extraordinary sights we had witnessed. There was no train in those days, and the whole road between London and Epsom was choked with vehicles of all kinds, from four-in-hands to donkey-carts and wheelbarrows. My friends and I mingled freely in the crowds, and saw all the "humours" of the occasion. The thimble-riggers were out in great force, with their light, movable tables, the cups or thimbles, and the "little jokers," and the coachman, the sham gentleman, the country greenhorn, all properly got up and gathered about the table. I think we had "Aunt Sally," too,—the figure with a pipe in her mouth, which one might shy a stick at for a penny or two and win something, I forget what. The clearing the course of stragglers, and the chasing about of the frightened little dog who had got in between the thick ranks of spectators, reminded me of what I used to see on old "artillery election" days.
It was no common race that I went to see in 1834. "It is asserted in the columns of a contemporary that Plenipotentiary was absolutely the best horse of the century." This was the winner of the race I saw so long ago. Herring's colored portrait, which I have always kept, shows him as a great, powerful chestnut horse, well deserving the name of "bullock," which one of the jockeys applied to him. "Rumor credits Dr. Holmes," so "The Field" says, "with desiring mentally to compare his two Derbies with each other." I was most fortunate in my objects of comparison. The horse I was about to see win was not unworthy of being named with the renowned champion of my earlier day. I quote from a writer in the "London Morning Post," whose words, it will be seen, carry authority with them:—
"Deep as has hitherto been my reverence for Plenipotentiary, Bay Middleton, and Queen of Trumps from hearsay, and for Don John, Crucifix, etc., etc., from my own personal knowledge, I am inclined to award the palm to Ormonde as the best three-year-old I have ever seen during close upon half a century's connection with the turf."
Ormonde, the Duke of Westminster's horse, was the son of that other winner of the Derby, Bend Or, whom I saw at Eaton Hall.
Perhaps some coeval of mine may think it was a rather youthful idea to go to the race. I cannot help that. I was off on my first long vacation for half a century, and had a right to my whims and fancies. But it was one thing to go in with a vast crowd at five and twenty, and another thing to run the risks of the excursion at more than thrice that age. I looked about me for means of going safely, and could think of nothing better than to ask one of the pleasantest and kindest of gentlemen, to whom I had a letter from Mr. Winthrop, at whose house I had had the pleasure of making his acquaintance. Lord Rosebery suggested that the best way would be for me to go in the special train which was to carry the Prince of Wales. First, then, I was to be introduced to his Royal Highness, which office was kindly undertaken by our very obliging and courteous Minister, Mr. Phelps. After this all was easily arranged, and I was cared for as well as if I had been Mr. Phelps himself. On the grand stand I found myself in the midst of the great people, who were all very natural, and as much at their ease as the rest of the world. The Prince is of a lively temperament and a very cheerful aspect,—a young girl would call him "jolly" as well as "nice." I recall the story of "Mr. Pope" and his Prince of Wales, as told by Horace Walpole. "Mr. Pope, you don't love princes." "Sir, I beg your pardon." "Well, you don't love kings, then." "Sir, I own I love the lion best before his claws are grown." Certainly, nothing in Prince Albert Edward suggests any aggressive weapons or tendencies. The lovely, youthful-looking, gracious Alexandra, the always affable and amiable Princess Louise, the tall youth who sees the crown and sceptre afar off in his dreams, the slips of girls so like many school misses we left behind us,—all these grand personages, not being on exhibition, but off enjoying themselves, just as I was and as other people were, seemed very much like their fellow-mortals. It is really easier to feel at home with the highest people in the land than with the awkward commoner who was knighted yesterday. When "My Lord and Sir Paul" came into the Club which Goldsmith tells us of, the hilarity of the evening was instantly checked. The entrance of a dignitary like the present Prince of Wales would not have spoiled the fun of the evening. If there is any one accomplishment specially belonging to princes, it is that of making the persons they meet feel at ease.
The grand stand to which I was admitted was a little privileged republic. I remember Thackeray's story of his asking some simple question of a royal or semi-royal personage whom he met in the courtyard of an hotel, which question his Highness did not answer, but called a subordinate to answer for him. I had been talking some time with a tall, good-looking gentleman, whom I took for a nobleman to whom I had been introduced. Something led me to think I was mistaken in the identity of this gentleman. I asked him, at last, if he were not So and So. "No," he said, "I am Prince Christian." You are a Christian prince, anyhow, I said to myself, if I may judge by your manners.
I once made a similar mistake in addressing a young fellow-citizen of some social pretensions. I apologized for my error.
"No offence," he answered.
Offence indeed! I should hope not. But he had not the "maniere de prince", or he would never have used that word.
I must say something about the race I had taken so much pains to see. There was a preliminary race, which excited comparatively little interest. After this the horses were shown in the paddock, and many of our privileged party went down from the stand to look at them. Then they were brought out, smooth, shining, fine-drawn, frisky, spirit-stirring to look upon,—most beautiful of all the bay horse Ormonde, who could hardly be restrained, such was his eagerness for action. The horses disappear in the distance.—They are off,—not yet distinguishable, at least to me. A little waiting time, and they swim into our ken, but in what order of precedence it is as yet not easy to say. Here they come! Two horses have emerged from the ruck, and are sweeping, rushing, storming, towards us, almost side by side. One slides by the other, half a length, a length, a length and a half. Those are Archer's colors, and the beautiful bay Ormonde flashes by the line, winner of the Derby of 1886. "The Bard" has made a good fight for the first place, and comes in second. Poor Archer, the king of the jockeys! He will bestride no more Derby winners. A few weeks later he died by his own hand.
While the race was going on, the yells of the betting crowd beneath us were incessant. It must have been the frantic cries and movements of these people that caused Gustave Dore to characterize it as a brutal scene. The vast mob which thronged the wide space beyond the shouting circle just round us was much like that of any other fair, so far as I could see from my royal perch. The most conspicuous object was a man on an immensely tall pair of stilts, stalking about among the crowd. I think it probable that I had as much enjoyment in forming one of the great mob in 1834 as I had among the grandeurs in 1886, but the last is pleasanter to remember and especially to tell of.
After the race we had a luncheon served us, a comfortable and substantial one, which was very far from unwelcome. I did not go to the Derby to bet on the winner. But as I went in to luncheon, I passed a gentleman standing in custody of a plate half covered with sovereigns. He politely asked me if I would take a little paper from a heap there was lying by the plate, and add a sovereign to the collection already there. I did so, and, unfolding my paper, found it was a blank, and passed on. The pool, as I afterwards learned, fell to the lot of the Turkish Ambassador. I found it very windy and uncomfortable on the more exposed parts of the grand stand, and was glad that I had taken a shawl with me, in which I wrapped myself as if I had been on shipboard. This, I told my English friends, was the more civilized form of the Indian's blanket. My report of the weather does not say much for the English May, but it is generally agreed upon that this is a backward and unpleasant spring.
After my return from the race we went to a large dinner at Mr. Phelps's house, where we met Mr. Browning again, and the Lord Chancellor Herschell, among others. Then to Mrs. Cyril Flower's, one of the most sumptuous houses in London; and after that to Lady Rothschild's, another of the private palaces, with ceilings lofty as firmaments, and walls that might have been copied from the New Jerusalem. There was still another great and splendid reception at Lady Dalhousie's, and a party at Mrs. Smith's, but we were both tired enough to be willing to go home after what may be called a pretty good day's work at enjoying ourselves.
We had been a fortnight in London, and were now inextricably entangled in the meshes of the golden web of London social life.
The reader who glances over these papers, and, finding them too full of small details and the lesser personal matters which belong naturally to private correspondences, turns impatiently from them, has my entire sympathy and good-will. He is not one of those for whom these pages are meant. Having no particular interest in the writer or his affairs, he does not care for the history of "the migrations from the blue bed to the brown" and the many Mistress Quicklyisms of circumstantial narrative. Yet all this may be pleasant reading to relatives and friends.
But I must not forget that a new generation of readers has come into being since I have been writing for the public, and that a new generation of aspiring and brilliant authors has grown into general recognition. The dome of Boston State House, which is the centre of my little universe, was glittering in its fresh golden pellicle before I had reached the scriptural boundary of life. It has lost its lustre now, and the years which have dulled its surface have whitened the dome of that fragile structure in which my consciousness holds the session of its faculties. Time is not to be cheated. It is easy to talk of perennial youth, and to toy with the flattering fictions which every ancient personage accepts as true so far as he himself is concerned, and laughs at as foolish talk when he hears them applied to others. When, in my exulting immaturity, I wrote the lines not unknown to the reading public under the name of "The Last Leaf", I spoke of the possibility that I myself might linger on the old bough until the buds and blossoms of a new spring were opening and spreading all around me. I am not as yet the solitary survivor of my literary contemporaries, and, remembering who my few coevals are, it may well be hoped that I shall not be. But I feel lonely, very lonely, in the pages through which I wander. These are new names in the midst of which I find my own. In another sense I am very far from alone. I have daily assurances that I have a constituency of known and unknown personal friends, whose indulgence I have no need of asking. I know there are readers enough who will be pleased to follow me in my brief excursion, because I am myself, and will demand no better reason. If I choose to write for them, I do no injury to those for whom my personality is an object of indifference. They will find on every shelf some publications which are not intended for them, and which they prefer to let alone. No person is expected to help himself to everything set before him at a public table. I will not, therefore, hesitate to go on with the simple story of our Old World experiences.
Thanks to my Indian blanket,—my shawl, I mean,—I found myself nothing the worse for my manifold adventures of the 27th of May. The cold wind sweeping over Epsom downs reminded me of our own chilling easterly breezes; especially the northeasterly ones, which are to me less disagreeable than the southeasterly. But the poetical illusion about an English May,—
"Zephyr with Aurora playing, As he met her once a-Maying,"—
and all that, received a shrewd thrust. Zephyr ought to have come in an ulster, and offered Aurora a warm petticoat. However, in spite of all difficulties, I brought off my recollections of the Derby of 1886 in triumph, and am now waiting for the colored portrait of Ormonde with Archer on his back,—Archer, the winner of five Derby races, one of which was won by the American horse Iroquois. When that picture, which I am daily expecting, arrives, I shall have it framed and hung by the side of Herring's picture of Plenipotentiary, the horse I saw win the Derby in 1834. These two, with an old portrait of the great Eclipse, who, as my engraving of 1780 (Stubbs's) says, "was never beat, or ever had occation for Whip or Spur," will constitute my entire sporting gallery. I have not that vicious and demoralizing love of horse-flesh which makes it next to impossible to find a perfectly honest hippophile. But a racer is the realization of an ideal quadruped,—
"A pard-like spirit, beautiful and swift;"
so ethereal, so bird-like, that it is no wonder that the horse about whom those old story-tellers lied so stoutly,—telling of his running a mile in a minute,—was called Flying Childers.
The roses in Mrs. Pfeiffer's garden were hardly out of flower when I lunched with her at her pretty villa at Putney. There I met Mr. Browning, Mr. Holman Hunt, Mrs. Ritchie, Miss Anna Swanwick, the translator of AEschylus, and other good company, besides that of my entertainer.
One of my very agreeable experiences was a call from a gentleman with whom I had corresponded, but whom I had never met. This was Mr. John Bellows, of Gloucester, publisher, printer, man of letters, or rather of words; for he is the author of that truly remarkable little manual, "The Bona Fide Pocket Dictionary of the French and English Languages." To the review of this little book, which is dedicated to Prince Lucien Bonaparte, the "London Times" devoted a full column. I never heard any one who had used it speak of it except with admiration. The modest Friend may be surprised to find himself at full length in my pages, but those who know the little miracle of typography, its conciseness, completeness, arrangement, will not wonder that I was gratified to see the author, who sent it to me, and who has written me most interesting letters on the local antiquities of Gloucester and its neighborhood.
We lunched that day at Lady Camperdown's, where we were happy to meet Miss Frances Power Cobbe. In the afternoon we went by invitation to a "tea and talk" at the Reverend Mr. Haweis's, at Chelsea. We found the house close packed, but managed to get through the rooms, shaking innumerable hands of the reverend gentleman's parishioners and other visitors. It was very well arranged, so as not to be too fatiguing, and we left the cordial gathering in good condition. We drove home with Bishop and Mrs. Ellicott.
After this Sir James Paget called, and took me to a small and early dinner-party; and A—— went with my secretary, the young lady of whom I have spoken, to see "Human Nature," at Drury Lane Theatre.
On the following day, after dining with Lady Holland (wife of Sir Henry, niece of Macaulay), we went across the street to our neighbor's, Lady Stanley's. There was to be a great meeting of schoolmistresses, in whose work her son, the Honorable Lyulph Stanley, is deeply interested. Alas! The schoolma'ams were just leaving as we entered the door, and all we saw of them was the trail of their descending robes. I was very sorry for this, for I have a good many friends among our own schoolmistresses, —friends whom I never saw, but know through the kind words they have addressed to me.
No place in London looks more reserved and exclusive than Devonshire House, standing back behind its high wall, extending along Piccadilly. There is certainly nothing in its exterior which invites intrusion. We had the pleasure of taking tea in the great house, accompanying our American friend, Lady Harcourt, and were graciously received and entertained by Lady Edward Cavendish. Like the other great houses, it is a museum of paintings, statues, objects of interest of all sorts. It must be confessed that it is pleasanter to go through the rooms with one of the ladies of the household than under the lead of a liveried servant. Lord Hartington came in while we were there. All the men who are distinguished in political life become so familiar to the readers of "Punch" in their caricatures, that we know them at sight. Even those who can claim no such public distinction are occasionally the subjects of the caricaturist, as some of us have found out for ourselves. A good caricature, which seizes the prominent features and gives them the character Nature hinted, but did not fully carry out, is a work of genius. Nature herself is a remorseless caricaturist, as our daily intercourse with our fellow men and women makes evident to us, and as is curiously illustrated in the figures of Charles Lebrun, showing the relations between certain human faces and those of various animals. Hardly an English statesman in bodily presence could be mistaken by any of "Punch's" readers.
On the same day that we made this quiet visit we attended a great and ceremonious assembly. There were two parts in the programme, in the first of which I was on the stage solus,—that is, without my companion; in the second we were together. This day, Saturday, the 29th of May, was observed as the Queen's birthday, although she was born on the 24th. Sir William Harcourt gave a great dinner to the officials of his department, and later in the evening Lady Rosebery held a reception at the Foreign Office. On both these occasions everybody is expected to be in court dress, but my host told me I might present myself in ordinary evening dress. I thought that I might feel awkwardly among so many guests, all in the wedding garments, knee-breeches and the rest, without which I ventured among them. I never passed an easier evening in any company than among these official personages. Sir William took me under the shield of his ample presence, and answered all my questions about the various notable personages at his table in a way to have made my fortune if I had been a reporter. From the dinner I went to Mrs. Gladstone's, at 10 Downing Street, where A—— called for me. She had found a very small and distinguished company there, Prince Albert Victor among the rest. At half past eleven we walked over to the Foreign Office to Lady Rosebery's reception.
Here Mr. Gladstone was of course the centre of a group, to which I was glad to add myself. His features are almost as familiar to me as my own, for a photograph of him in his library has long stood on my revolving bookcase, with a large lens before it. He is one of a small circle of individuals in whom I have had and still have a special personal interest. The year 1809, which introduced me to atmospheric existence, was the birth-year of Gladstone, Tennyson, Lord Houghton, and Darwin. It seems like an honor to have come into the world in such company, but it is more likely to promote humility than vanity in a common mortal to find himself coeval with such illustrious personages. Men born in the same year watch each other, especially as the sands of life begin to run low, as we can imagine so many damaged hour-glasses to keep an eye on each other. Women, of course, never know who are their contemporaries.
Familiar to me as were the features of Mr. Gladstone, I looked upon him with astonishment. For he stood before me with epaulets on his shoulders and a rapier at his side, as military in his aspect as if he had been Lord Wolseley, to whom I was introduced a short time afterwards. I was fortunate enough to see and hear Mr. Gladstone on a still more memorable occasion, and can afford to leave saying what were my impressions of the very eminent statesman until I speak of that occasion.
A great number of invitations had been given out for the reception at Lady Rosebery's,—over two thousand, my companion heard it said. Whatever the number was, the crowd was very great,—so great that one might well feel alarmed for the safety of any delicate person who was in the pack which formed itself at one place in the course of the evening. Some obstruction must have existed a fronte, and the vis a tergo became fearful in its pressure on those who were caught in the jam. I began thinking of the crushes in which I had been caught, or which I had read and heard of: the terrible time at the execution of Holloway and Haggerty, where some forty persons were squeezed or trampled to death; the Brooklyn Theatre and other similar tragedies; the crowd I was in at the unveiling of the statue on the column of the Place Vendome, where I felt as one may suppose Giles Corey did when, in his misery, he called for "more weight" to finish him. But there was always a deus ex machina for us when we were in trouble. Looming up above the crowd was the smiling and encouraging countenance of the ever active, always present, always helpful Mr. Smalley. He cleared a breathing space before us. For a short time it was really a formidable wedging together of people, and if a lady had fainted in the press, she might have run a serious risk before she could have been extricated. No more "marble halls" for us, if we had to undergo the peine forte et dure as the condition of our presence! We were both glad to escape from this threatened asphyxia, and move freely about the noble apartments. Lady Rosebery, who was kindness itself, would have had us stay and sit down in comfort at the supper-table, after the crowd had thinned, but we were tired with all we had been through, and ordered our carriage. Ordered our carriage!
"I can call spirits from the vasty deep." ... But will they come when you do call for them?"
The most formidable thing about a London party is getting away from it. "C'est le dernier pas qui coute." A crowd of anxious persons in retreat is hanging about the windy door, and the breezy stairway, and the airy hall.
A stentorian voice, hard as that of Rhadamanthus, exclaims,—
"Lady Vere de Vere's carriage stops the way!"
If my Lady Vere de Vere is not on hand, and that pretty quickly, off goes her carriage, and the stern voice bawls again,—
"Mrs. Smith's carriage stops the way!"
Mrs. Smith's particular Smith may be worth his millions and live in his marble palace; but if Mrs. Smith thinks her coachman is going to stand with his horses at that door until she appears, she is mistaken, for she is a minute late, and now the coach moves on, and Rhadamanthus calls aloud,—
"Mrs. Brown's carriage stops the way!"
Half the lung fevers that carry off the great people are got waiting for their carriages.
I know full well that many readers would be disappointed if I did not mention some of the grand places and bring in some of the great names that lend their lustre to London society. We were to go to a fine musical party at Lady Rothschild's on the evening of the 30th of May. It happened that the day was Sunday, and if we had been as punctilious as some New England Sabbatarians, we might have felt compelled to decline the tempting invitation. But the party was given by a daughter of Abraham, and in every Hebrew household the true Sabbath was over. We were content for that evening to shelter ourselves under the old dispensation.
The party, or concert, was a very brilliant affair. Patti sang to us, and a tenor, and a violinist played for us. How we two Americans came to be in so favored a position I do not know; all I do know is that we were shown to our places, and found them very agreeable ones. In the same row of seats was the Prince of Wales, two chairs off from A——'s seat. Directly in front of A—— was the Princess of Wales, "in ruby velvet, with six rows of pearls encircling her throat, and two more strings falling quite low;" and next her, in front of me, the startling presence of Lady de Grey, formerly Lady Lonsdale, and before that Gladys Herbert. On the other side of the Princess sat the Grand Duke Michael of Russia.
As we are among the grandest of the grandees, I must enliven my sober account with an extract from my companion's diary:—
"There were several great beauties there, Lady Claude Hamilton, a queenly blonde, being one. Minnie Stevens Paget had with her the pretty Miss Langdon, of New York. Royalty had one room for supper, with its attendant lords and ladies. Lord Rothschild took me down to a long table for a sit-down supper,—there were some thirty of us. The most superb pink orchids were on the table. The [Thane] of —— sat next me, and how he stared before he was introduced! ... This has been the finest party we have been to, sitting comfortably in such a beautiful ball-room, gazing at royalty in the flesh, and at the shades of departed beauties on the wall, by Sir Joshua and Gainsborough. It was a new experience to find that the royal lions fed upstairs, and mixed animals below!"
A visit to Windsor had been planned, under the guidance of a friend whose kindness had already shown itself in various forms, and who, before we left England, did for us more than we could have thought of owing to any one person. This gentleman, Mr. Willett, of Brighton, called with Mrs. Willett to take us on the visit which had been arranged between us.
Windsor Castle, which everybody knows, or can easily learn, all about, is one of the largest of those huge caverns in which the descendants of the original cave men, when they have reached the height of human grandeur, delight to shelter themselves. It seems as if such a great hollow quarry of rock would strike a chill through every tenant, but modern improvements reach even the palaces of kings and queens, and the regulation temperature of the castle, or of its inhabited portions, is fixed at sixty-five degrees of Fahrenheit. The royal standard was not floating from the tower of the castle, and everything was quiet and lonely. We saw all we wanted to,—pictures, furniture, and the rest. My namesake, the Queen's librarian, was not there to greet us, or I should have had a pleasant half-hour in the library with that very polite gentleman, whom I had afterwards the pleasure of meeting in London.
After going through all the apartments in the castle that we cared to see, or our conductress cared to show us, we drove in the park, along the "three-mile walk," and in the by-roads leading from it. The beautiful avenue, the open spaces with scattered trees here and there, made this a most delightful excursion. I saw many fine oaks, one about sixteen feet of honest girth, but no one which was very remarkable. I wished I could have compared the handsomest of them with one in Beverly, which I never look at without taking my hat off. This is a young tree, with a future before it, if barbarians do not meddle with it, more conspicuous for its spread than its circumference, stretching not very far from a hundred feet from bough-end to bough-end. I do not think I saw a specimen of the British Quercus robur of such consummate beauty. But I know from Evelyn and Strutt what England has to boast of, and I will not challenge the British oak.
Two sensations I had in Windsor park, or forest, for I am not quite sure of the boundary which separates them. The first was the lovely sight of the hawthorn in full bloom. I had always thought of the hawthorn as a pretty shrub, growing in hedges; as big as a currant bush or a barberry bush, or some humble plant of that character. I was surprised to see it as a tree, standing by itself, and making the most delicious roof a pair of young lovers could imagine to sit under. It looked at a little distance like a young apple-tree covered with new-fallen snow. I shall never see the word hawthorn in poetry again without the image of the snowy but far from chilling canopy rising before me. It is the very bower of young love, and must have done more than any growth of the forest to soften the doom brought upon man by the fruit of the forbidden tree. No wonder that
"In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,"
with the object of his affections awaiting him in this boudoir of nature. What a pity that Zekle, who courted Huldy over the apples she was peeling, could not have made love as the bucolic youth does, when
"Every shepherd tells his tale Under the hawthorn in the dale!"
(I will have it love-tale, in spite of Warton's comment.) But I suppose it does not make so much difference, for love transmutes the fruit in Huldy's lap into the apples of the Hesperides.
In this way it is that the associations with the poetry we remember come up when we find ourselves surrounded by English scenery. The great poets build temples of song, and fill them with images and symbols which move us almost to adoration; the lesser minstrels fill a panel or gild a cornice here and there, and make our hearts glad with glimpses of beauty. I felt all this as I looked around and saw the hawthorns in full bloom, in the openings among the oaks and other trees of the forest. Presently I heard a sound to which I had never listened before, and which I have never heard since:—
Nature had sent one cuckoo from her aviary to sing his double note for me, that I might not pass away from her pleasing show without once hearing the call so dear to the poets. It was the last day of spring. A few more days, and the solitary voice might have been often heard; for the bird becomes so common as to furnish Shakespeare an image to fit "the skipping king:"—
"He was but as the cuckoo is in June, Heard, not regarded."
For the lyric poets the cuckoo is "companion of the spring," "darling of the spring;" coming with the daisy, and the primrose, and the blossoming sweet-pea. Where the sound came from I could not tell; it puzzled Wordsworth, with younger eyes than mine, to find whence issued
"that cry Which made me look a thousand ways In bush, and tree, and sky."
Only one hint of the prosaic troubled my emotional delight: I could not help thinking how capitally the little rogue imitated the cuckoo clock, with the sound of which I was pretty well acquainted.
On our return from Windsor we had to get ready for another great dinner with our Minister, Mr. Phelps. As we are in the habit of considering our great officials as public property, and as some of my readers want as many glimpses of high life as a decent regard to republican sensibilities will permit, I will borrow a few words from the diary to which I have often referred:—
"The Princess Louise was there with the Marquis, and I had the best opportunity of seeing how they receive royalty at private houses. Mr. and Mrs. Phelps went down to the door to meet her the moment she came, and then Mr. Phelps entered the drawing-room with the Princess on his arm, and made the tour of the room with her, she bowing and speaking to each one of us. Mr. Goschen took me in to dinner, and Lord Lorne was on my other side. All of the flowers were of the royal color, red. It was a grand dinner.... The Austrian Ambassador, Count Karoli, took Mrs. Phelps in [to dinner], his position being higher than that of even the Duke [of Argyll], who sat upon her right."
It was a very rich experience for a single day: the stately abode of royalty, with all its manifold historical recollections, the magnificent avenue of forest trees, the old oaks, the hawthorn in full bloom, and the one cry of the cuckoo, calling me back to Nature in her spring-time freshness and glory; then, after that, a great London dinner-party at a house where the kind host and the gracious hostess made us feel at home, and where we could meet the highest people in the land,—the people whom we who live in a simpler way at home are naturally pleased to be with under such auspices. What of all this shall I remember longest? Let me not seem ungrateful to my friends who planned the excursion for us, or to those who asked us to the brilliant evening entertainment, but I feel as Wordsworth felt about the cuckoo,—he will survive all the other memories.
"And I can listen to thee yet, Can lie upon the plain And listen, till I do beget That golden time again."
Nothing is more hackneyed than an American's description of his feelings in the midst of the scenes and objects he has read of all his days, and is looking upon for the first time. To each of us it appears in some respects in the same way, but with a difference for every individual. We may smile at Irving's emotions at the first sight of a distinguished Englishman on his own soil,—the ingenious Mr. Roscoe, as an earlier generation would have called him. Our tourists, who are constantly going forward and back between England and America, lose all sense of the special distinctions between the two countries which do not bear on their personal convenience. Happy are those who go with unworn, unsatiated sensibilities from the New World to the Old; as happy, it may be, those who come from the Old World to the New, but of that I cannot form a judgment.
On the first day of June we called by appointment upon Mr. Peel, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and went through the Houses of Parliament. We began with the train-bearer, then met the housekeeper, and presently were joined by Mr. Palgrave. The "Golden Treasury" stands on my drawing-room table at home, and the name on its title-page had a familiar sound. This gentleman is, I believe, a near relative of Professor Francis Turner Palgrave, its editor.
Among other things to which Mr. Palgrave called our attention was the death-warrant of Charles the First. One name in the list of signers naturally fixed our eyes upon it. It was that of John Dixwell. A lineal descendant of the old regicide is very near to me by family connection, Colonel Dixwell having come to this country, married, and left a posterity, which has resumed the name, dropped for the sake of safety at the time when he, Goffe, and Whalley, were in concealment in various parts of New England.
We lunched with the Speaker, and had the pleasure of the company of Archdeacon Farrar. In the afternoon we went to a tea at a very grand house, where, as my companion says in her diary, "it took full six men in red satin knee-breeches to let us in." Another grand personage asked us to dine with her at her country place, but we were too full of engagements. In the evening we went to a large reception at Mr. Gosse's. It was pleasant to meet artists and scholars,—the kind of company to which we are much used in our aesthetic city. I found our host as agreeable at home as he was when in Boston, where he became a favorite, both as a lecturer and as a visitor.
Another day we visited Stafford House, where Lord Ronald Gower, himself an artist, did the honors of the house, showing us the pictures and sculptures, his own included, in a very obliging and agreeable way. I have often taken note of the resemblances of living persons to the portraits and statues of their remote ancestors. In showing us the portrait of one of his own far-back progenitors, Lord Ronald placed a photograph of himself in the corner of the frame. The likeness was so close that the photograph might seem to have been copied from the painting, the dress only being changed. The Duke of Sutherland, who had just come back from America, complained that the dinners and lunches had used him up. I was fast learning how to sympathize with him.
Then to Grosvenor House to see the pictures. I best remember Gainsborough's beautiful Blue Boy, commonly so called, from the color of his dress, and Sir Joshua's Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse, which everybody knows in engravings. We lunched in clerical company that day, at the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol's, with the Archbishop of York, the Reverend Mr. Haweis, and others as guests. I told A—— that she was not sufficiently impressed with her position at the side of an archbishop; she was not crumbling bread in her nervous excitement. The company did not seem to remember Sydney Smith's remark to the young lady next him at a dinner-party: "My dear, I see you are nervous, by your crumbling your bread as you do. I always crumble bread when I sit by a bishop, and when I sit by an archbishop I crumble bread with both hands." That evening I had the pleasure of dining with the distinguished Mr. Bryce, whose acquaintance I made in our own country, through my son, who has introduced me to many agreeable persons of his own generation, with whose companionship I am glad to mend the broken and merely fragmentary circle of old friendships.
The 3d of June was a memorable day for us, for on the evening of that day we were to hold our reception. If Dean Bradley had proposed our meeting our guests in the Jerusalem Chamber, I should hardly have been more astonished. But these kind friends meant what they said, and put the offer in such a shape that it was impossible to resist it. So we sent out our cards to a few hundreds of persons,—those who we thought might like invitations. I was particularly desirous that many members of the medical profession whom I had not met, but who felt well disposed towards me, should be at this gathering. The meeting was in every respect a success. I wrote a prescription for as many baskets of champagne as would be consistent with the well-being of our guests, and such light accompaniments as a London company is wont to expect under similar circumstances. My own recollections of the evening, unclouded by its festivities, but confused by its multitudinous succession of introductions, are about as definite as the Duke of Wellington's alleged monosyllabic description of the battle of Waterloo. But A—— writes in her diary: "From nine to twelve we stood, receiving over three hundred people out of the four hundred and fifty we invited." As I did not go to Europe to visit hospitals or museums, I might have missed seeing some of those professional brethren whose names I hold in honor and whose writings are in my library. If any such failed to receive our cards of invitation, it was an accident which, if I had known, I should have deeply regretted. So far as we could judge by all we heard, our unpretentious party gave general satisfaction. Many different social circles were represented, but it passed off easily and agreeably. I can say this more freely, as the credit of it belongs so largely to the care and self-sacrificing efforts of Dr. Priestley and his charming wife.