COLLECTION OF ANCIENT AND MODERN BRITISH AUTHORS.
RECOLLECTIONS OF EUROPE.
PRINTED BY J. SMITH, 16, RUE MONTMORENCY.
RECOLLECTIONS OF EUROPE.
BY J. FENIMORE COOPER, ESQ.
AUTHOR OF "THE PILOT," "THE SPY", etc.
PARIS, BAUDRY'S EUROPEAN LIBRARY, RUE DU COQ, NEAR THE LOUVRE.
Our Embarkation.—Leave-taking.—Our Abigail.—Bay of New York.—The Hudson.—Ominous Prediction.—The Prophet falsified.—Enter the Atlantic.—"Land-birds."—Our Master.—Officers of Packet-ships.—Loss of "The Crisis."—The "Three Chimneys."—Calamities at Sea. —Sailing-match.—View of the Eddystone.—The Don Quixote.—Comparative Sailing.—Pilot-boats.—Coast of Dorsetshire.—The Needles. —Lymington.—Southampton Water.—The Custom-house.
Controversy at Cowes.—Custom-house Civility.—English Costume.—Fashion in America.—Quadrilles in New York.—Cowes.—Nautical Gallantry. English Beauty.—Isle of Wight Butter.—English Scenery.—M'Adamized Roads.—Old Village Church.—Rural Interment.—Pauper's Grave.—Carisbrooke Cattle.—Southampton.—Waiter at the Vine.—English Costume.—Affinity with England.—Netley Abbey.—Southampton Cockneys.
Road to London.—Royal Pastime.—Cockney Coachman.—Winchester Assizes. —Approach to London.—The Parks.—Piccadilly.—Street Excursion. —Strangers in London.—Americans in England.—Westminster Abbey. —Gothic Decorations.—Westminster Hall.—Inquisitive Barber.—Pasta and Malibran.—Drury-lane Theatre.—A Pickpocket.—A Fellow-traveller. —English Gentlemen.—A Radical.—Encampment of Gipsies.—National Distinctions.—Antiquities.—National Peculiarities.
Quit England.—Approach to France.—Havre.—Our Reception there.—Female Commissionnaire.—Clamour of Drums.—Port of Havre.—Projected Enterprize.—American Enterprize.—Steam-boat Excursion.—Honfleur.—Rouen.—French Exaction.—American Porters.—Rouen Cathedral.—Our Cicerone.—A Diligence.—Picturesque Road.—European Peasantry.—Aspect of the Country.—Church at Louviers.—Village near Vernon.—Rosny.—Mantes.—Bourbon Magnificence. —Approach to Paris—Enter Paris.
Paris in August 1826.—Montmartre.—The Octroi.—View of Paris. —Montmorency.—Royal Residences.—Duke of Bordeaux.—Horse-racing. —The Dauphine.—Popular feeling in Paris.—Royal Equipage.—Gardes du Corps.—Policy of Napoleon.—Centralization.
Letters of Introduction.—European Etiquette.—Diplomatic Entertainments.—Ladies in Coffee-houses.—French Hospitality.—Mr. Canning at Paris.—Parisian Hotels.—French Lady at Washington.—Receptions in Paris and in New York.—Mode of Announcement.—Republican Affectation.—Hotel Monaco.—Dinner given to Mr. Canning.—Diplomatic Etiquette.—European Ambassadors.—Prime Minister of France.—Mr. Canning.—Count Pozzo di Borgo.—Precedency at Dinner.—American Etiquette.—A French Dinner.—Servants.—Catholic Fasting.—Conversation with Canning.—English Prejudice against Americans.
English Jurisprudence.—English Justice.—Justice in France.—Continental Jurisprudence.—Juries.—Legal Injustice.—The Bar in France.—Precedence of the Law.
Army of France.—Military Display.—Fete of the Trocadero.—Royal Review.—Royal Ordinance.—Dissatisfaction.—Hostile Demonstration.—Dispersion of Rioters.—French Cavalry.—Learned Coachman.—Use of Cavalry.—Cavalry Operations.—The Conscription.—National Defence.—Napoleon's Marshals.—Marshal Soult—Disaffection of the Army.
Royal Dinner.—Magnificence and Comfort.—Salle de Diane.—Prince de Conde.—Duke of Orleans.—The Dinner-table.—The Dauphin.—Sires de Coucy.—The Dauphine.—Ancient Usages—M. de Talleyrand.—Charles X. —Panoramic Procession.—Droll Effect.—The Dinner.—M. de Talleyrand's Office.—The Duchesse de Berri.—The Catastrophe.—An Aristocratic Quarrel.
Road to Versailles.—Origin of Versailles.—The present Chateau.—The two Trianons.—La Petite Suisse.—Royal Pastime.—Gardens of Versailles. —The State Apartments.—Marie Antoinette's Chamber.—Death of Louis XV. —Oeil de Boeuf.—The Theatre and Chapel.—A Quarry.—Caverns.—Compiegne.—Chateau de Pierre-font.—Influence of Monarchy.—Orangery at Versailles.
Laws of Intercourse.—Americans in Europe.—Americans and English. —Visiting in America.—Etiquette of Visits.—Presentations at Foreign Courts.—Royal Receptions.—American Pride.—Pay of the President. —American Diplomatist.
Sir Walter Scott in Paris.—Conversation with him.—Copyright in America.—Miss Scott.—French Compliments.—Sir Walter Scott's Person and Manners.—Ignorance as to America.—French Commerce.—French Translations.—American Luxury.
French Manufactures.—Sevres China.—Tapestry of the Gobelins.—Paper for Hangings.—The Savonnerie.—French Carpets.—American Carpets. —Transfer of old Pictures from Wood to Canvass.—Coronation Coach. —The Arts in France—in America.—American Prejudice.
False Notions.—Continental Manners.—People of Paris.—Parisian Women. —French Beauty.—Men of France.—French Soldiers.
Perversion of Institutions.—The French Academy.—Laplace.—Astronomy. —Theatres of Paris.—Immoral Plot.—Artificial Feelings.—French Tragedy.—Literary Mania.—The American Press.—American Newspapers.—French Journals—Publishing Manoeuvres.—Madame Malibran.
Environs of Paris.—Village of St. Ouen.—Our House there.—Life on the River.—Parisian Cockneys.—A pretty Grisette.—Voyage across the Seine.—A rash Adventurer.—Village Fete.—Montmorency.—View near Paris.
Rural Drives.—French Peasantry.—View of Montmartre.—The Boulevards. —The Abattoirs.—Search for Lodgings.—A queer Breakfast.—Royal Progresses and Magnificence.—French Carriages and Horses.—Modes of Conveyance.—Drunkenness.—French Criminal Justice.—Marvellous Stories of the Police.
Personal Intercourse.—Parisian Society and Hospitality.—Influence of Money.—Fiacres.—M. de Lameth.—Strife of Courtesy.—Standard of Delicacy.—French Dinners.—Mode of Visiting.—The Chancellor of France. —The Marquis de Marbois.—Political Coteries.—Paris Lodgings.—A French Party.—An English Party.—A splendid Ball.—Effects of good Breeding.—Characteristic Traits.—Influence of a Court.
Garden of the Tuileries.—The French Parliament.—Parliamentary Speakers.—The Tribune.—Royal Initiative.—The Charter.—Mongrel Government.—Ministerial Responsibility.—Elections in France.—Doctrinaires.—Differences of Opinion.—Controversy.
Excursion with Lafayette.—Vincennes.—The Donjon.—Lagrange.—The Towers.—Interior of the House—the General's Apartments.—the Cabinet. —Lafayette's Title.—Church of the Chateau.—Ruins of Vivier.—Roman Remains.—American Curiosity.—The Table at Lagrange.—Swindling.
Insecurity of the Bourbons.—Distrust of Americans.—Literary Visitor. —The Templars.—Presents and Invitations.—A Spy.—American Virtue. —Inconsistency.—Social Freedom in America.—French Mannerists. —National Distinctions.—A lively Reaction.
Animal Magnetism.—Somnambules.—Magnetised Patients.—My own Examination.—A Prediction.—Ventriloquism.—Force of the Imagination.
Preparations for Departure.—My Consulate.—Leave Paris.—Picardy.—Cressy.—Montreuil.—Gate of Calais.—Port of Calais.—Magical Words.
It may seem to be late in the day to give an account of the more ordinary characteristics of Europe. But the mass of all nations can form their opinions of others through the medium of testimony only; and as no two travellers see precisely the same things, or, when seen, view them with precisely the same eyes, this is a species of writing, after all, that is not likely to pall, or cease to be useful. The changes that are constantly going on everywhere, call for as constant repetitions of the descriptions; and although the pictures may not always be drawn and coloured equally well, so long as they are taken in good faith, they will not be without their value.
It is not a very difficult task to make what is commonly called an amusing book of travels. Any one who will tell, with a reasonable degree of graphic effect, what he has seen, will not fail to carry the reader with him; for the interest we all feel in personal adventure is, of itself, success. But it is much more difficult to give an honest and a discriminating summary of what one has seen. The mind so naturally turns to exceptions, that an observer has great need of self-distrust, of the powers of analysis, and, most of all, of a knowledge of the world, to be what the lawyers call a safe witness.
I have no excuse of haste, or of a want of time, to offer for the defect of these volumes. All I ask is, that they may be viewed as no more than they profess to be. They are the gleanings of a harvest already gathered, thrown together in a desultory manner, and without the slightest, or, at least, very small pretensions, to any of those arithmetical and statistical accounts that properly belong to works of a graver character. They contain the passing remarks of one who has certainly seen something of the world, whether it has been to his advantage or not, who had reasonably good opportunities to examine what he saw, and who is not conscious of being, in the slightest degree, influenced "by fear, favour, or the hope of reward." His compte rendu must pass for what it is worth.
Our Embarkation.—Leave-taking.—Our Abigail.—Bay of New York. —The Hudson.—Ominous Prediction.—The Prophet falsified.—Enter the Atlantic.—"Land-birds."—Our Master.—Officers of Packet-ships. —Loss of "The Crisis."—The "Three Chimneys."—Calamities at Sea. —Sailing-match.—View of the Eddystone.—The Don Quixote. —Comparative Sailing.—Pilot-boats.—Coast of Dorsetshire.—The Needles. —Lymington.—Southampton Water.—The Custom-house.
TO CAPTAIN SHUBRICK, U.S.N.
MY DEAR SHUBRICK,
"Passengers by the Liverpool, London and Havre packets are informed that a steam-boat will leave the White Hall Wharf precisely at eleven, A.M. to-morrow, June 1st." If to this notice be added the year 1826, you have the very hour and place of our embarkation. We were nominally of the London party, it being our intention, however, to land at Cowes, from which place we proposed crossing the Channel to Havre. The reason for making this variation from the direct route, was the superior comfort of the London ship; that of the French line for the 1st June, though a good vessel and well commanded, being actually the least commodious packet that plied between the two hemispheres.
We were punctual to the hour, and found one of the smaller steamers crowded with those who, like ourselves, were bound to the "old world," and the friends who had come to take the last look at them. We had our leave-takings, too, which are sufficiently painful when it is known that years must intervene before there is another meeting. As is always done by good Manhattanese, the town house had been given up on the 1st of May, since which time we had resided at an hotel. The furniture had been principally sold at auction, and the entire month had passed in what I believed to be very ample preparations. It may be questioned if there is any such thing as being completely prepared for so material a change; at all events, we found a dozen essentials neglected at the last moment, and as many oversights to be repaired in the same instant.
On quitting the hotel, some fifty or a hundred volumes and pamphlets lay on the floor of my bed-room. Luckily, you were to sail on a cruise in a day or two, and as you promised not only to give them a berth, but to read them one and all, they were transferred forthwith to the Lexington. They were a dear gift, if you kept your word! John was sent with a note, with orders to be at the wharf in half an hour. I have not seen him since. Then Abigail was to be discharged. We had long debated whether this excellent woman should, or should not, be taken. She was an American, and like most of her countrywomen who will consent to serve in a household, a most valuable domestic. She wished much to go, but, on the other side, was the conviction, that a woman who had never been at sea would be useless during the passage; and then we were told so many fine things of the European servants, that the odds were unfortunately against her. The principal objection, however, was her forms of speech. Foreign servants would of themselves be a great aid in acquiring the different languages; and poor Abigail, at the best, spoke that least desirable of all corruptions of the English tongue, the country dialect of New England. Her New England morals and New England sense; in this instance, were put in the balance against her "bens," "an-gels," "doozes," "nawthings," "noans," and even her "virtooes," (in a family of children, no immaterial considerations,) and the latter prevailed. We had occasion to regret this decision. A few years later I met in Florence an Italian family of high rank, which had brought with them from Philadelphia two female domestics, whom they prized above all the other servants of a large establishment. Italy was not good enough for them, however; and, after resisting a great deal of persuasion, they were sent back. What was Florence or Rome to Philadelphia! But then these people spoke good English—better, perhaps, than common English nursery-maids, the greatest of their abuses in orthoepy being merely to teach a child to call its mother a "mare."
It was a flat calm, and the packets were all dropping down the bay with the ebb. The day was lovely, and the view of the harbour, which has so many, while it wants so many, of the elements of first-rate scenery, was rarely finer. All estuaries are most beautiful viewed in the calm; but this is peculiarly true of the Bay of New York—neither the colour of the water, nor its depth, nor the height of the surrounding land, being favourable to the grander efforts of Nature. There is little that is sublime in either the Hudson, or its mouth; but there is the very extreme of landscape beauty.
Experience will teach every one, that without returning to scenes that have made early impressions, after long absences, and many occasions to examine similar objects elsewhere, our means of comparison are of no great value. My acquaintance with the Hudson has been long and very intimate; for to say that I have gone up and down its waters a hundred times, would be literally much within the truth. During that journey whose observations and events are about to fill these volumes, I retained a lively impression of its scenery, and, on returning to the country, its current was ascended with a little apprehension that an eye which had got to be practised in the lights and shades of the Alps and Appenines might prove too fastidious for our own river. What is usually termed the grandeur of the highlands was certainly much impaired; but other parts of the scenery gained in proportion; and, on the whole, I found the passage between New York and Albany to be even finer than it had been painted by memory. I should think there can be little doubt that, if not positively the most beautiful river, the Hudson possesses some of the most beautiful river-scenery, of the known world.
Our ship was named after this noble stream. We got on board of her off Bedlow's, and dropped quietly down as far as the quarantine ground before we were met by the flood. Here we came to, to wait for a wind, more passengers, and that important personage, whom man-of-war's men term the master, and landsmen the captain. In the course of the afternoon we had all assembled, and began to reconnoitre each other, and to attend to our comforts.
To get accustomed to the smell of the ship, with its confined air, and especially to get all their little comforts about them in smooth water, is a good beginning for your novices. If to this be added moderation in food, and especially in drink; as much exercise as one can obtain; refraining from reading and writing until accustomed to one's situation, and paying great attention to the use of aperients; I believe all is said that an old traveller, and an old sailor too, can communicate on a subject so important to those who are unaccustomed to the sea. Can your experience suggest anything more?
We lay that night at the quarantine ground; but early on the morning of the 2nd, all hands were called to heave-up. The wind came in puffs over the heights of Staten, and there was every prospect of our being able to get to sea in two or three hours. We hove short, and sheeted home, and hoisted the three topsails; but the anchor hung, and the people were ordered to get their breakfasts, leaving the ship to tug at her ground-tackle with a view to loosen her hold of the bottom.
Everything was now in motion. The little Don Quixote, the Havre ship just mentioned, was laying through the narrows, with a fresh breeze from the south-west. The Liverpool ship was out of sight, and six or seven sails were turning down with the ebb, under every stitch of canvass that would draw. One fine vessel tacked directly on our quarter. As she passed quite near our stern, some one cried from her deck:—"A good run to you, Mr. ——." After thanking this well-wisher, I inquired his name. He gave me that of an Englishman, who resided in Cuba, whither he was bound. "How long do you mean to be absent?" "Five years." "You will never come back." With this raven-like prediction we parted; the wind sweeping his vessel beyond the reach of the voice.
These words, "You will never come back!" were literally the last that I heard on quitting my country. They were uttered in a prophetic tone, and under circumstances that were of a nature to produce an impression. I thought of them often, when standing on the western verge of Europe, and following the course of the sun toward the land in which I was born; I remembered them from the peaks of the Alps, when the subtle mind, outstripping the senses, would make its mysterious flight westward across seas and oceans, to recur to the past, and to conjecture the future; and when the allotted five years were up, and found us still wanderers, I really began to think, what probably every man thinks, in some moment of weakness, that this call from the passing ship was meant to prepare me for the future. The result proved in my case, however, as it has probably proved in those of most men, that Providence did not consider me of sufficient importance to give me audible information of what was about to happen. So strong was this impression to the last, notwithstanding, that on our return, when the vessel passed the spot where the evil-omened prediction was uttered, I caught myself muttering involuntarily, "—— is a false prophet; I have come back!"
We got our anchor as soon as the people were ready, and, the wind drawing fresh through the narrows, were not long turning into lower bay. The ship was deep, and had not a sufficient spread of canvass for a summer passage, but she was well commanded, and exceedingly comfortable.
The wind became light in the lower bay. The Liverpool ship had got to sea the evening before, and the Don Quixote was passing the Hook, just as we opened the mouth of the Raritan. A light English bark was making a fair wind of it, by laying out across the swash; and it now became questionable whether the ebb would last long enough to sweep us round the south-west spit, a detour that our heavier draught rendered necessary.
By paying great attention to the ship, however, the pilot, who was of the dilatory school, succeeded about 3 P.M. in getting us round that awkward but very necessary buoy, which makes so many foul winds of fair ones, when the ship's bead was laid to the eastward, with square yards. In half an hour the vessel had "slapped" past the low sandy spit of land that you have so often regarded with philosophical eyes, and we fairly entered the Atlantic, at a point where nothing but water lay between us and the Rock of Lisbon. We discharged the pilot on the bar.
By this time the wind had entirely left us, the flood was making strong, and there was a prospect of our being compelled to anchor. The bark was nearly hull-down in the offing, and the top-gallant-sails of the Don Quixote were just settling into the water. All this was very provoking, for there might be a good breeze to seaward, while we had it calm inshore. The suspense was short, for a fresh-looking line along the sea to the southward gave notice of the approach of wind; the yards were braced forward, and in half an hour we were standing east southerly, with strong headway. About sunset we passed the light vessel which then lay moored several leagues from land, in the open ocean,—an experiment that has since failed. The highlands of Navesink disappeared with the day.
The other passengers were driven below before evening. The first mate, a straight-forward Kennebunk man, gave me a wink, (he had detected my sea-education by a single expression, that of "send it an end," while mounting the side of the ship,) and said, "A clear quarter-deck! a good time to take a walk, sir." I had it all to myself, sure enough, for the first two or three days, after which our land-birds came crawling up, one by one; but long before the end of the passage nothing short of a double-reefed-topsail breeze could send the greater part of them below. There was one man, however, who, the mate affirmed wore the heel of a spare topmast smooth, by seating himself on it, as the precise spot where the motion of the ship excited the least nausea. I got into my berth at nine; but hearing a movement overhead about midnight, I turned out again, with a sense of uneasiness I had rarely before experienced at sea. The responsibility of a large family acted, in some measure, like the responsibility of command. The captain was at his post, shortening sail, for it blew fresher: there was some rain; and thunder and lightning were at work in the heavens in the direction of the adjacent continent: the air was full of wild, unnatural lucidity, as if the frequent flashes left a sort of twilight behind them; and objects were discernible at a distance of two or three leagues. We had been busy in the first watch, as the omens denoted easterly weather; the English bark was struggling along the troubled waters, already quite a league on our lee quarter.
I remained on deck half an hour, watching the movements of the master. He was a mild, reasoning Connecticut man, whose manner of ministering to the wants of the female passengers had given me already a good opinion of his kindness and forethought, while it left some doubts of his ability to manage the rude elements of drunkenness and insubordination which existed among the crew, quite one half of whom were Europeans. He was now on deck in a southwester, giving his orders in a way effectually to shake all that was left of the "horrors" out of the ship's company. I went below, satisfied that we were in good hands; and before the end of the passage, I was at a loss to say whether Nature had most fitted this truly worthy man to be a ship-master or a child's nurse, for he really appeared to me to be equally skilful in both capacities.
[Footnote 1: Doric—south-wester.]
Such a temperament is admirably suited to the command of a packet—a station in which so many different dispositions, habits and prejudices are to be soothed, at the same time that a proper regard is to be had to the safety of their persons. If any proof is wanting that the characters of seamen in general have been formed under adverse circumstances, and without sufficient attention, or, indeed, any attention to their real interests, it is afforded in the fact, that the officers of the packet-ships, men usually trained like other mariners, so easily adapt their habits to their new situation, and become more mild, reflecting and humane. It is very rare to hear a complaint against an officer of one of these vessels; yet it is not easy to appreciate the embarrassments they have frequently to encounter from whimsical, irritable, ignorant, and exacting passengers. As a rule, the eastern men of this country make the best packet-officers. They are less accustomed to sail with foreigners than those who have been trained in the other ports, but acquire habits of thought and justice by commanding their countrymen; for, of all the seamen of the known world, I take it the most subordinate, the least troublesome, and the easiest to govern, so long as he is not oppressed is the native American. This, indeed, is true, both ashore and afloat, for very obvious reasons: they who are accustomed to reason themselves, being the most likely to submit to reasonable regulations; and they who are habituated to plenty, are the least likely to be injured by prosperity, which causes quite as much trouble in this world as adversity. It is this prosperity, too suddenly acquired, which spoils most of the labouring Europeans who emigrate; while they seldom acquire the real, frank independence of feeling which characterizes the natives. They adopt an insolent and rude manner as its substitute, mistaking the shadow for the substance. This opinion of the American seamen is precisely the converse of what is generally believed in Europe, however, and more particularly in England; for, following out the one-sided political theories in which they have been nurtured, disorganization, in the minds of the inhabitants of the old world, is inseparable from popular institutions.
The early part of the season of 1826 was remarkable for the quantities of ice that had drifted from the north into the track of European and American ships. The Crisis, a London packet, had been missing nearly three months when we sailed. She was known to have been full of passengers, and the worst fears were felt for her safety; ten years have since elapsed, and no vestige of this unhappy ship has ever been found!
Our master prudently decided that safety was of much more importance than speed, and he kept the Hudson well to the southward. Instead of crossing the banks, we were as low as 40 deg., when in their meridian; and although we had some of the usual signs, in distant piles of fog, and exceedingly chilly and disagreeable weather, for a day or two, we saw no ice. About the 15th, the wind got round to the southward and eastward, and we began to fall off, more than we wished even, to the northward.
All the charts for the last fifty years have three rocks laid down to the westward of Ireland, which are known as the "Three Chimneys." Most American mariners have little faith in their existence, and yet, I fancy, no seaman draws near the spot where they are said to be, without keeping a good look-out for the danger. The master of the Hudson once carried a lieutenant of the English navy, as a passenger, who assured him that he had actually seen these "Three Chimneys." He may have been mistaken, and he may not. Our course lay far to the southward of them; but the wind gradually hauled ahead, in such a way as to bring us as near as might be to the very spot where they ought to appear, if properly laid down. The look-outs of a merchant-ship are of no great value, except in serious cases, and I passed nearly a whole night on deck, quite as much incited by my precious charge, as by curiosity, in order to ascertain all that eyes could ascertain under the circumstances. No signs of these rocks, however, were seen from the Hudson.
It is surprising in the present state of commerce, and with the vast interests which are at stake, that any facts affecting the ordinary navigation between the two hemispheres should be left in doubt. There is a shoal, and I believe a reef, laid down near the tail of the great bank, whose existence is still uncertain. Seamen respect this danger more than that of the "Three Chimneys," for it lies very much in the track of ships between Liverpool and New York; still, while tacking, or giving it a berth, they do not know whether they are not losing a wind for a groundless apprehension! Our own government would do well to employ a light cruiser, or two, in ascertaining just these facts (many more might he added to the list), during the summer months. Our own brief naval history is pregnant with instances of the calamities that befall ships. No man can say when, or how, the Insurgente, the Pickering, the Wasp, the Epervier, the Lynx, and the Hornet disappeared. We know that they are gone; and of all the brave spirits they held, not one has been left to relate the histories of the different disasters. We have some plausible conjectures concerning the manner in which the two latter were wrecked; but an impenetrable mystery conceals the fate of the four others. They may have run on unknown reefs. These reefs may be constantly heaving up from the depths of the ocean, by subterranean efforts; for a marine rock is merely the summit of a submarine mountain.
[Footnote 2: There is a touching incident connected with the fortunes of two young officers of the navy, that is not generally known. When the Essex frigate was captured in the Pacific, by the Phoebe and Cherub, two of the officers of the former were left in the ship, in order to make certain affidavits that were necessary to the condemnation. The remainder were paroled and returned to America. After a considerable interval, some uneasiness was felt at the protracted absence of those who had been left in the Essex. On inquiry it was found, that, after accompanying the ship to Rio Janeiro, they had been exchanged, according to agreement, and suffered to go where they pleased. After some delay, they took passage in a Swedish brig bound to Norway, as the only means which offered to get to Europe, whence they intended to return home. About this time great interest was also felt for the sloop Wasp. She had sailed for the mouth of the British Channel, where she fell in with and took the Reindeer, carrying her prisoners into France. Shortly after she had an action with and took the Avon, but was compelled to abandon her prize by others of the enemy's cruisers, one of which (the Castilian) actually came up with her and gave her a broad-side. About twenty days after the latter action she took a merchant-brig, near the Western Islands, and sent her into Philadelphia. This was the last that had been heard of her. Months and even years went by, and no farther intelligence was obtained. All this time, too, the gentlemen of the Essex were missing. Government ordered inquiries to be made in Sweden for the master of the brig in which they had embarked; he was absent on a long voyage, and a weary period elapsed before he could be found. When this did happen, he was required to give an account of his passengers. By producing his logbook and proper receipts, he proved that he had fallen in with the Wasp, near the line, about a fortnight after she had taken the merchant-brig named, when the young officers in question availed themselves of the occasion to return to their flag. Since that time, a period of twenty-one years, the Wasp has not been heard of.]
We were eighteen days out, when, early one morning, we made an American ship, on our weather quarter. Both vessels had everything set that would draw, and were going about five knots, close on the wind. The stranger made a signal to speak us, and, on the Hudson's main-topsail being laid to the mast, he came down under our stern, and ranged up alongside to leeward. He proved to be a ship called the "London Packet," from Charlestown, bound to Havre, and his chronometer having stopped, he wanted to get the longitude.
When we had given him our meridian, a trial of sailing commenced, which continued without intermission for three entire days. During this time, we had the wind from all quarters, and of every degree of force, from the lightest air to a double-reefed-topsail breeze. We were never a mile separated, and frequently we were for hours within a cable's length of each other. One night the two ships nearly got foul, in a very light air. The result showed, that they sailed as nearly alike, one being deep and the other light, as might well happen to two vessels. On the third day, both ships being under reefed topsails, with the wind at east, and in thick weather, after holding her own with us for two watches, the London Packet edged a little off the wind, while the Hudson still hugged it, and we soon lost sight of our consort in the mist.
We were ten days longer struggling with adverse winds. During this time the ship made all possible traverses, our vigilant master resorting to every expedient of an experienced seaman to get to the eastward. We were driven up as high as fifty-four, where we fell into the track of the St. Lawrence traders. The sea seemed covered with them, and I believe we made more than a hundred, most of which were brigs. All these we passed without difficulty. At length a stiff breeze came from the south-west, and we laid our course for the mouth of the British Channel under studding-sails.
On the 28th we got bottom in about sixty fathoms water. The 29th was thick weather, with a very light, but a fair wind; we were now quite sensibly within the influence of the tides. Towards evening the horizon brightened a little, and we made the Bill of Portland, resembling a faint bluish cloud. It was soon obscured, and most of the landsmen were incredulous about its having been seen at all. In the course of the night, however, we got a good view of the Eddystone.
Going on deck early on the morning of the 30th, a glorious view presented itself. The day was fine, clear, and exhilarating, and the wind was blowing fresh from the westward Ninety-seven sail, which had come into the Channel, like ourselves, during the thick weather, were in plain sight. The majority were English, but we recognized the build of half the maritime nations of Christendom in the brilliant fleet. Everybody was busy, and the blue waters were glittering with canvass. A frigate was in the midst of us, walking through the crowd like a giant stepping among pigmies. Our own good vessel left everything behind her also, with the exception of two or three other bright-sided ships, which happened to be as fast as herself.
I found the master busy with the glass; and, as soon as he caught my eye, he made a sign for me to come forward. "Look at that ship directly ahead of us!" The vessel alluded to led the fleet, being nearly hull-down to the eastward. It was the Don Quixote, which had left the port of New York one month before, about the same distance in our advance. "Now look here, inshore of us," added the master: "it is an American; but I cannot make her out." "Look again: she has a new cloth in her main-top-gallant sail." This was true enough, and by that sign, the vessel was our late competitor, the London Packet!
As respects the Don Quixote, we had made a journey of some five thousand miles, and not varied our distance, on arriving, a league. There was probably some accident in this; for the Don Quixote had the reputation of a fast ship, while the Hudson was merely a pretty fair sailer. We had probably got the best of the winds. But a hard and close trial of three days had shown that neither the Hudson nor the London Packet, in their present trims, could go ahead of the other in any wind. And yet here, after a separation of ten days, during which time our ship had tacked and wore fifty times, had calms, foul winds and fair, and had run fully a thousand miles, there was not a league's difference between the two vessels!
I have related these circumstances, because I think they are connected with causes that have a great influence on the success of American navigation. On passing several of the British ships to-day, I observed that their officers were below, or at least out of sight; and in one instance, a vessel of a very fair mould, and with every appearance of a good sailer, actually lay with some of her light sails aback, long enough to permit us to come up with and pass her. The Hudson probably went with this wind some fifteen or twenty miles farther than this loiterer; while I much question if she could have gone as far, had the latter been well attended to. The secret is to be found in the fact, that so large a portion of American ship-masters are also ship-owners, as to have erected a standard of activity and vigilance, below which few are permitted to fall. These men work for themselves, and, like all their countrymen, are looking out for something more than a mere support.
About noon we got a Cowes pilot. He brought no news, but told us the English vessel I have just named was sixty days from Leghorn, and that she had been once a privateer. We were just thirty from New York.
We had distant glimpses of the land all day, and several of the passengers determined to make their way to the shore in the pilot-boat. These Channel craft are sloops of about thirty or forty tons, and are rather picturesque and pretty boats, more especially when under low sail. They are usually fitted to take passengers, frequently earning more in this way than by their pilotage. They have the long sliding bowsprit, a short lower mast, very long cross-trees, with a taunt topmast, and, though not so "wicked" to the eye, I think them prettier objects at sea than our own schooners. The party from the Hudson had scarcely got on board their new vessel when it fell calm, and the master and myself paid them a visit. They looked like a set of smugglers waiting for the darkness to run in. On our return we rowed round the ship. One cannot approach a vessel at sea, in this manner, without being struck with the boldness of the experiment which launched such massive and complicated fabrics on the ocean. The pure water is a medium almost as transparent as the atmosphere, and the very keel is seen, usually so near the surface, in consequence of refraction, as to give us but a very indifferent opinion of the security of the whole machine. I do not remember ever looking at my own vessel, when at sea, from a boat, without wondering at my own folly in seeking such a home.
In the afternoon the breeze sprang up again, and we soon lost sight of our friends, who were hauling in for the still distant land. All that afternoon and night we had a fresh and a favourable wind. The next day I went on deck, while the people were washing the ship. It was Sunday, and there was a flat calm. The entire scene admirably suited a day of rest. The Channel was like a mirror, unruffled by a breath of air, and some twenty or thirty vessels lay scattered about the view, with their sails festooned and drooping, thrown into as many picturesque positions by the eddying waters. Our own ship had got close in with the land; so near, indeed, as to render a horse or a man on the shore distinctly visible. We were on the coast of Dorsetshire. A range of low cliffs lay directly abeam of us, and, as the land rose to a ridge behind them, we had a distinct view of a fair expanse of nearly houseless fields. We had left America verdant and smiling, but we found England brown and parched, there having been a long continuance of dry easterly winds.
The cliffs terminated suddenly, a little way ahead of the ship, and the land retired inward, with a wide sweep, forming a large, though not a very deep bay, that was bounded by rather low shores. It was under these very cliffs, on which we were looking with so much pleasure and security, and at so short a distance, that the well-known and terrible wreck of an Indiaman occurred, when the master, with his two daughters, and hundreds of other lives, were lost. The pilot pointed out the precise spot where that ill-fated vessel went to pieces. But the sea in its anger, and the sea at rest, are very different powers. The place had no terrors for us.
Ahead of us, near twenty miles distant, lay a high hazy bluff, that was just visible. This was the western extremity of the Isle of Wight, and the end of our passage in the Hudson. A sloop of war was pointing her head in towards this bluff, and all the vessels in sight now began to take new forms, varying and increasing the picturesque character of the view. We soon got a light air ourselves, and succeeded in laying the ship's head off shore, towards which we had been gradually drifting nearer than was desirable. The wind came fresh and fair about ten, when we directed our course towards the distant bluff. Everything was again in motion. The cliffs behind us gradually sunk, as those before us rose, and lost their indistinctness; the blue of the latter soon became grey, and, ere long, white as chalk, this being the material of which they are, in truth, composed.
We saw a small whale (it might have been a large grampus) floundering ahead of us, and acting as an extra pilot, for he appeared to be steering, like ourselves, for the Needles. These Needles are fragments of the chalk cliffs, that have been pointed and rendered picturesque by the action of the weather, and our course lay directly past them. They form a line from the extremity of the Isle of Wight, and are awkwardly placed for vessels that come this way in thick weather, or in the dark. The sloop of war got round them first, and we were not far behind her. When fairly within the Needles the ship was embayed, our course now lying between Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, through a channel of no great width. The country was not particularly beautiful, and still looked parched; though we got a distant view of one pretty town, Lymington, in Hampshire. This place, in the distance, appeared not unlike a large New England village, though there was less glare to the houses. The cliffs, however, were very fine, without being of any extraordinary elevation. Though much inferior to the shores of the Mediterranean, they as much surpass anything I remember to have seen on our own coast, between Cape Anne and Cape Florida; which, for its extent, a part of India, perhaps, excepted, is, I take it, just the flattest, and tamest, and least interesting coast in the entire world.
The master pointed out a mass of dark herbage on a distant height, which resembled a copse of wood that had been studiously clipped into square forms at its different angles. It was visible only for a few moments, through a vista in the hills. This was Carisbrooke Castle, buried in ivy.
There was another little castle, on a low point of land, which was erected by Henry VIII. as a part of a system of marine defence. It would scarcely serve to scale the guns of a modern twenty-four-pounder frigate, judging of its means of resistance and annoyance by the eye. These things are by-gones for England, a country that has little need of marine batteries.
About three, we reached a broad basin, the land retiring on each side of us. The estuary to the northward is called Southampton Water, the town of that name being seated on its margin. The opening in the Isle of Wight is little more than a very wide mouth to a very diminutive river or creek, and Cowes, divided into East and West, lines its shores. The anchorage in the arm of the sea off this little haven was well filled with vessels, chiefly the yachts of amateur seamen, and the port itself contained little more than pilot-boats and crafts of a smaller size. The Hudson brought up among the former. Hauling up the forecourse of a merchant-ship is like lifting the curtain again on the drama of the land. These vessels rarely furl this sail; and they who have not experienced it, cannot imagine what a change it produces on those who have lived a month or six weeks beneath its shadow. The sound of the chain running out was very grateful, and I believe, though well satisfied with the ship as such, that everybody was glad to get a nearer view of our great mother earth.
It was Sunday, but we were soon visited by boats from the town. Some came to carry us ashore, others to see that we carried nothing off with us. At first, the officer of the customs manifested a desire to make us all go without the smallest article of dress, or anything belonging to our most ordinary comforts; but he listened to remonstrances, and we were eventually allowed to depart with our night-bags. As the Hudson was to sail immediately for London, all our effects were sent within the hour to the custom-house. At 3 P.M. July 2nd, 1826, we put foot in Europe, after a passage of thirty-one days from the quarantine ground.
Controversy at Cowes.—Custom-house Civility.—English Costume.—Fashion in America.—Quadrilles in New York.—Cowes.—Nautical Gallantry. English Beauty.—Isle of Wight Butter.—English Scenery.—M'Adamized Roads.—Old Village Church.—Rural Interment.—Pauper's Grave.—Carisbrooke Cattle.—Southampton.—Waiter at the Vine.—English Costume.—Affinity with England.—Netley Abbey.—Southampton Cockneys.
TO MRS. POMEROY, COOPERSTOWN, NEW YORK.
We were no sooner on English ground, than we hurried to one of the two or three small inns of West Cowes, or the principal quarter of the place, and got rooms at the Fountain. Mr. and Mrs. —— had preceded us, and were already in possession of a parlour adjoining our own. On casting an eye out at the street, I found them, one at each window of their own room, already engaged in a lively discussion of the comparative merits of Cowes and Philadelphia! This propensity to exaggerate the value of whatever is our own, and to depreciate that which is our neighbour's, a principle that is connected with the very ground-work of poor human nature, forms a material portion of travelling equipage of nearly every one who quits the scenes of his own youth, to visit those of other people. A comparison between Cowes and Philadelphia is even more absurd than a comparison between New York and London, and yet, in this instance, it answered the purpose of raising a lively controversy between an American wife and a European husband.
The consul at Cowes had been an old acquaintance at school some five-and-twenty years before, and an inquiry was set on foot for his residence. He was absent in France, but his deputy soon presented himself with an offer of services. We wished for our trunks, and it was soon arranged that there should be an immediate examination. Within an hour we were summoned to the store-house, where an officer attended on behalf of the customs. Everything was done in a very expeditious and civil manner, not only for us, but for a few steerage passengers, and this, too, without the least necessity for a douceur, the usual passe-partout of England. America sends no manufactures to Europe; and, a little smuggling in tobacco excepted, there is probably less of the contraband in our commercial connexion with England, than ever before occurred between two nations that have so large a trade. This, however, is only in reference to what goes eastward, for immense amounts of the smaller manufactured articles of all Europe find their way, duty free, into the United States. There is also a regular system of smuggling through the Canadas, I have been told.
While the ladies were enjoying the negative luxury of being liberated from a ship, at the Fountain Inn, I strolled about the place. You know that I had twice visited England professionally before I was eighteen; and, on one occasion, the ship I was in anchored off this very island, though not at this precise spot. I now thought the people altered. There had certainly been so many important changes in myself during the same period, that it becomes me to speak with hesitation on this point: but even the common class seemed less peculiar, less English, less provincial, if one might use such an expression, as applied to so great a nation; in short, more like the rest of the world than formerly. Twenty years before, England was engaged in a war, by which she was, in a degree, isolated from most of Christendom. This insulated condition, sustained by a consciousness of wealth, knowledge, and power, had served to produce a decided peculiarity of manners, and even of appearance. In the article of dress I could not be mistaken. In 1806 I had seen all the lower classes of the English clad in something like costumes. The Channel waterman wore the short dowlas petticoat; the Thames waterman, a jacket and breeches of velveteen, and a badge; the gentleman and gentlewoman, attire such as was certainly to be seen in no other part of the Christian world, the English colonies excepted. Something of this still remained, but it existed rather as the exception than as the rule. I then felt, at every turn, that I was in a foreign country; whereas, now, the idea did not obtrude itself, unless I was brought in immediate contact with the people.
America, in my time, at least, has always had an active and swift communication with the rest of the world. As a people, we are, beyond a question, decidedly provincial; but our provincialism is not exactly one of external appearance. The men are negligent of dress, for they are much occupied, have few servants, and clothes are expensive; but the women dress remarkably near the Parisian modes. We have not sufficient confidence in ourselves to set fashions. All our departures from the usages of the rest of mankind are results of circumstances, and not of calculation,—unless, indeed, it be one that is pecuniary. Those whose interest it is to produce changes cause fashions to travel fast, and there is not so much difficulty, or more cost, in transporting anything from Havre to New York, than there is in transporting the same thing from Calais to London; and far less difficulty in causing a new mode to be introduced, since, as a young people, we are essentially imitative. An example or two will better illustrate what I mean.
When I visited London, with a part of my family, in 1823, after passing near two years on the continent of Europe, Mrs. —— was compelled to change her dress—at all times simple, but then, as a matter of course, Parisian—in order not to be the subject of unpleasant observation. She might have gone in a carriage attired as a Frenchwoman, for they who ride in England are not much like those who walk; but to walk in the streets, and look at objects, it was far pleasanter to seem English than to seem French. Five years later, we took London on our way to America, and even then something of the same necessity was felt. On reaching home, with dresses fresh from Paris, the same party was only in the mode; with toilettes a little, and but very little, better arranged, it is true, but in surprising conformity with those of all around them. On visiting our own little retired mountain village, these Parisian-made dresses were scarcely the subject of remark to any but to your connoisseurs. My family struck me as being much less peculiar in the streets of C—— than they had been, a few months before, in the streets of London. All this must be explained by the activity of the intercourse between France and America, and by the greater facility of the Americans in submitting to the despotism of foreign fashions.
Another fact will show you another side of the subject. While at Paris, a book of travels in America, written by an Englishman (Mr. Vigne), fell into my hands. The writer, apparently a well-disposed and sensible man, states that he was dancing dos-a-dos in a quadrille, at New York, when he found, by the embarrassment of the rest of the set, he had done something wrong. Some one kindly told him that they no longer danced dos-a-dos. In commenting on this trifling circumstance, the writer ascribes the whole affair to the false delicacy of our women! Unable to see the connexion between the cause and the effect, I pointed out the paragraph to one of my family, who was then in the daily practice of dancing, and that too in Paris itself, the very court of Terpsichore. She laughed, and told me that the practice of dancing dos-a-dos had gone out at Paris a year or two before, and that doubtless the newer mode had reached New York before it reached Mr. Vigne! These are trifles, but they are the trifles that make up the sum of national peculiarities, ignorance of which leads us into a thousand fruitless and absurd conjectures. In this little anecdote we learn the great rapidity with which new fashions penetrate American usages, and the greater ductility of American society in visible and tangible things, at least; and the heedless manner with which even those who write in a good spirit of America, jump to their conclusions. Had Captain Hall, or Mrs. Trollope, encountered this unlucky quadrille, they would probably have found some clever means of imputing the nez-a-nez tendencies of our dances to the spirit of democracy! The latter, for instance, is greatly outraged by the practice of wearing hats in Congress, and of placing the legs on tables; and, yet, both have been practised in Parliament from time immemorial! She had never seen her own Legislature, and having a set of theories cut and dried for Congress, everything that struck her as novel was referred to one of her preconceived notions. In this manner are books manufactured, and by such means are nations made acquainted with each other!
Cowes resembles a toy-town. The houses are tiny; the streets, in the main, are narrow, and not particularly straight, while everything is neat as wax. Some new avenues, however, are well planned, and, long ere this, are probably occupied; and there were several small marine villas in or near the place. One was shown me that belonged to the Duke of Norfolk. It had the outward appearance of a medium-sized American country-house. The bluff King Hall caused another castle to be built here also, which, I understood, was inhabited at the time by the family of the Marquis of Anglesey, who was said to be its governor. A part of the system of the English, government patronage is connected with these useless castles and nominally fortified places. Salaries are attached to the governments, and the situations are usually bestowed on military men. This is a good or a bad regulation, as the patronage is used. In a nation of extensive military operations it might prove a commendable and a delicate way of rewarding services; but, as the tendency of mankind is to defer to intrigue, and to augment power rather than to reward merit, the probability is, that these places are rarely bestowed, except in the way of political quids pro quos.
I was, with one striking exception, greatly disappointed in the general appearance of the females that I met in the streets. While strolling in the skirts of the town, I came across a group of girls and boys, in which a laughable scene of nautical gallantry was going on. The boys, lads of fourteen or fifteen, were young sailors, and among the girls, who were of the same age and class, was one of bewitching beauty. There had been some very palpable passages of coquetry between the two parties, when one of the young sailors, a tight lad of thirteen or fourteen, rushed into the bevy of petticoats, and, borne away by an ecstasy of admiration, but certainly guided by an excellent taste, he seized the young Venus round the neck, and dealt out some as hearty smacks as I remember to have heard. The working of emotion in the face of the girl was a perfect study. Confusion and shame came first; indignation followed; and, darting out from among her companions, she dealt her robust young admirer such a slap in the face, that it sounded like the report of a pocket-pistol. The blow was well meant, and admirably administered. It left the mark of every finger on the cheek of the sturdy little fellow. The lad clenched his fist, seemed much disposed to retort in kind, and ended by telling his beautiful antagonist that it was very fortunate for her she was not a boy. But it was the face of the girl herself that drew my attention. It was like a mirror which reflected every passing thought. When she gave the blow, it was red with indignation. This feeling instantly gave way to a kinder sentiment, and her colour softened to a flush of surprise at the boldness of her own act. Then came a laugh, and a look about her, as if to inquire if she had been very wrong; the whole terminating in an expression of regret in the prettiest blue eyes in the world, which might have satisfied any one that an offence occasioned by her own sweet face was not unpardonable. The sweetness, the ingenuousness, the spirit mingled with softness, exhibited in the countenance of this girl, are, I think, all characteristic of the English female countenance, when it has not been marble-ized by the over-wrought polish of high breeding. Similar countenances occur in America, though, I think, less frequently than here; and I believe them to be quite peculiar to the Anglo-Saxon race. The workings of such a countenance are like the play of lights and shades in a southern sky.
From the windows of the inn we had a very good view of a small castellated dwelling that one of the King's architects had caused to be erected for himself. The effect of gray towers seen over the tree-tops, with glimpses of the lawn, visible through vistas in the copses, was exceedingly pretty; though the indescribable influence of association prevented us from paying that homage to turrets and walls of the nineteenth, that we were ready so devotedly to pay to anything of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
We broke bread, for the first time in Europe, that evening, having made an early and a hurried dinner on board the ship. The Isle of Wight is celebrated for its butter, and yet we found it difficult to eat it! The English, and many other European nations, put no salt in their table butter; and we, who had been accustomed to the American usage, exclaimed with one voice against its insipidity. A near relation of A——'s who once served in the British army, used to relate an anecdote on the subject of tastes, that is quite in point. A brother officer, who had gone safely through the celebrated siege of Gibraltar, landed at Portsmouth, on his return home. Among the other privations of his recent service, he had been compelled to eat butter whose fragrance scented the whole Rock. Before retiring for the night, he gave particular orders to have hot rolls and Isle of Wight butter served for breakfast. The first mouthful disappointed him, and of course the unlucky waiter suffered. The latter protested that he had executed the order to the letter. "Then take away your Isle of Wight butter," growled the officer, "and bring me some that has a taste."
Like him of Gibraltar, we were ready to exclaim, "Take away your Isle of Wight butter, and bring us some from the good ship Hudson," which, though not quite as fragrant as that which had obtained its odour in a siege, was not entirely without a taste. This little event, homely as it may appear, is connected with the principle that influences the decisions of more than half of those who visit foreign nations. Usages are condemned because they are not our own; practices are denounced if their connexion with fitness is not self-apparent to our inexperience; and men and things are judged by rules that are of local origin and local application. The moral will be complete when I add, that we, who were so fastidious about the butter at Cowes, after an absence of nearly eight years from America, had the salt regularly worked out of all we ate, for months after our return home, protesting there was no such thing as good butter in America. Had Mrs. —— introduced the Philadelphia butter, however, I think her husband must have succumbed, for I believe it to be the best in the world, not even excepting that of Leyden.
Towards evening, the Hudson having landed all her passengers, and the most of those who were in the steerage, went round the eastern point of the little port, on her way to London.
After taking an early breakfast, we all got into a carriage called a sociable, which is very like a larger sort of American coaches and went to Newport, the principal town in the island. The road ran between hedges, and the scenery was strictly English. Small enclosures, copses, a sward clipped close as velvet, and trees (of no great size or beauty, however,) scattered in the fields, with an effect nearly equal to landscape gardening, were the predominant features. The drought had less influence on the verdure here than in Dorsetshire. The road was narrow and winding, the very beau ideal of a highway; for, in this particular, the general rule obtains that what is agreeable is the least useful. Thanks to the practical good sense and perseverance of Mr. McAdam, not only the road in question, but nearly all the roads of Great Britain have been made, within the last five-and-twenty years, to resemble in appearance, but really to exceed in solidity and strength, the roads one formerly saw in the grounds of private gentlemen. These roads are almost flat, and when they have been properly constructed, the wheel rolls over them as if passing along a bed of iron. Apart from the levels, which, of course, are not so rigidly observed, there is not, any very sensible difference between the draught on a really good McAdamized road and on a railroad. We have a few roads in America that are nearly as good as most one meets with, but we have nothing that deserves to be termed a real imitation of the system of Mr. McAdam.
The distance to Newport was only four or five miles. The town itself, a borough, but otherwise of little note, lies in a very sweet vale, and is neat but plain, resembling, in all but its greater appearance of antiquity and the greater size of its churches, one of our own provincial towns of the same size. A—— and myself took a fly, and went, by a very rural road, to Carisbrooke, a distance of about a mile, in quest of lodgings. Carisbrooke is a mere village, but the whole valley in this part of the island is so highly cultivated, and so many pretty cottages meet the eye—not cottages of the poor, but cottages of the rich—that it has an air of finish and high cultivation that we are accustomed to see only in the immediate vicinity of large towns, and not always even there.
On reaching the hamlet of Carisbrooke we found ourselves immediately beneath the castle. There was a fine old village church, one of those picturesque rustic edifices which abound in England, a building that time had warped and twisted in such a way as to leave few parallel lines, or straight edges, or even regular angles, in any part of it. They told us, also, that the remains of a ruined priory were at hand. We had often laughed since at the eagerness and delight with which we hurried off to look at these venerable objects. It was soon decided, however, that it was a pleasure too exquisite to be niggardly enjoyed alone, and the carriage was sent back with orders to bring up the whole party.
While the fly—a Liliputian coach drawn by a single horse, a sort of diminutive buggy—was absent, we went in quest of the priory. The people were very civil, and quite readily pointed out the way. We found the ruin in a farmyard. There was literally nothing but a very small fragment of a blind wall, but with these materials we went to work with the imagination, and soon completed the whole edifice. We might even have peopled it, had not Carisbrooke, with its keep, its gateway, and its ivy-clad ramparts, lain in full view, inviting us to something less ideal. The church, too—the rude, old, hump-backed church was already opened, waiting to be inspected.
The interior of this building was as ancient, in appearance, at least, and quite as little in harmony with right lines and regular angles, as its exterior. All the wood-work was of unpainted oak, a colour, however, that was scarcely dark enough to be rich; a circumstance which, to American eyes, at least—eyes on whose lenses paint is ever present—gave it an unfinished look. Had we seen this old building five years later, we might have thought differently. As for the English oak, of which one has heard so much, it is no great matter: our own common oaks are much prettier, and, did we understand their beauty, there would not be a village church in America that, in this particular, would not excel the finest English cathedral. I saw nothing in all Europe, of this nature, that equalled the common oaken doors of the hall at C——, which you know so well.
A movement in the church-yard called us out, and we became pained witnesses of the interment of two of the "unhonoured dead." The air, manner and conduct of these funerals made a deep impression on us both. The dead were a woman and a child, but of different families. There were three or four mourners belonging to each party. Both the bodies were brought in the same horse-cart, and they were buried by the same service. The coffins were of coarse wood, stained with black, in a way to betray poverty. It was literally le convoi du pauvre. Deference to their superiors, and the struggle to maintain appearances—for there was a semblance of the pomp of woe, even in these extraordinary groups, of which all were in deep mourning—contrasted strangely with the extreme poverty of the parties, the niggardly administration of the sacred offices, and the business-like manner of the whole transaction. The mourners evidently struggled between natural grief and the bewilderment of their situation. The clergyman was a good-looking young man, in a dirty surplice. Most probably he was a curate. He read the service in a strong voice, but without reverence, and as if he were doing it by the job. In every way short measure was dealt out to the poor mourners. When the solemn words of "dust to dust, ashes to ashes," were uttered, he bowed hastily towards each grave—he stood between them—and the assistants met his wholesale administration of the rites with a wholesale sympathy.
The ceremony was no sooner over, than the clergyman and his clerk retired into the church. One or two of the men cast wistful eyes towards the graves, neither of which was half filled, and reluctantly followed. I could scarcely believe my senses, and ventured to approach the door. Here I met such a view as I had never before seen, and hope never to witness again. On one side of me two men were filling the graves; on the opposite, two others were actually paying the funeral fees. In one ear was the hollow sound of the clod on the coffin; in the other the chinking of silver on the altar! Yea, literally on the altar! We are certainly far behind this great people in many essential particulars; our manners are less formed; our civilization is less perfect; but, thanks to the spirit which led our ancestors into the wilderness! such mockery of the Almighty and his worship, such a mingling of God and Mammon, never yet disgraced the temple within the wide reach of the American borders.
We were joined by the whole party before the sods were laid on the graves of the poor; but some time after the silver had been given for the consolations of religion. With melancholy reflections we mounted to the castle. A—— had been educated in opinions peculiarly favourable to England; but I saw, as we walked mournfully away from the spot, that one fact like this did more to remove the film from her eyes, than volumes of reading.
Carisbrooke has been too often described to need many words. Externally, it is a pile of high battlemented wall, completely buried in ivy, forming within a large area, that was once subdivided into courts, of which however, there are, at present, scarcely any remains. We found an old woman as warder, who occupied a room or two in a sort of cottage that had been made out of the ruins. The part of the edifice which had been the prison of Charles I. was a total ruin, resembling any ordinary house, without roof, floors, or chimneys. The aperture of the window through which he attempted to escape is still visible. It is in the outer wall, against which the principal apartments had been erected. The whole work stands on a high irregular ridge of a rocky hill, the keep being much the most elevated. We ascended to the sort of bastion which its summit forms, whence the view was charming. The whole vale, which contains Carisbrooke and Newport, with a multitude of cottages, villas, farm-houses and orchards, with meads, lawns and shrubberies, lay in full view, and we had distant glimpses of the water. The setting of this sweet picture, or the adjacent hills, was as naked and brown as the vale itself was crowded with objects and verdant. The Isle of Wight, as a whole, did not strike me as being either particularly fertile or particularly beautiful, while it contains certain spots that are eminently both. I have sailed entirely round it more than once, and, judging from the appearance of its coasts, and from what was visible in this little excursion, I should think that it had more than a usual amount of waste treeless land. The sea-views are fine, as a matter of course, and the air is pure and bracing. It is consequently much frequented in summer. It were better to call it the "watering-place," than to call it the "garden" of England.
We had come in quest of a house where the family might be left, for a few days, while I went up to London. But the whole party was anxious to put their feet in bona fide old England before they crossed the Channel, and the plan was changed to meet their wishes. We slept that night at Newport, therefore, and returned in the morning to Cowes, early enough to get on board a steam-boat for Southampton. This town lies several miles up an estuary that receives one or two small streams. There are a few dwellings on the banks of the latter, that are about the size and of the appearance of the better sort of country-houses on the Hudson, although more attention appears to have been generally paid to the grounds. There were two more of Henry the Eighth's forts; and we caught a glimpse of a fine ruined Gothic window in passing Netley Abbey.
We landed on the pier at Southampton about one, and found ourselves truly in England. "Boat, sir, boat?" "Coach, sir, coach?" "London, sir, London?"—"No; we have need of neither!"—"Thank'ee, sir—thank'ee, sir." These few words, in one sense, are an epitome of England. They rang in our ears for the first five minutes after landing. Pressing forward for a livelihood, a multitude of conveniences, a choice of amusements, and a trained, but a heartless and unmeaning civility. "No; I do not want a boat." "Thank'ee, sir." You are just as much "thank'ee" if you do not employ the man as if you did. You are thanked for condescending to give an order, for declining, for listening. It is plain to see that such thanks dwell only on the lips. And yet we so easily get to be sophisticated; words can be so readily made to supplant things; deference, however unmeaning, is usually so grateful, that one soon becomes accustomed to all this, and even begins to complain that he is not imposed on.
We turned into the first clean-looking inn that offered. It was called the Vine, and though a second-rate house, for Southampton even, we were sufficiently well served. Everything was neat, and the waiter, an old man with a powdered bead, was as methodical as a clock, and a most busy servitor to human wants. He told me he had been twenty-eight years doing exactly the same things daily, and in precisely the same place. Think of a man crying "Coming, sir," and setting table, for a whole life, within an area of forty feet square! Truly, this was not America.
The principal street in Southampton, though making a sweep, is a broad, clean avenue, that is lined with houses having, with very few exceptions, bow-windows, as far as an ancient gate, a part of the old defences of the town. Here the High-street is divided into "Above-bar" and "Below-bar". The former is much the most modern, and promises to be an exceedingly pretty place when a little more advanced. "Below-bar" is neat and agreeable too. The people appeared singularly well dressed, after New York. The women, though less fashionably attired than our own, taking the Paris modes for the criterion, were in beautiful English chintzes, spotlessly neat, and the men all looked as if they had been born with hat-brushes and clothes-brushes in their hands, and yet every one was in a sort of seashore costume. I saw many men whom my nautical instinct detected at once to be naval officers,—some of whom must have been captains,—in round-abouts; but it was quite impossible to criticise toilettes that were so faultlessly neat, and so perfectly well arranged.
We ordered dinner, and sallied forth in quest of lodgings. Southampton is said to be peculiar for "long passages, bow-windows, and old maids." I can vouch that it merits the two first distinctions. The season had scarcely commenced, and we had little difficulty in obtaining rooms, the bow-window and long passage included. These lodgings comprise one or more drawing-rooms, the requisite number of bed-rooms, and the use of the kitchen. The people of the house, ordinarily tradespeople, do the cooking and furnish the necessary attendance. We engaged an extra servant, and prepared to take possession that evening.
When we returned to the Vine, we found a visitor in this land of strangers. Mrs. R——, of New York, a relative and an old friend, had heard that Americans of our name were there, and she came doubting and hoping to the Vine. We found that the windows of our own drawing-room looked directly into those of hers. A few doors below us dwelt Mrs. L——, a still nearer relative; and a few days later, we had vis-a-vis, Mrs. M'A——, a sister of A——'s, on whom we all laid eyes for the first time in our lives! Such little incidents recall to mind the close consanguinity of the two nations; although for myself, I have always felt as a stranger in England. This has not been so much from the want of kindness and a community of opinion many subjects, as from a consciousness, that in the whole of that great nation, there is not a single individual with whom I could claim affinity. And yet, with a slight exception, we are purely of English extraction. Our father was the great-great-grandson of an Englishman. I once met with a man, (an Englishman,) who bore so strong a resemblance to him, in stature, form, walk, features and expression, that I actually took the trouble to ascertain his name. He even had our own. I had no means of tracing the matter any farther; but here was physical evidence to show the affinity between the two people. On the other hand, A—— comes of the Huguenots. She is purely American by every intermarriage, from the time of Louis the Fourteenth down, and yet she found cousins in England at every turn, and even a child of the same parents, who was as much of an Englishwoman as she herself was an American.
We drank to the happiness of America, at dinner. That day, fifty years, she declared herself a nation; that very day, and nearly at that hour, two of the co-labourers in the great work we celebrated, departed in company for the world of spirits!
A day or two was necessary to become familiarized to the novel objects around us, and my departure for London was postponed. We profited by the delay, to visit Netley Abbey, a ruin of some note, at no great distance from Southampton. The road was circuitous, and we passed several pretty country-houses, few of which exceeded in size or embellishments, shrubbery excepted, similar dwellings at home. There was one, however, of an architecture much more ancient than we had been accustomed to see, it being, by all appearance, of the time of Elizabeth or James. It had turrets and battlements, but was otherwise plain.
The abbey was a fine, without being a very imposing, ruin, standing in the midst of a field of English neatness, prettily relieved by woods. The window already mentioned formed the finest part. The effect of these ruins on us proved the wonderful power of association. The greater force of the past than of the future on the mind, can only be the result of questionable causes. Our real concern with the future is incalculably the greatest, and yet we are dreaming over our own graves, on the events and scenes which throw a charm around the graves of those who have gone before us! Had we seen Netley Abbey, just as far advanced towards completion, as it was, in fact, advanced towards decay, our speculations would have been limited by a few conjectures on its probable appearance; but gazing at it as we did, we peopled its passages, imagined Benedictines stalking along its galleries, and fancied that we heard the voices of the choir, pealing among its arches.
Our fresh American feelings were strangely interrupted by the sounds of junketing. A party of Southampton cockneys, (there are cockneys even in New York,) having established themselves on the grass, in one of the courts, were lighting a fire, and were deliberately proceeding to make tea! "To tea, and ruins," the invitations most probably run. We retreated into a little battery of the bluff King Hal, that was near by, a work that sufficiently proved the state of nautical warfare in the sixteenth century.
Road to London.—Royal Pastime.—Cockney Coachman.—Winchester Assizes. —Approach to London.—The Parks.—Piccadilly.—Street Excursion. —Strangers in London.—Americans in England.—Westminster Abbey. —Gothic Decorations.—Westminster Hall.—Inquisitive Barber.—Pasta and Malibran.—Drury-lane Theatre.—A Pickpocket.—A Fellow-traveller. —English Gentlemen.—A Radical.—Encampment of Gipsies.—National Distinctions.—Antiquities.—National Peculiarities.
To R. COOPER, ESQ. COOPERSTOWN.
At a very early hour one of the London coaches stopped at the door. I had secured a seat by the side of the coachman, and we went through the "bar" at a round trot. The distance was about sixty miles, and I had paid a guinea for my place. There were four or five other passengers, all on the outside.
The road between Southampton and London is one of little interest; even the highway itself is not as good as usual, for the first twenty or thirty miles, being made chiefly of gravel, instead of broken stones. The soil for a long distance was thirsty, and the verdure was nearly gone. England feels a drought sooner than most countries, probably from the circumstances of its vegetation being so little accustomed to the absence of moisture, and to the comparative lightness of the dews. The winds, until just before the arrival of the Hudson, had been blowing from the eastward for several weeks, and in England this is usually a dry wind. The roads were dusty, the hedges were brown, and the fields had nothing to boast of over our own verdure. Indeed, it is unusual to see the grasses of New York so much discoloured, so early in the season.
I soon established amicable relations with my companion on the box. He had been ordered at the Vine to stop for an American, and he soon began to converse about the new world. "Is America anywhere near Van Diemen's Land?" was one of his first questions. I satisfied him on this head, and he apologised for the mistake, by explaining that he had a sister settled in Van Diemen's Land, and he had a natural desire to know something about her welfare! We passed a house which had more the air of a considerable place than any I had yet seen, though of far less architectural pretensions than the miniature castle near Cowes. This, my companion informed me, had once been occupied by George IV. when Prince of Wales. "Here his Royal Highness enjoyed what I call the perfection of life, sir; women, wine, and fox-hunting!" added the professor of the whip, with the leer of a true amateur.
These coachmen are a class by themselves. They have no concern with grooming the horses, and keep the reins for a certain number of relays. They dress in a particular way, without being at all in livery or uniform, like the continental postilions, talk in a particular way, and act in a particular way. We changed this personage for another, about half the distance between Southampton and London. His successor proved to be even a still better specimen of his class. He was a thorough cockney, and altogether the superior of his country colleague, he was clearly the oracle of the boys, delivering his sentiments in the manner of one accustomed to dictate to all in and about the stables. In addition to this, there was an indescribable, but ludicrous salvo to his dignity, in the way of surliness. Some one had engaged him to carry a blackbird to town, and caused him to wait. On this subject he sang a Jeremiad in the true cockney key. "He didn't want to take the bla-a-a-ck-bud; but if the man wanted to send the bla-a-a-ck-bud, why didn't he bring the bla-a-a-ck-bud?" This is one of the hundred dialects of the lower classes of the English. One of the horses of the last team was restiff, and it became necessary to restrain him by an additional curb before we ventured into the streets of London. I intimated that I had known such horses completely subdued in America by filling their ears with cotton. This suggestion evidently gave offence, and he took occasion soon after to show it. He wrung the nose of the horse with a cord, attaching its end below, in the manner of a severe martingale. While going through this harsh process, which, by the way, effectually subdued the animal, he had leisure to tell him that "he was an English horse, and not an out-landish horse, and he knew best what was good for him," with a great deal more similar sound nationality.
Winchester was the only town of any importance on the road. It is pleasantly seated in a valley, is of no great size, is but meanly built, though extremely neat, has a cathedral and a bishop, and is the shire-town of Hampshire. The assizes were sitting, and Southampton was full of troops that had been sent from Winchester, in order to comply with a custom which forbids the military to remain near the courts of justice. England is full of these political mystifications, and it is one of the reasons that she is so much in arrears in many of the great essentials. In carrying out the practice in this identical case, a serious private wrong was inflicted, in order that, in form, an abstract and perfectly useless principle might be maintained. The inns at Southampton were filled with troops, who were billeted on the publicans, will ye, nill ye; and not only the masters of the different houses, but travellers were subjected to a great inconvenience, in order that this abstraction might not be violated. There may be some small remuneration, but no one can suppose for a moment, that the keeper of a genteel establishment of this nature wishes to see his carriage-houses, gateways, and halls thronged with soldiers. Society oppresses him to maintain appearances! At the present day the presence of soldiers might be the means of sustaining justice, while there is not the smallest probability that they would be used for contrary purposes, except in cases in which this usage or law—for I believe there is a statue for it—would not be in the least respected. This is not an age, nor is England the country, in which a judge is to be overawed by the roll of a drum. All sacrifices of common sense, and all recourse to plausible political combinations, whether of individuals or of men, are uniformly made at the expense of the majority. The day is certainly arrived when absurdities like these should be done away with.
The weather was oppressively hot, nor do I remember to have suffered more from the sun than during this little journey. Were I to indulge in the traveller's propensity to refer everything to his own state of feeling, you might be told what a sultry place England is in July. But I was too old a sailor not to understand the cause. The sea is always more temperate than the land, being cooler in summer and warmer in winter. After being thirty days at sea, we all feel this truth, either in one way or the other. I was quitting the coast, too, which is uniformly cooler than the interior.
When some twelve or thirteen miles from town, the coachman pointed to a wood enclosed by a wall, on our left. A rill trickled from the thicket, and ran beneath the road. I was told that Virginia Water lay there, and that the evening before a single footpad had robbed a coach in that precise spot, or within a few hundred yards of the very place where the King of England at the moment was amusing himself with the fishing-rod. Highway robberies, however are now of exceedingly rare occurrence, that in question being spoken of as the only one within the knowledge of my informant for many years.
Our rate of travelling was much the same as that of one of our own better sort of stages. The distance was not materially less than that between Albany and C——n; the roads were not so hilly, and much better than our own road; and yet, at the same season, we usually perform it in about the same time that we went the distance between Southampton and London. The scenery was tame, nor, with the exception of Winchester, was there a single object of any interest visible until we got near London. We crossed the Thames, a stream of trifling expanse, and at Kew we had a glimpse of an old German-looking edifice in yellow bricks, with towers, turrets, and battlements. This was one of the royal palaces. It stood on the opposite side of the river, in the midst of tolerably extensive grounds. Here a nearly incessant stream of vehicles commenced. I attempted to count the stage-coaches, and got as high as thirty-three, when we met a line of mail-coaches, that caused me to stop in despair. I think we met not less than fifty within the last hour of our journey. There were seven belonging to the mail in one group. They all leave London at the same hour, for different parts of the kingdom.
At Hyde Park Corner I began to recall objects known in my early visits to London. Apsley House had changed owners, and had become the property of one whose great name was still in the germ, when I had last seen his present dwelling. The Parks, a gateway or two excepted, were unchanged. In the row of noble houses that line Piccadilly—in that hospital-looking edifice, Devonshire House—in the dingy, mean, irregular, and yet interesting front of St. James's—in Brookes's, White's, the Thatched House, and various other historical monuments, I saw no change. Buckingham House had disappeared, and an unintelligible pile was rising on its ruins. A noble "palazzo-non-finito" stood at the angle between the Green and St. James's Parks, and here and there I discovered houses of better architecture than London was wont of old to boast. One of the very best of these, I was told, was raised in honour of Mercury, and probably out of his legitimate profits. It is called Crockford's.
Our "bla-a-a-ck-bud" pulled up in the Strand, at the head of Adam-street, Adelphi, and I descended from my seat at his side. An extra shilling brought the glimmering of a surly smile athwart his blubber-cheeks, and we parted in good-humour. My fellow-travellers were all men of no very high class, but they had been civil, and were sufficiently attentive to my wants, when they found I was a stranger, by pointing out objects on the road, and explaining the usages of the inns. One of them had been in America, and he boasted a little of his intimacy with General This and Commodore That. At one time, too, he appeared somewhat disposed to institute comparisons between the two countries, a good deal at our expense, as you may suppose; but as I made no answers, I soon heard him settling it with his companions, that, after all, it was quite natural a man should not like to hear his own country abused; and so he gave the matter up. With this exception, I had no cause of complaint, but, on the contrary, good reason to be pleased.
I was set down at the Adam-street Hotel, a house much frequented by Americans. The respectable woman who has so long kept it received me with quiet civility, saw that I had a room, and promised me a dinner in a few minutes. While the latter was preparing, having got rid of the dust, I went out into the streets. The lamps were just lighted, and I went swiftly along the Strand, recalling objects at every step. In this manner I passed, at a rapid pace, Somerset House, St. Clement's-le-Dane, St. Mary-le-Strand, Temple-bar, Bridge-street, Ludgate-hill, pausing only before St. Paul's. Along the whole of this line I saw but little change. A grand bridge, Waterloo, with a noble approach to it, had been thrown across the river just above Somerset House, but nearly everything else remained unaltered. I believe my manner, and the eagerness with which I gazed at long-remembered objects, attracted attention; for I soon observed I was dogged around the church by a suspicious-looking fellow. He either suspected me of evil, or, attracted by my want of a London air, he meditated evil himself. Knowing my own innocence, I determined to bring the matter to an issue. We were alone, in a retired part of the place, and, first making sure that my watch, wallet, and handkerchief had not already disappeared, I walked directly up to him, and looked him intently in the face, as if to recognize his features. He took the hint, and, turning on his heels, moved nimbly of. It is surprising how soon an accustomed eye will distinguish a stranger in the streets of a large town. On mentioning this circumstance next day to ——, he said that the Londoners pretend to recognize a rustic air in a countess, if she has been six months from town. Rusticity in such cases, however, must merely mean a little behind the fashions.
I had suffered curiosity to draw me two miles from my dinner, and was as glad to get back as just before I had been to run away from it. Still the past, with the recollections which crowded on the mind, bringing with them a flood of all sorts of associations, prevented me from getting into a coach, which would, in a measure, have excluded objects from my sight. I went to bed that night with the strange sensation of being again in London, after an interval of twenty years.
The next day I set about the business which had brought me to the English capital. Most of our passengers were in town, and we met, as a matter of course. I had calls from three or four Americans established here, some in one capacity, and some in others; for our country has long been giving back its increase to England, in the shape of admirals, generals, judges, artists, writers and notion-mongers. But what is all this compared to the constant accessions of Europeans among ourselves? Eight years later, on returning home, I found New York, in feeling, opinions, desires, (apart from profit,) and I might almost say, in population, a foreign rather than American town.
I had passed months in London when a boy, and yet had no knowledge of Westminster Abbey! I cannot account for this oversight, for I was a great devotee of Gothic architecture, of which, by the way, I knew nothing, except through the prints; and I could not reproach myself with a want of proper curiosity on such subjects, for I had devoted as much time to their examination as my duty to the ship would at all allow. Still, all I could recall of the abbey was an indistinct image of two towers, with a glimpse in at a great door. Now that I was master of my own movements, one of my first acts was to hurry to the venerable church.
Westminster Abbey is built in the form of a cross, as is, I believe, invariably the case with every Catholic church of any pretension. At its northern end are two towers, and at its southern is the celebrated chapel of Henry VII. This chapel is an addition, which, allowing for a vast difference in the scale, resembles, in its general appearance, a school, or vestry-room, attached to the end of one of our own churches. A Gothic church is, indeed, seldom complete without such a chapel. It is not an easy matter to impress an American with a proper idea of European architecture. Even while the edifice is before his eyes, he is very apt to form an erroneous opinion of its comparative magnitude. The proportions aid deception in the first place, and absence uniformly exaggerates the beauty and extent of familiar objects. None but those who have disciplined the eye, and who have accustomed themselves to measure proportions by rules more definite than those of the fancy, should trust to their judgments in descriptions of this sort.