Transcribed from the 1886 Cassell & Company edition by David Price, email email@example.com
TRAVELS IN ENGLAND IN 1782
Charles P. Moritz's "Travels, chiefly on foot, through several parts of England in 1782, described in Letters to a Friend," were translated from the German by a lady, and published in 1795. John Pinkerton included them in the second volume of his Collection of Voyages and Travels.
The writer of this account of England as it was about a hundred years ago, and seven years before the French Revolution, was a young Prussian clergyman, simply religious, calmly enthusiastic for the freer forms of citizenship, which he found in England and contrasted with the military system of Berlin. The touch of his times was upon him, with some of the feeling that caused Frenchmen, after the first outbreak of the Revolution, to hail Englishmen as "their forerunners in the glorious race." He had learnt English at home, and read Milton, whose name was inscribed then in German literature on the banners of the free.
In 1782 Charles Moritz came to England with little in his purse and "Paradise Lost" in his pocket, which he meant to read in the Land of Milton. He came ready to admire, and enthusiasm adds some colour to his earliest impressions; but when they were coloured again by hard experience, the quiet living sympathy remained. There is nothing small in the young Pastor Moritz, we feel a noble nature in his true simplicity of character.
He stayed seven weeks with us, three of them in London. He travelled on foot to Richmond, Windsor, Oxford, Birmingham, and Matlock, with some experience of a stage coach on the way back; and when, in dread of being hurled from his perch on the top as the coach flew down hill, he tried a safer berth among the luggage in the basket, he had further experience. It was like that of Hood's old lady, in the same place of inviting shelter, who, when she crept out, had only breath enough left to murmur, "Oh, them boxes!"
Pastor Moritz's experience of inns was such as he hardly could pick up in these days of the free use of the feet. But in those days everybody who was anybody rode. And even now, there might be cold welcome to a shabby-looking pedestrian without a knapsack. Pastor Moritz had his Milton in one pocket and his change of linen in the other. From some inns he was turned away as a tramp, and in others he found cold comfort. Yet he could be proud of a bit of practical wisdom drawn by himself out of the "Vicar of Wakefield," that taught him to conciliate the innkeeper by drinking with him; and the more the innkeeper drank of the ale ordered the better, because Pastor Moritz did not like it, and it did not like him. He also felt experienced in the ways of the world when, having taken example from the manners of a bar-maid, if he drank in a full room he did not omit to say, "Your healths, gentlemen all."
Fielding's Parson Adams, with his AEschylus in his pocket, and Parson Moritz with his Milton, have points of likeness that bear strong witness to Fielding's power of entering into the spirit of a true and gentle nature. After the first touches of enthusiastic sentiment, that represent real freshness of enjoyment, there is no reaction to excess in opposite extreme. The young foot traveller settles down to simple truth, retains his faith in English character, and reports ill-usage without a word of bitterness.
The great charm of this book is its unconscious expression of the writer's character. His simple truthfulness presents to us of 1886 as much of the England of 1782 as he was able to see with eyes full of intelligence and a heart full of kindness. He heard Burke speak on the death of his friend and patron Lord Rockingham, with sudden rebuke to an indolent and inattentive house. He heard young Pitt, and saw how he could fix, boy as he looked, every man's attention.
"Oh, wad some power the giftie gie us To see oursels as others see us! It wad frae many a blunder free us, And foolish notion."
And when the power is so friendly as that of the Pastor Moritz, we may, if wise, know ourselves better than from a thousand satires, but if foolish we may let all run into self-praise.
On the Thames, 31st May.
At length, my dearest Gedike, I find myself safely landed on the happy shores of that country, a sight of which has, for many years, been my most earnest wish; and whither I have so often in imagination transported myself. A few hours ago the green hills of England yet swam imperfectly before our eyes, scarcely perceptible in the distant horizon: they now unfold themselves on either side, forming as it were a double amphitheatre. The sun bursts through the clouds, and gilds alternately the shrubs and meadows on the distant shores, and we now espy the tops of two masts of ships just peeping above the surface of the deep. What an awful warning to adventurous men! We now sail close by those very sands (the Goodwin) where so many unfortunate persons have found their graves.
The shores now regularly draw nearer to each other: the danger of the voyage is over; and the season for enjoyment, unembittered by cares, commences. How do we feel ourselves, we, who have long been wandering as it were, in a boundless space, on having once more gained prospects that are not without limits! I should imagine our sensations as somewhat like those of the traveller who traverses the immeasurable deserts of America, when fortunately he obtains a hut wherein to shelter himself; in those moments he certainly enjoys himself; nor does he then complain of its being too small. It is indeed the lot of man to be always circumscribed to a narrow space, even when he wanders over the most extensive regions; even when the huge sea envelops him all around, and wraps him close to its bosom, in the act, as it were, of swallowing him up in a moment: still he is separated from all the circumjacent immensity of space only by one small part, or insignificant portion of that immensity.
That portion of this space, which I now see surrounding me, is a most delightful selection from the whole of beautiful nature. Here is the Thames full of large and small ships and boats, dispersed here and there, which are either sailing on with us, or lying at anchor; and there the hills on either side, clad with so soft and mild a green, as I have nowhere else ever seen equalled. The charming banks of the Elbe, which I so lately quitted, are as much surpassed by these shores as autumn is by spring! I see everywhere nothing but fertile and cultivated lands; and those living hedges which in England more than in any other country, form the boundaries of the green cornfields, and give to the whole of the distant country the appearance of a large and majestic garden. The neat villages and small towns with sundry intermediate country seats, suggest ideas of prosperity and opulence which is not possible to describe.
The prospect towards Gravesend is particularly beautiful. It is a clever little town, built on the side of a hill; about which there lie hill and dale and meadows, and arable land, intermixed with pleasure grounds and country seats; all diversified in the most agreeable manner. On one of the highest of these hills near Gravesend stands a windmill, which is a very good object, as you see it at some distance, as well as part of the country around it, on the windings of the Thames. But as few human pleasures are ever complete and perfect, we too, amidst the pleasing contemplation of all these beauties, found ourselves exposed on the quarter-deck to uncommonly cold and piercing weather. An unintermitting violent shower of rain has driven me into the cabin, where I am now endeavouring to divert a gloomy hour by giving you the description of a pleasing one.
London, 2nd June.
This morning those of us who were fellow passengers together in the great cabin, being six in number, requested to be set on shore in a boat, a little before the vessel got to Dartford, which is still sixteen miles from London. This expedient is generally adopted, instead of going up the Thames, towards London, where on account of the astonishing number of ships, which are always more crowded together the nearer you approach the city, it frequently requires many days before a ship can finish her passage. He therefore who wishes to lose no time unnecessarily, and wishes also to avoid other inconveniences, such as frequent stoppages, and perhaps, some alarming dashings against other ships, prefers travelling those few miles by land in a post-chaise, which is not very expensive, especially when three join together, as three passengers pay no more than one. This indulgence is allowed by act of parliament.
As we left the vessel we were honoured with a general huzza, or in the English phrase with three cheers, echoed from the German sailors of our ship. This nautical style of bidding their friends farewell our Germans have learned from the English. The cliff where we landed was white and chalky, and as the distance was not great, nor other means of conveyance at hand, we resolved to go on foot to Dartford: immediately on landing we had a pretty steep hill to climb, and that gained, we arrived at the first English village, where an uncommon neatness in the structure of the houses, which in general are built with red bricks and flat roofs, struck me with a pleasing surprise, especially when I compared them with the long, rambling, inconvenient, and singularly mean cottages of our peasants. We now continued our way through the different villages, each furnished with his staff, and thus exhibited no remote resemblance of a caravan. Some few people who met us seemed to stare at us, struck, perhaps, by the singularity of our dress, or the peculiarity of our manner of travelling. On our route we passed a wood where a troop of gipsies had taken up their abode around a fire under a tree. The country, as we continued to advance, became more and more beautiful. Naturally, perhaps, the earth is everywhere pretty much alike, but how different is it rendered by art! How different is that on which I now tread from ours, and every other spot I have ever seen. The soil is rich even to exuberance, the verdure of the trees and hedges, in short the whole of this paradisaical region is without a parallel! The roads too are incomparable; I am astonished how they have got them so firm and solid; every step I took I felt, and was conscious it was English ground on which I trod.
We breakfasted at Dartford. Here, for the first time, I saw an English soldier, in his red uniform, his hair cut short and combed back on his forehead, so as to afford a full view of his fine, broad, manly face. Here too I first saw (what I deemed a true English fight) in the street, two boys boxing.
Our little party now separated, and got into two post-chaises, each of which hold three persons, though it must be owned three cannot sit quite so commodiously in these chaises as two: the hire of a post-chaise is a shilling for every English mile. They may be compared to our extra posts, because they are to be had at all times. But these carriages are very neat and lightly built, so that you hardly perceive their motion as they roll along these firm smooth roads; they have windows in front, and on both sides. The horses are generally good, and the postillions particularly smart and active, and always ride on a full trot. The one we had wore his hair cut short, a round hat, and a brown jacket of tolerable fine cloth, with a nosegay in his bosom. Now and then, when he drove very hard, he looked round, and with a smile seemed to solicit our approbation. A thousand charming spots, and beautiful landscapes, on which my eye would long have dwelt with rapture, were now rapidly passed with the speed of an arrow.
Our road appeared to be undulatory, and our journey, like the journey of life, seemed to be a pretty regular alternation of up hill and down, and here and there it was diversified with copses and woods; the majestic Thames every now and then, like a little forest of masts, rising to our view, and anon losing itself among the delightful towns and villages. The amazing large signs which at the entrance of villages hang in the middle of the street, being fastened to large beams, which are extended across the street from one house to another opposite to it, particularly struck me; these sign-posts have the appearance of gates or of gateways, for which I at first took them, but the whole apparatus, unnecessarily large as it seems to be, is intended for nothing more than to tell the inquisitive traveller that there is an inn. At length, stunned as it were by this constant rapid succession of interesting objects to engage our attention, we arrived at Greenwich nearly in a state of stupefaction.
The Prospect of London.
We first descried it enveloped in a thick smoke or fog. St. Paul's arose like some huge mountain above the enormous mass of smaller buildings. The Monument, a very lofty column, erected in memory of the great fire of London, exhibited to us, perhaps, chiefly on account of its immense height, apparently so disproportioned to its other dimensions (for it actually struck us as resembling rather a slender mast, towering up in immeasurable height into the clouds, than as that it really is, a stately obelisk) an unusual and singular appearance. Still we went on, and drew nearer and nearer with amazing velocity, and the surrounding objects became every moment more distinct. Westminster Abbey, the Tower, a steeple, one church, and then another, presented themselves to our view; and we could now plainly distinguish the high round chimneys on the tops of the houses, which yet seemed to us to form an innumerable number of smaller spires, or steeples.
The road from Greenwich to London is actually busier and far more alive than the most frequented streets in Berlin. At every step we met people on horseback, in carriages, and foot passengers; and everywhere also, and on each side of the road, well-built and noble houses, whilst all along, at proper distances, the road was lined with lamp-posts. One thing, in particular, struck and surprised me not a little. This was the number of people we met riding and walking with spectacles on, among whom were many who appeared stout, healthy, and young. We were stopped at least three times at barriers or gates, here called turnpikes, to pay a duty or toll which, however small, as being generally paid in their copper coinage, in the end amounted to some shillings.
At length we arrived at the magnificent bridge of Westminster. The prospect from this bridge alone seems to afford one the epitome of a journey, or a voyage in miniature, as containing something of everything that mostly occurs on a journey. It is a little assemblage of contrasts and contrarieties. In contrast to the round, modern, and majestic cathedral of St. Paul's on your right, the venerable, old-fashioned, and hugely noble, long abbey of Westminster, with its enormous pointed roof, rises on the left. Down the Thames to the right you see Blackfriar's Bridge, which does not yield much, if at all, in beauty to that of Westminster; on the left bank of the Thames are delightful terraces, planted with trees, and those new tasteful buildings called the Adelphi. On the Thames itself are countless swarms of little boats passing and repassing, many with one mast and one sail, and many with none, in which persons of all ranks are carried over. Thus there is hardly less stir and bustle on this river, than there is in some of its own London's crowded streets. Here, indeed, you no longer see great ships, for they come no farther than London Bridge
We now drove into the city by Charing Cross, and along the Strand, to those very Adelphi Buildings which had just afforded us so charming a prospect on Westminster Bridge.
My two travelling companions, both in the ship and the post-chaise, were two young Englishmen, who living in this part of the town, obligingly offered me any assistance and services in their power, and in particular, to procure me a lodging the same day in their neighbourhood.
In the streets through which we passed, I must own the houses in general struck me as if they were dark and gloomy, and yet at the same time they also struck me as prodigiously great and majestic. At that moment, I could not in my own mind compare the external view of London with that of any other city I had ever before seen. But I remember (and surely it is singular) that about five years ago, on my first entrance into Leipzig, I had the very same sensations I now felt. It is possible that the high houses, by which the streets at Leipzig are partly darkened, the great number of shops, and the crowd of people, such as till then I had never seen, might have some faint resemblance with the scene now surrounding me in London.
There are everywhere leading from the Strand to the Thames, some well-built, lesser, or subordinate streets, of which the Adelphi Buildings are now by far the foremost. One district in this neighbourhood goes by the name of York Buildings, and in this lies George Street, where my two travelling companions lived. There reigns in those smaller streets towards the Thames so pleasing a calm, compared to the tumult and bustle of people, and carriages, and horses, that are constantly going up and down the Strand, that in going into one of them you can hardly help fancying yourself removed at a distance from the noise of the city, even whilst the noisiest part of it is still so near at hand.
It might be about ten or eleven o'clock when we arrived here. After the two Englishmen had first given me some breakfast at their lodgings, which consisted of tea and bread and butter, they went about with me themselves, in their own neighbourhood, in search of an apartment, which they at length procured for me for sixteen shillings a week, at the house of a tailor's widow who lived opposite to them. It was very fortunate, on other accounts, that they went with me, for equipped as I was, having neither brought clean linen nor change of clothes from my trunk, I might perhaps have found it difficult to obtain good lodgings.
It was a very uncommon but pleasing sensation I experienced on being now, for the first time in my life, entirely among Englishmen: among people whose language was foreign, their manners foreign, and in a foreign climate, with whom, notwithstanding, I could converse as familiarly as though we had been educated together from our infancy. It is certainly an inestimable advantage to understand the language of the country through which you travel. I did not at first give the people I was with any reason to suspect I could speak English, but I soon found that the more I spoke, the more attention and regard I met with. I now occupy a large room in front on the ground floor, which has a carpet and mats, and is very neatly furnished; the chairs are covered with leather, and the tables are of mahogany. Adjoining to this I have another large room. I may do just as I please, and keep my own tea, coffee, bread and butter, for which purpose my landlady has given me a cupboard in my room, which locks up.
The family consists of the mistress of the house, her maid, and her two sons, Jacky and Jerry; singular abbreviations for John and Jeremiah. The eldest, Jacky, about twelve years old, is a very lively boy, and often entertains me in the most pleasing manner by relating to me his different employments at school, and afterwards desiring me in my turn to relate to him all manner of things about Germany. He repeats his amo, amas, amavi, in the same singing tone as our common school-boys. As I happened once when he was by, to hum a lively tune, he stared at me with surprise, and then reminded me it was Sunday; and so, that I might not forfeit his good opinion by any appearance of levity, I gave him to understand that, in the hurry of my journey, I had forgotten the day. He has already shown me St. James's Park, which is not far from hence; and now let me give you some description of the renowned
St. James's Park.
The park is nothing more than a semicircle, formed of an alley of trees, which enclose a large green area in the middle of which is a marshy pond.
The cows feed on this green turf, and their milk is sold here on the spot, quite new.
In all the alleys or walks there are benches, where you may rest yourself. When you come through the Horse Guards (which is provided with several passages) into the park, on the right hand is St. James's Palace, or the king's place of residence, one of the meanest public buildings in London. At the lower end, quite at the extremity, is the queen's palace, a handsome and modern building, but very much resembling a private house. As for the rest, there are generally everywhere about St. James's Park very good houses, which is a great addition to it. There is also before the semicircle of the trees just mentioned a large vacant space, where the soldiers are exercised.
How little this famous park is to be compared with our park at Berlin, I need not mention. And yet one cannot but form a high idea of St. James's Park and other public places in London; this arises, perhaps, from their having been oftener mentioned in romances and other books than ours have. Even the squares and streets of London are more noted and better known than many of our principal towns.
But what again greatly compensates for the mediocrity of this park, is the astonishing number of people who, towards evening in fine weather, resort here; our finest walks are never so full even in the midst of summer. The exquisite pleasure of mixing freely with such a concourse of people, who are for the most part well-dressed and handsome, I have experienced this evening for the first time.
Before I went to the park I took another walk with my little Jacky, which did not cost me much fatigue and yet was most uncommonly interesting. I went down the little street in which I live, to the Thames nearly at the end of it, towards the left, a few steps led me to a singularly pretty terrace, planted with trees, on the very brink of the river.
Here I had the most delightful prospect you can possibly imagine. Before me was the Thames with all its windings, and the stately arches of its bridges; Westminster with its venerable abbey to the right, to the left again London, with St. Paul's, seemed to wind all along the windings of the Thames, and on the other side of the water lay Southwark, which is now also considered as part of London. Thus, from this single spot, I could nearly at one view see the whole city, at least that side of it towards the Thames. Not far from hence, in this charming quarter of the town, lived the renowned Garrick. Depend upon it I shall often visit this delightful walk during my stay in London.
To-day my two Englishmen carried me to a neighbouring tavern, or rather an eating-house, where we paid a shilling each for some roast meat and a salad, giving at the same time nearly half as much to the waiter, and yet this is reckoned a cheap house, and a cheap style of living. But I believe, for the future, I shall pretty often dine at home; I have already begun this evening with my supper. I am now sitting by the fire in my own room in London. The day is nearly at an end, the first I have spent in England, and I hardly know whether I ought to call it only one day, when I reflect what a quick and varied succession of new and striking ideas have, in so short a time, passed in my mind.
London, 5th June.
At length, dearest Gedike, I am again settled, as I have now got my trunk and all my things from the ship, which arrived only yesterday. Not wishing to have it taken to the Custom House, which occasions a great deal of trouble, I was obliged to give a douceur to the officers, and those who came on board the ship to search it. Having pacified, as I thought, one of them with a couple of shillings, another came forward and protested against the delivery of the trunk upon trust till I had given him as much. To him succeeded a third, so that it cost me six shillings, which I willingly paid, because it would have cost me still more at the Custom House.
By the side of the Thames were several porters, one of whom took my huge heavy trunk on his shoulders with astonishing ease, and carried it till I met a hackney coach. This I hired for two shillings, immediately put the trunk into it, accompanying it myself without paying anything extra for my own seat. This is a great advantage in the English hackney coaches, that you are allowed to take with you whatever you please, for you thus save at least one half of what you must pay to a porter, and besides go with it yourself, and are better accommodated. The observations and the expressions of the common people here have often struck me as peculiar. They are generally laconic, but always much in earnest and significant. When I came home, my landlady kindly recommended it to the coachman not to ask more than was just, as I was a foreigner; to which he answered, "Nay, if he were not a foreigner I should not overcharge him."
My letters of recommendation to a merchant here, which I could not bring with me on account of my hasty departure from Hamburgh, are also arrived. These have saved me a great deal of trouble in the changing of my money. I can now take my German money back to Germany, and when I return thither myself, refund to the correspondent of the merchant here the sum which he here pays me in English money. I should otherwise have been obliged to sell my Prussian Fredericks-d'or for what they weighed; for some few Dutch dollars which I was obliged to part with before I got this credit they only gave me eight shillings.
A foreigner has here nothing to fear from being pressed as a sailor, unless, indeed, he should be found at any suspicious place. A singular invention for this purpose of pressing is a ship, which is placed on land not far from the Tower, on Tower Hill, furnished with masts and all the appurtenances of a ship. The persons attending this ship promise simple country people, who happen to be standing and staring at it, to show it to them for a trifle, and as soon as they are in, they are secured as in a trap, and according to circumstances made sailors of or let go again.
The footway, paved with large stones on both sides of the street, appears to a foreigner exceedingly convenient and pleasant, as one may there walk in perfect safety, in no more danger from the prodigious crowd of carts and coaches, than if one was in one's own room, for no wheel dares come a finger's breadth upon the curb stone. However, politeness requires you to let a lady, or any one to whom you wish to show respect, pass, not, as we do, always to the right, but on the side next the houses or the wall, whether that happens to be on the right or on the left, being deemed the safest and most convenient. You seldom see a person of any understanding or common sense walk in the middle of the streets in London, excepting when they cross over, which at Charing Cross and other places, where several streets meet, is sometimes really dangerous.
It has a strange appearance—especially in the Strand, where there is a constant succession of shop after shop, and where, not unfrequently, people of different trades inhabit the same house—to see their doors or the tops of their windows, or boards expressly for the purpose, all written over from top to bottom with large painted letters. Every person, of every trade or occupation, who owns ever so small a portion of a house, makes a parade with a sign at his door; and there is hardly a cobbler whose name and profession may not be read in large golden characters by every one that passes. It is here not at all uncommon to see on doors in one continued succession, "Children educated here," "Shoes mended here," "Foreign spirituous liquors sold here," and "Funerals furnished here;" of all these inscriptions. I am sorry to observe that "Dealer in foreign spirituous liquors" is by far the most frequent. And indeed it is allowed by the English themselves, that the propensity of the common people to the drinking of brandy or gin is carried to a great excess; and I own it struck me as a peculiar phraseology, when, to tell you that a person is intoxicated or drunk, you hear them say, as they generally do, that he is in liquor. In the late riots, which even yet are hardly quite subsided, and which are still the general topic of conversation, more people have been found dead near empty brandy-casks in the streets, than were killed by the musket- balls of regiments that were called in. As much as I have seen of London within these two days, there are on the whole I think not very many fine streets and very fine houses, but I met everywhere a far greater number and handsomer people than one commonly meets in Berlin. It gives me much real pleasure when I walk from Charing Cross up the Strand, past St. Paul's to the Royal Exchange, to meet in the thickest crowd persons from the highest to the lowest ranks, almost all well-looking people, and cleanly and neatly dressed. I rarely see even a fellow with a wheel-barrow who has not a shirt on, and that, too, such a one as shows it has been washed; nor even a beggar without both a shirt and shoes and stockings. The English are certainly distinguished for cleanliness.
It has a very uncommon appearance in this tumult of people, where every one, with hasty and eager step, seems to be pursuing either his business or his pleasure, and everywhere making his way through the crowd, to observe, as you often may, people pushing one against another, only perhaps to see a funeral pass. The English coffins are made very economically, according to the exact form of the body; they are flat, and broad at top; tapering gradually from the middle, and drawing to a point at the feet, not very unlike the case of a violin.
A few dirty-looking men, who bear the coffin, endeavour to make their way through the crowd as well as they can; and some mourners follow. The people seem to pay as little attention to such a procession, as if a hay-cart were driving past. The funerals of people of distinction, and of the great, are, however, differently regarded.
These funerals always appear to me the more indecent in a populous city, from the total indifference of the beholders, and the perfect unconcern with which they are beheld. The body of a fellow-creature is carried to his long home as though it had been utterly unconnected with the rest of mankind. And yet, in a small town or village, everyone knows everyone; and no one can be so insignificant as not to be missed when he is taken away.
That same influenza which I left at Berlin, I have had the hard fortune again to find here; and many people die of it. It is as yet very cold for the time of the year, and I am obliged every day to have a fire. I must own that the heat or warmth given by sea-coal, burnt in the chimney, appears to me softer and milder than that given by our stoves. The sight of the fire has also a cheerful and pleasing effect. Only you must take care not to look at it steadily, and for a continuance, for this is probably the reason that there are so many young old men in England, who walk and ride in the public streets with their spectacles on; thus anticipating, in the bloom of youth, those conveniences and comforts which were intended for old age.
I now constantly dine in my own lodgings; and I cannot but flatter myself that my meals are regulated with frugality. My usual dish at supper is some pickled salmon, which you eat in the liquor in which it is pickled, along with some oil and vinegar; and he must be prejudiced or fastidious who does not relish it as singularly well tasted and grateful food.
I would always advise those who wish to drink coffee in England, to mention beforehand how many cups are to be made with half an ounce; or else the people will probably bring them a prodigious quantity of brown water; which (notwithstanding all my admonitions) I have not yet been able wholly to avoid. The fine wheaten bread which I find here, besides excellent butter and Cheshire-cheese, makes up for my scanty dinners. For an English dinner, to such lodgers as I am, generally consists of a piece of half-boiled, or half-roasted meat; and a few cabbage leaves boiled in plain water; on which they pour a sauce made of flour and butter. This, I assure you, is the usual method of dressing vegetables in England.
The slices of bread and butter, which they give you with your tea, are as thin as poppy leaves. But there is another kind of bread and butter usually eaten with tea, which is toasted by the fire, and is incomparably good. You take one slice after the other and hold it to the fire on a fork till the butter is melted, so that it penetrates a number of slices at once: this is called toast.
The custom of sleeping without a feather-bed for a covering particularly pleased me. You here lie between two sheets: underneath the bottom sheet is a fine blanket, which, without oppressing you, keeps you sufficiently warm. My shoes are not cleaned in the house, but by a person in the neighbourhood, whose trade it is; who fetches them every morning, and brings them back cleaned; for which she receives weekly so much. When the maid is displeased with me, I hear her sometimes at the door call me "the German"; otherwise in the family I go by the name of "the Gentleman."
I have almost entirely laid aside riding in a coach, although it does not cost near so much as it does at Berlin; as I can go and return any distance not exceeding an English mile for a shilling, for which I should there at least pay a florin. But, moderate as English fares are, still you save a great deal, if you walk or go on foot, and know only how to ask your way. From my lodging to the Royal Exchange is about as far as from one end of Berlin to the other, and from the Tower and St. Catharine's, where the ships arrive in the Thames, as far again; and I have already walked this distance twice, when I went to look after my trunk before I got it out of the ship. As it was quite dark when I came back the first evening, I was astonished at the admirable manner in which the streets are lighted up; compared to which our streets in Berlin make a most miserable show. The lamps are lighted whilst it is still daylight, and are so near each other, that even on the most ordinary and common nights, the city has the appearance of a festive illumination, for which some German prince, who came to London for the first time, once, they say, actually took it, and seriously believed it to have been particularly ordered on account of his arrival.
The 9th June, 1782.
I preached this day at the German church on Ludgate Hill, for the Rev. Mr. Wendeborn. He is the author of "Die statischen Beytrage zur nahern Kentniss Grossbrittaniens." This valuable book has already been of uncommon service to me, and I cannot but recommend it to everyone who goes to England. It is the more useful, as you can with ease carry it in your pocket, and you find in it information on every subject. It is natural to suppose that Mr. Wendeborn, who has now been a length of time in England, must have been able more frequently, and with greater exactness to make his observations, than those who only pass through, or make a very short stay. It is almost impossible for anyone, who has this book always at hand, to omit anything worthy of notice in or about London; or not to learn all that is most material to know of the state and situation of the kingdom in general.
Mr. Wendeborn lives in New Inn, near Temple Bar, in a philosophical, but not unimproving, retirement. He is almost become a native; and his library consists chiefly of English books. Before I proceed, I must just mention, that he has not hired, but bought his apartments in this great building, called New Inn: and this, I believe, is pretty generally the case with the lodgings in this place. A purchaser of any of these rooms is considered as a proprietor; and one who has got a house and home, and has a right, in parliamentary or other elections, to give his vote, if he is not a foreigner, which is the case with Mr. Wendeborn, who, nevertheless, was visited by Mr. Fox when he was to be chosen member for Westminster.
I saw, for the first time, at Mr. Wendeborn's, a very useful machine, which is little known in Germany, or at least not much used.
This is a press in which, by means of very strong iron springs, a written paper may be printed on another blank paper, and you thus save yourself the trouble of copying; and at the same time multiply your own handwriting. Mr. Wendeborn makes use of this machine every time he sends manuscripts abroad, of which he wishes to keep a copy. This machine was of mahogany, and cost pretty high. I suppose it is because the inhabitants of London rise so late, that divine service begin only at half-past ten o'clock. I missed Mr. Wendeborn this morning, and was therefore obliged to enquire of the door-keeper at St. Paul's for a direction to the German church, where I was to preach. He did not know it. I then asked at another church, not far from thence. Here I was directed right, and after I had passed through an iron gate to the end of a long passage, I arrived just in time at the church, where, after the sermon, I was obliged to read a public thanksgiving for the safe arrival of our ship. The German clergy here dress exactly the same as the English clergy—i.e., in long robes with wide sleeves—in which I likewise was obliged to wrap myself. Mr. Wendeborn wears his own hair, which curls naturally, and the toupee is combed up.
The other German clergymen whom I have seen wear wigs, as well as many of the English.
I yesterday waited on our ambassador, Count Lucy, and was agreeably surprised at the simplicity of his manner of living. He lives in a small private house. His secretary lives upstairs, where also I met with the Prussian consul, who happened just then to be paying him a visit. Below, on the right hand, I was immediately shown into his Excellency's room, without being obliged to pass through an antechamber. He wore a blue coat, with a red collar and red facings. He conversed with me, as we drank a dish of coffee, on various learned topics; and when I told him of the great dispute now going on about the tacismus or stacismus, he declared himself, as a born Greek, for the stacismus.
When I came to take my leave, he desired me to come and see him without ceremony whenever it suited me, as he should be always happy to see me.
Mr. Leonhard, who has translated several celebrated English plays, such as "The School for Scandal," and some others, lives here as a private person, instructing Germans in English, and Englishmen in German, with great ability. He also it is who writes the articles concerning England for the new Hamburgh newspaper, for which he is paid a stated yearly stipend. I may add also, that he is the master of a German Freemasons' lodge in London, and representative of all the German lodges in England—an employment of far more trouble than profit to him, for all the world applies to him in all cases and emergencies. I also was recommended to him from Hamburgh. He is a very complaisant man, and has already shown me many civilities. He repeats English poetry with great propriety, and speaks the language nearly with the same facility as he does his mother language. He is married to an amiable Englishwoman. I wish him all possible happiness. And now let me tell you something of the so often imitated, but perhaps inimitable
I yesterday visited Vauxhall for the first time. I had not far to go from my lodgings, in the Adelphi Buildings, to Westminster Bridge, where you always find a great number of boats on the Thames, which are ready on the least signal to serve those who will pay them a shilling or sixpence, or according to the distance.
From hence I went up the Thames to Vauxhall, and as I passed along I saw Lambeth; and the venerable old palace belonging to the archbishops of Canterbury lying on my left.
Vauxhall is, properly speaking, the name of a little village in which the garden, now almost exclusively bearing the same name, is situated. You pay a shilling entrance.
On entering it, I really found, or fancied I found, some resemblance to our Berlin Vauxhall, if, according to Virgil, I may be permitted to compare small things with great ones. The walks at least, with the paintings at the end, and the high trees, which, here and there form a beautiful grove, or wood, on either side, were so similar to those of Berlin, that often, as I walked along them, I seemed to transport myself, in imagination, once more to Berlin, and forgot for a moment that immense seas, and mountains, and kingdoms now lie between us. I was the more tempted to indulge in this reverie as I actually met with several gentlemen, inhabitants of Berlin, in particular Mr. S—r, and some others, with whom I spent the evening in the most agreeable manner. Here and there (particularly in one of the charming woods which art has formed in this garden) you are pleasingly surprised by the sudden appearance of the statues of the most renowned English poets and philosophers, such as Milton, Thomson, and others. But, what gave me most pleasure was the statue of the German composer Handel, which, on entering the garden, is not far distant from the orchestra.
This orchestra is among a number of trees situated as in a little wood, and is an exceedingly handsome one. As you enter the garden, you immediately hear the sound of vocal and instrumental music. There are several female singers constantly hired here to sing in public.
On each side of the orchestra are small boxes, with tables and benches, in which you sup. The walks before these, as well as in every other part of the garden, are crowded with people of all ranks. I supped here with Mr. S—r, and the secretary of the Prussian ambassador, besides a few other gentlemen from Berlin; but what most astonished me was the boldness of the women of the town, who often rushed in upon us by half dozens, and in the most shameless manner importuned us for wine, for themselves and their followers. Our gentlemen thought it either unwise, unkind, or unsafe, to refuse them so small a boon altogether.
Latish in the evening we were entertained with a sight, that is indeed singularly curious and interesting. In a particular part of the garden a curtain was drawn up, and by means of some mechanism of extraordinary ingenuity, the eye and the ear are so completely deceived, that it is not easy to persuade one's self it is a deception, and that one does not actually see and hear a natural waterfall from a high rock. As everyone was flocking to this scene in crowds, there arose all at once a loud cry of "Take care of your pockets." This informed us, but too clearly, that there were some pickpockets among the crowd, who had already made some fortunate strokes.
The rotunda, a magnificent circular building in the garden, particularly engaged my attention. By means of beautiful chandeliers, and large mirrors, it was illuminated in the most superb manner; and everywhere decorated with delightful paintings, and statues, in the contemplation of which you may spend several hours very agreeably, when you are tired of the crowd and the bustle, in the walks of the garden.
Among the paintings one represents the surrender of a besieged city. If you look at this painting with attention, for any length of time, it affects you so much that you even shed tears. The expression of the greatest distress, even bordering on despair, on the part of the besieged, the fearful expectation of the uncertain issue, and what the victor will determine concerning those unfortunate people, may all be read so plainly, and so naturally in the countenances of the inhabitants, who are imploring for mercy, from the hoary head to the suckling whom his mother holds up, that you quite forget yourself, and in the end scarcely believe it to be a painting before you.
You also here find the busts of the best English authors, placed all round on the sides. Thus a Briton again meets with his Shakespeare, Locke, Milton, and Dryden in the public places of his amusements; and there also reveres their memory. Even the common people thus become familiar with the names of those who have done honour to their nation; and are taught to mention them with veneration. For this rotunda is also an orchestra in which the music is performed in rainy weather. But enough of Vauxhall!
Certain it is that the English classical authors are read more generally, beyond all comparison, than the German; which in general are read only by the learned; or, at most, by the middle class of people. The English national authors are in all hands, and read by all people, of which the innumerable editions they have gone through are a sufficient proof.
My landlady, who is only a tailor's widow, reads her Milton; and tells me, that her late husband first fell in love with her on this very account: because she read Milton with such proper emphasis. This single instance, perhaps, would prove but little; but I have conversed with several people of the lower class, who all knew their national authors, and who all have read many, if not all, of them. This elevates the lower ranks, and brings them nearer to the higher. There is hardly any argument or dispute in conversation, in the higher ranks, about which the lower cannot also converse or give their opinion. Now, in Germany, since Gellert, there has as yet been no poet's name familiar to the people. But the quick sale of the classical authors is here promoted also by cheap and convenient editions. They have them all bound in pocket volumes, as well as in a more pompous style. I myself bought Milton in duodecimo for two shillings, neatly bound; it is such a one as I can, with great convenience, carry in my pocket. It also appears to me to be a good fashion, which prevails here, and here only, that the books which are most read, are always to be had already well and neatly bound. At stalls, and in the streets, you every now and then meet with a sort of antiquarians, who sell single or odd volumes; sometimes perhaps of Shakespeare, etc., so low as a penny; nay, even sometimes for a halfpenny a piece. Of one of these itinerant antiquarians I bought the two volumes of the Vicar of Wakefield for sixpence, i.e. for the half of an English shilling. In what estimation our German literature is held in England, I was enabled to judge, in some degree, by the printed proposals of a book which I saw. The title was, "The Entertaining Museum, or Complete Circulating Library," which is to contain a list of all the English classical authors, as well as translations of the best French, Spanish, Italian, and even German novels.
The moderate price of this book deserves also to be noticed; as by such means books in England come more within the reach of the people; and of course are more generally distributed among them. The advertisement mentions that in order that everyone may have it in his power to buy this work, and at once to furnish himself with a very valuable library, without perceiving the expense, a number will be sent out weekly, which, stitched, costs sixpence, and bound with the title on the back, ninepence. The twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth numbers contain the first and second volume of the Vicar of Wakefield, which I had just bought of the antiquarian above- mentioned.
The only translation from the German which has been particularly successful in England, is Gesner's "Death of Abel." The translation of that work has been oftener reprinted in England than ever the original was in Germany. I have actually seen the eighteenth edition of it; and if the English preface is to be regarded, it was written by a lady. "Klopstock's Messiah," as is well known, has been here but ill received; to be sure, they say it is but indifferently translated. I have not yet been able to obtain a sight of it. The Rev. Mr. Wendeborn has written a grammar for the German language in English, for the use of Englishmen, which has met with much applause.
I must not forget to mention, that the works of Mr. Jacob Boehmen are all translated into English.
London, 13th June.
Often as I had heard Ranelagh spoken of, I had yet formed only an imperfect idea of it. I supposed it to be a garden somewhat different from that of Vauxhall; but, in fact, I hardly knew what I thought of it. Yesterday evening I took a walk in order to visit this famous place of amusement; but I missed my way and got to Chelsea; where I met a man with a wheel-barrow, who not only very civilly showed me the right road, but also conversed with me the whole of the distance which we walked together. And finding, upon enquiry, that I was a subject of the King of Prussia, he desired me, with much eagerness, to relate to him some anecdotes concerning that mighty monarch. At length I arrived at Ranelagh; and having paid my half-crown on entrance, I soon enquired for the garden door, and it was readily shown to me; when, to my infinite astonishment, I found myself in a poor, mean-looking, and ill-lighted garden, where I met but few people. I had not been here long before I was accosted by a young lady, who also was walking there, and who, without ceremony, offered me her arm, asking me why I walked thus solitarily? I now concluded, this could not possibly be the splendid, much-boasted Ranelagh; and so, seeing not far from me a number of people entering a door, I followed them, in hopes either to get out again, or to vary the scene.
But it is impossible to describe, or indeed to conceive, the effect it had on me, when, coming out of the gloom of the garden, I suddenly entered a round building, illuminated by many hundred lamps; the splendour and beauty of which surpassed everything of the kind I had ever seen before. Everything seemed here to be round; above, there was a gallery divided into boxes; and in one part of it an organ with a beautiful choir, from which issued both instrumental and vocal music. All around, under this gallery, are handsome painted boxes for those who wish to take refreshments: the floor was covered with mats, in the middle of which are four high black pillars; within which there are neat fire-places for preparing tea, coffee and punch; and all around, also, there are placed tables, set out with all kinds of refreshments. Within these four pillars, in a kind of magic rotundo, all the beau-monde of London move perpetually round and round.
I at first mixed with this immense concourse of people, of all sexes, ages, countries, and characters; and I must confess, that the incessant change of faces, the far greater number of which were strikingly beautiful, together with the illumination, the extent and majestic splendour of the place, with the continued sound of the music, makes an inconceivably delightful impression on the imagination; and I take the liberty to add, that, on seeing it now for the first time, I felt pretty nearly the same sensations that I remember to have felt when, in early youth, I first read the Fairy Tales.
Being, however, at length tired of the crowd, and being tired also with always moving round and round in a circle, I sat myself down in one of the boxes, in order to take some refreshment, and was now contemplating at my ease this prodigious collection and crowd of a happy, cheerful world, who were here enjoying themselves devoid of care, when a waiter very civilly asked me what refreshments I wished to have, and in a few moments returned with what I asked for. To my astonishment he would accept no money for these refreshments; which I could not comprehend, till he told me that everything was included in the half-crown I had paid at the door; and that I had only to command if I wished for anything more; but that if I pleased, I might give him as a present a trifling douceur. This I gave him with pleasure, as I could not help fancying I was hardly entitled to so much civility and good attention for one single half-crown.
I now went up into the gallery, and seated myself in one of the boxes there; and from thence becoming all at once a grave and moralising spectator, I looked down on the concourse of people who were still moving round and round in the fairy circle; and then I could easily distinguish several stars and other orders of knighthood; French queues and bags contrasted with plain English heads of hair, or professional wigs; old age and youth, nobility and commonalty, all passing each other in the motley swarm. An Englishman who joined me during this my reverie, pointed out to me on my enquiring, princes and lords with their dazzling stars; with which they eclipsed the less brilliant part of the company.
Here some moved round in an eternal circle to see and be seen; there a group of eager connoisseurs had placed themselves before the orchestra and were feasting their ears, while others at the well- supplied tables were regaling the parched roofs of their mouths in a more substantial manner, and again others, like myself, were sitting alone, in the corner of a box in the gallery, making their remarks and reflections on so interesting a scene.
I now and then indulged myself in the pleasure of exchanging, for some minutes, all this magnificence and splendour for the gloom of the garden, in order to renew the pleasing surprise I experienced on my first entering the building. Thus I spent here some hours in the night in a continual variation of entertainment; when the crowd now all at once began to lessen, and I also took a coach and drove home.
At Ranelagh the company appeared to me much better, and more select than at Vauxhall; for those of the lower class who go there, always dress themselves in their best, and thus endeavour to copy the great. Here I saw no one who had not silk stockings on. Even the poorest families are at the expense of a coach to go to Ranelagh, as my landlady assured me. She always fixed on some one day in the year, on which, without fail, she drove to Ranelagh. On the whole the expense at Ranelagh is nothing near so great as it is at Vauxhall, if you consider the refreshments; for any one who sups at Vauxhall, which most people do, is likely, for a very moderate supper, to pay at least half-a-guinea.
I had almost forgotten to tell you that I have already been to the Parliament House; and yet this is of most importance. For, had I seen nothing else in England but this, I should have thought my journey thither amply rewarded.
As little as I have hitherto troubled myself with politics, because indeed with us it is but little worth our while, I was however desirous of being present at a meeting of parliament—a wish that was soon amply gratified.
One afternoon, about three o'clock, at which hour, or thereabouts, the house most commonly meets, I enquired for Westminster Hall, and was very politely directed by an Englishman. These directions are always given with the utmost kindness. You may ask whom you please, if you can only make yourself tolerably well understood; and by thus asking every now and then, you may with the greatest ease find your way throughout all London.
Westminster Hall is an enormous Gothic building, whose vaulted roof is supported, not by pillars, but instead of these there are, on each side, large unnatural heads of angels, carved in wood, which seem to support the roof.
When you have passed through this long hall, you ascend a few steps at the end, and are led through a dark passage into the House of Commons, which, below, has a large double-door; and above, there is a small staircase, by which you go to the gallery, the place allotted for strangers.
The first time I went up this small staircase, and had reached the rails, I saw a very genteel man in black standing there. I accosted him without any introduction, and I asked him whether I might be allowed to go into the gallery. He told me that I must be introduced by a member, or else I could not get admission there. Now, as I had not the honour to be acquainted with a member, I was under the mortifying necessity of retreating, and again going down- stairs, as I did much chagrined. And now, as I was sullenly marching back, I heard something said about a bottle of wine, which seemed to be addressed to me.
I could not conceive what it could mean, till I got home, when my obliging landlady told me I should have given the well-dressed man half-a-crown, or a couple of shillings for a bottle of wine. Happy in this information, I went again the next day; when the same man who before had sent me away, after I had given him only two shillings, very politely opened the door for me, and himself recommended me to a good seat in the gallery.
And thus I now, for the first time, saw the whole of the British nation assembled in its representatives, in rather a mean-looking building, that not a little resembles a chapel. The Speaker, an elderly man, with an enormous wig, with two knotted kind of tresses, or curls, behind, in a black cloak, his hat on his head, sat opposite to me on a lofty chair; which was not unlike a small pulpit, save only that in the front of there was no reading-desk. Before the Speaker's chair stands a table, which looks like an altar; and at this there sit two men, called clerks, dressed in black, with black cloaks. On the table, by the side of the great parchment acts, lies a huge gilt sceptre, which is always taken away, and placed in a conservatory under the table, as soon as ever the Speaker quits the chair; which he does as often as the House resolves itself into a committee. A committee means nothing more than that the House puts itself into a situation freely to discuss and debate any point of difficulty and moment, and, while it lasts, the Speaker partly lays aside his power as a legislator. As soon as this is over, some one tells the Speaker that he may now again be seated; and immediately on the Speaker being again in the chair, the sceptre is also replaced on the table before him.
All round on the sides of the house, under the gallery, are benches for the members, covered with green cloth, always one above the other, like our choirs in churches, in order that he who is speaking may see over those who sit before him. The seats in the gallery are on the same plan. The members of parliament keep their hats on, but the spectators in the gallery are uncovered.
The members of the House of Commons have nothing particular in their dress. They even come into the House in their great coats, and with boots and spurs. It is not at all uncommon to see a member lying stretched out on one of the benches while others are debating. Some crack nuts, others eat oranges, or whatever else is in season. There is no end to their going in and out; and as often as any one wishes to go out, he places himself before the Speaker, and makes him his bow, as if, like a schoolboy, he asked tutor's permission.
Those who speak seem to deliver themselves with but little, perhaps not always with even a decorous, gravity. All that is necessary is to stand up in your place, take off your hat, turn to the Speaker (to whom all the speeches are addressed), to hold your hat and stick in one hand, and with the other to make any such motions as you fancy necessary to accompany your speech.
If it happens that a member rises who is but a bad speaker, or if what he says is generally deemed not sufficiently interesting, so much noise is made, and such bursts of laughter are raised, that the member who is speaking can scarcely distinguish his own words. This must needs be a distressing situation; and it seems then to be particularly laughable, when the Speaker in his chair, like a tutor in a school, again and again endeavours to restore order, which he does by calling out "To order, to order," apparently often without much attention being paid to it.
On the contrary, when a favourite member, and one who speaks well and to the purpose, rises, the most perfect silence reigns, and his friends and admirers, one after another, make their approbation known by calling out, "Hear him," which is often repeated by the whole House at once; and in this way so much noise is often made that the speaker is frequently interrupted by this same emphatic "Hear him." Notwithstanding which, this calling out is always regarded as a great encouragement; and I have often observed that one who began with some diffidence, and even somewhat inauspiciously, has in the end been so animated that he has spoken with a torrent of eloquence.
As all speeches are directed to the Speaker, all the members always preface their speeches with "Sir" and he, on being thus addressed, generally moves his hat a little, but immediately puts it on again. This "Sir" is often introduced in the course of their speeches, and serves to connect what is said. It seems also to stand the orator in some stead when any one's memory fails him, or he is otherwise at a loss for matter. For while he is saying "Sir," and has thus obtained a little pause, he recollects what is to follow. Yet I have sometimes seen some members draw a kind of memorandum-book out of their pockets, like a candidate who is at a loss in his sermon. This is the only instance in which a member of the British parliament seems to read his speeches.
The first day that I was at the House of Commons an English gentleman who sat next to me in the gallery very obligingly pointed out to me the principal members, such as Fox, Burke, Rigby, etc., all of whom I heard speak. The debate happened to be whether, besides being made a peer, any other specific reward should be bestowed by the nation on their gallant admiral Rodney. In the course of the debate, I remember, Mr. Fox was very sharply reprimanded by young Lord Fielding for having, when minister, opposed the election of Admiral Hood as a member for Westminster.
Fox was sitting to the right of the Speaker, not far from the table on which the gilt sceptre lay. He now took his place so near it that he could reach it with his hand, and, thus placed, he gave it many a violent and hearty thump, either to aid, or to show the energy with which he spoke. If the charge was vehement, his defence was no less so. He justified himself against Lord Fielding by maintaining that he had not opposed this election in the character of a minister, but as an individual, or private person; and that, as such, he had freely and honestly given his vote for another—namely, for Sir Cecil Wray, adding that the King, when he appointed him Secretary of State, had entered into no agreement with him by which he lost his vote as an individual; to such a requisition he never would have submitted. It is impossible for me to describe with what fire and persuasive eloquence he spoke, and how the Speaker in the chair incessantly nodded approbation from beneath his solemn wig, and innumerable voices incessantly called out, "Hear him! hear him!" and when there was the least sign that he intended to leave off speaking they no less vociferously exclaimed, "Go on;" and so he continued to speak in this manner for nearly two hours. Mr. Rigby, in reply, made a short but humorous speech, in which he mentioned of how little consequence the title of "lord" and "lady" was without money to support it, and finished with the Latin proverb, "infelix paupertas—quia ridiculos miseros facit." After having first very judiciously observed that previous inquiry should be made whether Admiral Rodney had made any rich prizes or captures; because, if that should be the case, he would not stand in need of further reward in money. I have since been almost every day at the parliament house, and prefer the entertainment I there meet with to most other amusements.
Fox is still much beloved by the people, notwithstanding that they are (and certainly with good reason) displeased at his being the cause of Admiral Rodney's recall, though even I have heard him again and again almost extravagant in his encomiums on this noble admiral. The same celebrated Charles Fox is a short, fat, and gross man, with a swarthy complexion, and dark; and in general he is badly dressed. There certainly is something Jewish in his looks. But upon the whole, he is not an ill-made nor an ill-looking man, and there are many strong marks of sagacity and fire in his eyes. I have frequently heard the people here say that this same Mr. Fox is as cunning as a fox. Burke is a well-made, tall, upright man, but looks elderly and broken. Rigby is excessively corpulent, and has a jolly rubicund face.
The little less than downright open abuse, and the many really rude things which the members said to each other, struck me much. For example, when one has finished, another rises, and immediately taxes with absurdity all that the right honourable gentleman (for with this title the members of the House of Commons always honour each other) had just advanced. It would, indeed, be contrary to the rules of the House flatly to tell each other that what they have spoken is FALSE, or even FOOLISH. Instead of this, they turn themselves, as usual, to the Speaker, and so, whilst their address is directed to him, they fancy they violate neither the rules of parliament nor those of good breeding and decorum, whilst they utter the most cutting personal sarcasms against the member or the measure they oppose.
It is quite laughable to see, as one sometimes does, one member speaking, and another accompanying the speech with his action. This I remarked more than once in a worthy old citizen, who was fearful of speaking himself, but when his neighbour spoke he accompanied every energetic sentence with a suitable gesticulation, by which means his whole body was sometimes in motion.
It often happens that the jett, or principal point in the debate is lost in these personal contests and bickerings between each other. When they last so long as to become quite tedious and tiresome, and likely to do harm rather than good, the House takes upon itself to express its disapprobation; and then there arises a general cry of, "The question! the question!" This must sometimes be frequently repeated, as the contending members are both anxious to have the last word. At length, however, the question is put, and the votes taken, when the Speaker says, "Those who are for the question are to say AYE, and those who are against it NO." You then hear a confused cry of "AYE" and "NO" but at length the Speaker says, "I think there are more AYES than NOES, or more NOES than AYES. The AYES have it; or the NOES have it," as the case may be. But all the spectators must then retire from the gallery; for then, and not till then, the voting really commences. And now the members call aloud to the gallery, "Withdraw! withdraw!" On this the strangers withdraw, and are shut up in a small room at the foot of the stairs till the voting is over, when they are again permitted to take their places in the gallery. Here I could not help wondering at the impatience even of polished Englishmen. It is astonishing with what violence, and even rudeness, they push and jostle one another as soon as the room door is again opened, eager to gain the first and best seats in the gallery. In this manner we (the strangers) have sometimes been sent away two or three times in the course of one day, or rather evening, afterwards again permitted to return. Among these spectators are people of all ranks, and even, not unfrequently, ladies. Two shorthand writers have sat sometimes not far distant from me, who (though it is rather by stealth) endeavour to take down the words of the speaker; and thus all that is very remarkable in what is said in parliament may generally be read in print the next day. The shorthand writers, whom I noticed, are supposed to be employed and paid by the editors of the different newspapers. There are, it seems, some few persons who are constant attendants on the parliament; and so they pay the door-keeper beforehand a guinea for a whole session. I have now and then seen some of the members bring their sons, whilst quite little boys, and carry them to their seats along with themselves.
A proposal was once made to erect a gallery in the House of Peers also for the accommodation of spectators. But this never was carried into effect. There appears to be much more politeness and more courteous behaviour in the members of the upper House. But he who wishes to observe mankind, and to contemplate the leading traits of the different characters most strongly marked, will do well to attend frequently the lower, rather than the other, House.
Last Tuesday was (what is here called) hanging-day. There was also a parliamentary election. I could only see one of the two sights, and therefore naturally preferred the latter, while I only heard tolling at a distance the death-bell of the sacrifice to justice. I now, therefore, am going to describe to you, as well as can, an
Election for a Member of Parliament.
The cities of London and Westminster send, the one four, and the other two, members to parliament. Mr. Fox is one of the two members for Westminster. One seat was vacant, and that vacancy was now to be filled. And the same Sir Cecil Wray, whom Fox had before opposed to Lord Hood, was now publicly chosen. They tell me that at these elections, when there is a strong opposition party, there is often bloody work; but this election was, in the electioneering phrase, a "hollow thing"—i.e. quite sure, as those who had voted for Admiral Hood now withdrew, without standing a poll, as being convinced beforehand their chance to succeed was desperate.
The election was held in Covent Garden, a large market-place in the open air. There was a scaffold erected just before the door of a very handsome church, which is also called St. Paul's, but which, however, is not to be compared to the cathedral.
A temporary edifice, formed only of boards and wood nailed together, was erected on the occasion. It was called the hustings, and filled with benches; and at one end of it, where the benches ended, mats were laid, on which those who spoke to the people stood. In the area before the hustings immense multitudes of people were assembled, of whom the greatest part seemed to be of the lowest order. To this tumultuous crowd, however, the speakers often bowed very low, and always addressed them by the title of "gentlemen." Sir Cecil Wray was obliged to step forward and promise these same gentlemen, with hand and heart, that he would faithfully fulfil his duties as their representative. He also made an apology because, on account of his long journey and ill-health, he had not been able to wait on them, as became him, at their respective houses. The moment that he began to speak, even this rude rabble became all as quiet as the raging sea after a storm, only every now and then rending the air with the parliamentary cry of "Hear him! hear him!" and as soon as he had done speaking, they again vociferated aloud an universal "huzza," every one at the same time waving his hat.
And now, being formally declared to have been legally chosen, he again bowed most profoundly, and returned thanks for the great honour done him, when a well-dressed man, whose name I could not learn, stepped forward, and in a well-indited speech congratulated both the chosen and the choosers. "Upon my word," said a gruff carter who stood near me, "that man speaks well."
Even little boys clambered up and hung on the rails and on the lamp- posts; and as if the speeches had also been addressed to them, they too listened with the utmost attention, and they too testified their approbation of it by joining lustily in the three cheers and waving their hats.
All the enthusiasm of my earliest years kindled by the patriotism of the illustrious heroes of Rome. Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, and Antony were now revived in my mind; and though all I had just seen and heard be, in fact, but the semblance of liberty, and that, too, tribunitial liberty, yet at that moment I thought it charming, and it warmed my heart. Yes, depend on it, my friend, when you here see how, in the happy country, the lowest and meanest member of society thus unequivocally testifies the interest which he takes in everything of a public nature; when you see how even women and children bear a part in the great concerns of their country; in short, how high and low, rich and poor, all concur in declaring their feelings and their convictions that a carter, a common tar, or a scavenger, is still a man—nay, an Englishman, and as such has his rights and privileges defined and known as exactly and as well as his king, or as his king's minister—take my word for it, you will feel yourself very differently affected from what you are when staring at our soldiers in their exercises at Berlin.
When Fox, who was among the voters, arrived at the beginning of the election, he too was received with an universal shout of joy. At length, when it was nearly over, the people took it into their heads to hear him speak, and every one called out, "Fox! Fox!" I know not why, but I seemed to catch some of the spirit of the place and time, and so I also bawled "Fox! Fox!" and he was obliged to come forward and speak, for no other reason that I could find but that the people wished to hear him speak. In this speech he again confirmed, in the presence of the people, his former declaration in parliament, that he by no means had any influence as minister of State in this election, but only and merely as a private person.
When the whole was over, the rampant spirit of liberty and the wild impatience of a genuine English mob were exhibited in perfection. In a very few minutes the whole scaffolding, benches, and chairs, and everything else, was completely destroyed. and the mat with which it had been covered torn into ten thousand long strips, or pieces, or strings, with which they encircled or enclosed multitudes of people of all ranks. These they hurried along with them, and everything else that came in their way, as trophies of joy; and thus, in the midst of exultation and triumph, they paraded through many of the most populous streets of London.
Whilst in Prussia poets only speak of the love of country as one of the dearest of all human affections, here there is no man who does not feel, and describe with rapture, how much he loves his country. "Yes, for my country I'll shed the last drop of my blood!" often exclaims little Jacky, the fine boy here in the house where I live, who is yet only about twelve years old. The love of their country, and its unparalleled feats in war are, in general, the subject of their ballads and popular songs, which are sung about the streets by women, who sell them for a few farthings. It was only the other day our Jacky brought one home, in which the history of an admiral was celebrated who bravely continued to command, even after his two legs were shot off and he was obliged to be supported. I know not well by what means it has happened that the King of England, who is certainly one of the best the nation ever had, is become unpopular. I know not how many times I have heard people of all sorts object to their king at the same time that they praised the King of Prussia to the skies. Indeed, with some the veneration for our monarch went so far that they seriously wished he was their king. All that seems to shock and dishearten them is the prodigious armies he keeps up, and the immense number of soldiers quartered in Berlin alone. Whereas in London, at least in the city, not a single troop of soldiers of the King's guard dare make their appearance.
A few days ago I saw what is here deemed a great sight—viz., a lord mayor's procession. The lord mayor was in an enormous large gilt coach, which was followed by an astonishing number of most showy carriages, in which the rest of the city magistrates, more properly called aldermen of London, were seated. But enough for the present.
London, June 17th, 1782.
I have now been pretty nearly all over London, and, according to my own notions, have now seen most of the things I was most anxious to see. Hereafter, then, I propose to make an excursion into the country; and this purpose, by the blessing of God, I hope to be able to carry into effect in a very few days, for my curiosity is here almost satiated. I seem to be tired and sick of the smoke of these sea-coal fires, and I long, with almost childish impatience, once more to breathe a fresher and clearer air.
It must, I think, be owned, that upon the whole, London is neither so handsomely nor so well built as Berlin is; but then it certainly has far more fine squares. Of these there are many that in real magnificence and beautiful symmetry far surpass our Gens d'Armes Markt, our Denhoschen and William's Place. The squares or quadrangular places contain the best and most beautiful buildings of London; a spacious street, next to the houses, goes all round them, and within that there is generally a round grass-plot, railed in with iron rails, in the centre of which, in many of them, there is a statue, which statues most commonly are equestrian and gilt. In Grosvenor Square, instead of this green plot or area, there is a little circular wood, intended, no doubt, to give one the idea of rus in urbe.
One of the longest and pleasantest walks I have yet taken is from Paddington to Islington; where to the left you have a fine prospect of the neighbouring hills, and in particular of the village of Hampstead, which is built on one of them; and to the right the streets of London furnish an endless variety of interesting views. It is true that it is dangerous to walk here alone, especially in the afternoon and in an evening, or at night, for it was only last week that a man was robbed and murdered on this very same road. But I now hasten to another and a more pleasing topic:
The British Museum.
I have had the happiness to become acquainted with the Rev. Mr. Woide; who, though well known all over Europe to be one of the most learned men of the age, is yet, if possible, less estimable for his learning than he is for his unaffected goodness of heart. He holds a respectable office in the museum, and was obliging enough to procure me permission to see it, luckily the day before it was shut up. In general you must give in your name a fortnight before you can he admitted. But after all, I am sorry to say, it was the rooms, the glass cases, the shelves, or the repository for the books in the British Museum which I saw, and not the museum itself, we were hurried on so rapidly through the apartments. The company, who saw it when and as I did, was various, and some of all sorts; some, I believe, of the very lowest classes of the people, of both sexes; for, as it is the property of the nation, every one has the same right (I use the term of the country) to see it that another has. I had Mr. Wendeborn's book in my pocket, and it, at least, enabled me to take a somewhat more particular notice of some of the principal things; such as the Egyptian mummy, a head of Homer, &c. The rest of the company, observing that I had some assistance which they had not, soon gathered round me; I pointed out to them as we went along, from Mr. Wendeborn's German book, what there was most worth seeing here. The gentleman who conducted us took little pains to conceal the contempt which he felt for my communications when he found out that it was only a German description of the British Museum I had got. The rapidly passing through this vast suite of rooms, in a space of time little, if at all, exceeding an hour, with leisure just to cast one poor longing look of astonishment on all these stupendous treasures of natural curiosities, antiquities, and literature, in the contemplation of which you could with pleasure spend years, and a whole life might be employed in the study of them—quite confuses, stuns, and overpowers one. In some branches this collection is said to be far surpassed by some others; but taken altogether, and for size, it certainly is equalled by none. The few foreign divines who travel through England generally desire to have the Alexandrian manuscript shewn them, in order to be convinced with their own eyes whether the passage, "These are the three that bear record, &c.," is to be found there or not.
The Rev. Mr. Woide lives at a place called Lisson Street, not far from Paddington; a very village-looking little town, at the west end of London. It is quite a rural and pleasant situation; for here I either do, or fancy I do, already breathe a purer and freer air than in the midst of the town. Of his great abilities, and particularly in oriental literature, I need not inform you; but it will give you pleasure to hear that he is actually meditating a fac-simile edition of the Alexandrian MS. I have already mentioned the infinite obligations I lie under to this excellent man for his extraordinary courtesy and kindness.
The Theatre in the Haymarket.
Last week I went twice to an English play-house. The first time "The Nabob" was represented, of which the late Mr. Foote was the author, and for the entertainment, a very pleasing and laughable musical farce, called "The Agreeable Surprise." The second time I saw "The English Merchant:" which piece has been translated into German, and is known among us by the title of "The Scotchwoman," or "The Coffee-house." I have not yet seen the theatres of Covent Garden and Drury Lane, because they are not open in summer. The best actors also usually spend May and October in the country, and only perform in winter.
A very few excepted, the comedians whom I saw were certainly nothing extraordinary. For a seat in the boxes you pay five shillings, in the pit three, in the first gallery two, and in the second or upper gallery, one shilling. And it is the tenants in this upper gallery who, for their shilling, make all that noise and uproar for which the English play-houses are so famous. I was in the pit, which gradually rises, amphitheatre-wise, from the orchestra, and is furnished with benches, one above another, from the top to the bottom. Often and often, whilst I sat there, did a rotten orange, or pieces of the peel of an orange, fly past me, or past some of my neighbours, and once one of them actually hit my hat, without my daring to look round, for fear another might then hit me on my face.
All over London as one walks, one everywhere, in the season, sees oranges to sell; and they are in general sold tolerably cheap, one and even sometimes two for a halfpenny; or, in our money, threepence. At the play-house, however, they charged me sixpence for one orange, and that noways remarkably good.
Besides this perpetual pelting from the gallery, which renders an English play-house so uncomfortable, there is no end to their calling out and knocking with their sticks till the curtain is drawn up. I saw a miller's, or a baker's boy, thus, like a huge booby, leaning over the rails and knocking again and again on the outside, with all his might, so that he was seen by everybody, without being in the least ashamed or abashed. I sometimes heard, too, the people in the lower or middle gallery quarrelling with those of the upper one. Behind me, in the pit, sat a young fop, who, in order to display his costly stone buckles with the utmost brilliancy, continually put his foot on my bench, and even sometimes upon my coat, which I could avoid only by sparing him as much space from my portion of the seat as would make him a footstool. In the boxes, quite in a corner, sat several servants, who were said to be placed there to keep the seats for the families they served till they should arrive; they seemed to sit remarkably close and still, the reason of which, I was told, was their apprehension of being pelted; for if one of them dares but to look out of the box, he is immediately saluted with a shower of orange peel from the gallery.
In Foote's "Nabob" there are sundry local and personal satires which are entirely lost to a foreigner. The character of the Nabob was performed by a Mr. Palmer. The jett of the character is, this Nabob, with many affected airs and constant aims at gentility, is still but a silly fellow, unexpectedly come into the possession of immense riches, and therefore, of course, paid much court to by a society of natural philosophers, Quakers, and I do not know who besides. Being tempted to become one of their members, he is elected, and in order to ridicule these would-be philosophers, but real knaves, a fine flowery fustian speech is put into his mouth, which he delivers with prodigious pomp and importance, and is listened to by the philosophers with infinite complacency. The two scenes of the Quakers and philosophers, who, with countenances full of imaginary importance, were seated at a green table with their president at their head while the secretary, with the utmost care, was making an inventory of the ridiculous presents of the Nabob, were truly laughable. One of the last scenes was best received: it is that in which the Nabob's friend and school-fellow visit him, and address him without ceremony by his Christian name; but to all their questions of "Whether he does not recollect them? Whether he does not remember such and such a play; or such and such a scrape into which they had fallen in their youth?" he uniformly answers with a look of ineffable contempt, only, "No sir!" Nothing can possibly be more ludicrous, nor more comic.
The entertainment, "The Agreeable Surprise," is really a very diverting farce. I observed that, in England also, they represent school-masters in ridiculous characters on the stage, which, though I am sorry for, I own I do not wonder at, as the pedantry of school- masters in England, they tell me, is carried at least as far as it is elsewhere. The same person who, in the play, performed the school-fellow of the Nabob with a great deal of nature and original humour, here acted the part of the school-master: his name is Edwin, and he is, without doubt, one of the best actors of all that I have seen.
This school-master is in love with a certain country girl, whose name is Cowslip, to whom he makes a declaration of his passion in a strange mythological, grammatical style and manner, and to whom, among other fooleries, he sings, quite enraptured, the following air, and seems to work himself at least up to such a transport of passion as quite overpowers him. He begins, you will observe, with the conjugation, and ends with the declensions and the genders; the whole is inimitably droll:
"Amo, amas, I love a lass, She is so sweet and tender, It is sweet Cowslip's Grace In the Nominative Case. And in the feminine Gender."
Those two sentences in particular, "in the Nominative Case," and "in the feminine Gender," he affects to sing in a particularly languishing air, as if confident that it was irresistible. This Edwin, in all his comic characters, still preserves something so inexpressibly good-tempered in his countenance, that notwithstanding all his burlesques and even grotesque buffoonery, you cannot but be pleased with him. I own, I felt myself doubly interested for every character which he represented. Nothing could equal the tone and countenance of self-satisfaction with which he answered one who asked him whether he was a scholar? "Why, I was a master of scholars." A Mrs. Webb represented a cheesemonger, and played the part of a woman of the lower class so naturally as I have nowhere else ever seen equalled. Her huge, fat, and lusty carcase, and the whole of her external appearance seemed quite to be cut out for it.
Poor Edwin was obliged, as school-master, to sing himself almost hoarse, as he sometimes was called on to repeat his declension and conjugation songs two or three times, only because it pleased the upper gallery, or "the gods," as the English call them, to roar out "encore." Add to all this, he was farther forced to thank them with a low bow for the great honour done him by their applause.
One of the highest comic touches in the piece seemed to me to consist in a lie, which always became more and more enormous in the mouths of those who told it again, during the whole of the piece. This kept the audience in almost a continual fit of laughter. This farce is not yet printed, or I really think I should be tempted to venture to make a translation, or rather an imitation of it.
"The English Merchant, or the Scotchwoman," I have seen much better performed abroad than it was here. Mr. Fleck, at Hamburg, in particular, played the part of the English merchant with more interest, truth, and propriety than one Aickin did here. He seemed to me to fail totally in expressing the peculiar and original character of Freeport; instead of which, by his measured step and deliberate, affected manner of speaking, he converted him into a mere fine gentleman.
The trusty old servant who wishes to give up his life for his master he, too, had the stately walk, or strut, of a minister. The character of the newspaper writer was performed by the same Mr. Palmer who acted the part of the Nabob, but every one said, what I thought, that he made him far too much of a gentleman. His person, and his dress also, were too handsome for the character.
The character of Amelia was performed by an actress, who made her first appearance on the stage, and from a timidity natural on such an occasion, and not unbecoming, spoke rather low, so that she could not everywhere be heard; "Speak louder! speak louder!" cried out some rude fellow from the upper-gallery, and she immediately, with infinite condescension, did all she could, and not unsuccessfully, to please even an upper gallery critic.
The persons near me, in the pit, were often extravagantly lavish of their applause. They sometimes clapped a single solitary sentiment, that was almost as unmeaning as it was short, if it happened to be pronounced only with some little emphasis, or to contain some little point, some popular doctrine, a singularly pathetic stroke, or turn of wit.
"The Agreeable Surprise" was repeated, and I saw it a second time with unabated pleasure. It is become a favourite piece, and always announced with the addition of the favourite musical farce. The theatre appeared to me somewhat larger than the one at Hamburg, and the house was both times very full. Thus much for English plays, play-houses, and players.
English Customs and Education.
A few words more respecting pedantry. I have seen the regulation of one seminary of learning, here called an academy. Of these places of education, there is a prodigious number in London, though, notwithstanding their pompous names, they are in reality nothing more than small schools set up by private persons, for children and young people.
One of the Englishmen who were my travelling companions, made me acquainted with a Dr. G— who lives near P—, and keeps an academy for the education of twelve young people, which number is here, as well as at our Mr. Kumpe's, never exceeded, and the same plan has been adopted and followed by many others, both here and elsewhere.
At the entrance I perceived over the door of the house a large board, and written on it, Dr. G—'s Academy. Dr. G— received me with great courtesy as a foreigner, and shewed me his school-room, which was furnished just in the same manner as the classes in our public schools are, with benches and a professor's chair or pulpit.
The usher at Dr. G—'s is a young clergyman, who, seated also in a chair or desk, instructs the boys in the Greek and Latin grammars.
Such an under-teacher is called an usher, and by what I can learn, is commonly a tormented being, exactly answering the exquisite description given of him in the "Vicar of Wakefield." We went in during the hours of attendance, and he was just hearing the boys decline their Latin, which he did in the old jog-trot way; and I own it had an odd sound to my ears, when instead of pronouncing, for example viri veeree I heard them say viri, of the man, exactly according to the English pronunciation, and viro, to the man. The case was just the same afterwards with the Greek.