Letters of a Traveller - Notes of Things Seen in Europe and America
by William Cullen Bryant
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

We passed through a tract covered with loose stones, and the Quaker's granddaughter, who proved to be a chatty person, told us a story which you may possibly have heard before. "Where did you get all the stones with which you have made these substantial fences?" said a visitor to his host, on whose grounds there appeared no lack of such materials. "Look about you in the fields, and you will see," was the answer. "I have looked," rejoined the questioner, "and do not perceive where a single stone is missing, and that is what has puzzled me."

Soon after reaching the highest elevation on the road, we entered the state of New Hampshire. Our way led us into a long valley formed by a stream, sometimes contracted between rough woody mountains, and sometimes spreading out, for a short distance, into pleasant meadows; and we followed its gradual descent until we reached the borders of the Connecticut. We crossed this beautiful river at Bellows Falls, where a neat and thriving village has its seat among craggy mountains, which, at a little distance, seem to impend over it. Here the Connecticut struggles and foams through a narrow passage of black rocks, spanned by a bridge. I believe this is the place spoken of in Peters's History of Connecticut, where he relates that the water of the river is so compressed in its passage between rocks, that an iron bar can not be driven into it.

A few miles below we entered the village of Walpole, pleasantly situated on the knolls to the east of the meadows which border the river. Walpole was once a place of some literary note, as the residence of Dennie, who, forty years since, or more, before he became the editor of the Port Folio, here published the Farmer's Museum, a weekly sheet, the literary department of which was amply and entertainingly filled.

Keene, which ended our journey in the stage-coach, is a flourishing village on the rich meadows of the Ashuelot, with hills at a moderate distance swelling upward on all sides. It is a village after the New England pattern, and a beautiful specimen of its kind—broad streets planted with rock-maples and elms, neat white houses, white palings, and shrubs in the front inclosures.

During this visit to New Hampshire, I found myself in a hilly and rocky region, to the east of this place, and in sight of the summit of Monadnock, which, at no great distance from where I was, begins to upheave its huge dark mass above the surrounding country. I arrived, late in the evening, at a dwelling, the door of which was opened to me by two damsels, all health and smiles. In the morning I saw a third sister of the same florid bloom and healthful proportions. They were none of those slight, frail figures, copies of the monthly plates of fashion, with waists of artificial slenderness, which almost force you to wonder how the different parts of the body are kept together—no pallid faces, nor narrow chests, nor lean hands, but forms which might have satisfied an ancient statuary, with a well-formed bust, faces glowing with health, rounded arms, and plump fingers. They are such women, in short, as our mothers, fifty years ago, might have been. I had not observed any particular appearance of health in the females of the country through which I had passed; on the contrary, I had been disappointed in their general pallidness and look of debility. I inquired of my host if there was any cause to which this difference could be traced.

"I have no doubt of the cause," replied he. "These girls are healthy, because I have avoided three great errors. They have neither been brought up on unwholesome diet, nor subjected to unwholesome modes of dress, nor kept from daily exercise in the open air. They have never drunk tea or coffee, nor lived upon any other than plain and simple food. Their dress—you know that even the pressure of the easiest costume impedes the play of the lungs somewhat—their dress has never been so tight as to hinder free respiration and the proper expansion of the chest. Finally, they have taken exercise every day in the open air, assisting me in tending my fruit trees and in those other rural occupations in which their sex may best take part. Their parents have never enjoyed very good health; nor were the children particularly robust in their infancy, yet by a rational physical education, they have been made such as you see them."

I took much pleasure in wandering through the woods in this region, where the stems of the primeval forest still stand—straight trunks of the beech, the maple, the ash, and the linden, towering to a vast height. The hollows are traversed by clear, rapid brooks. The mowing fields at that time were full of strawberries of large size and admirable flavor, which you could scarce avoid crushing by dozens as you walked. I would gladly have lingered, during a few more of these glorious summer days, in this wild country, but my engagements did not permit it, and here I am, about to take the stage-coach for Worcester and the Western Railroad.

Letter XVIII.


Manchester, England, May 30, 1845.

I suppose a smoother passage was never made across the Atlantic, than ours in the good ship Liverpool. For two-thirds of the way, we slid along over a placid sea, before the gentlest zephyrs that ever swept the ocean, and when at length the winds became contrary, they only impeded our progress, without making it unpleasant. The Liverpool is one of the strongest, safest, and steadiest of the packet-ships; her commander prudent, skillful, always on the watch, and as it almost seemed to me, in every part of the vessel at once; the passengers were good-tempered and quiet, like the sea on which we were sailing; and with all these advantages in our favor, I was not disposed to repine that we were a week longer in crossing the Atlantic, than some vessels which left New York nearly the same time.

It was matter of rejoicing to all of us, however, when we saw the Irish coast like a faint cloud upon the horizon, and still more were we delighted, when after beating about for several days in what is called the Chops of the Channel, we beheld the mountains of Wales. I could hardly believe that what I saw were actually mountain summits, so dimly were their outlines defined in the vapory atmosphere of this region, the nearer and lower steeps only being fully visible, and the higher and remoter ones half lost in the haze. It seemed to me as if I were looking at the reflection of mountains in a dull mirror, and I was ready to take out my pocket-handkerchief to wipe the dust and smoke from its surface. About thirty miles from Liverpool we took on board a pilot, whose fair complexion, unbronzed by the sun, was remarked by the ladies, and soon after a steamer arrived and took us in tow. At twelve o'clock in the night, the Liverpool by the aid of the high tide cleared the sand-bar at the mouth of the port, and was dragged into the dock, and the next morning when I awoke, I found myself in Liverpool in the midst of fog and rain.

"Liverpool," said one of its inhabitants to me, "is more like an American than an English city; it is new, bustling, and prosperous." I saw some evidences of this after I had got my baggage through the custom-house, which was attended with considerable delay, the officers prying very closely into the contents of certain packages which I was taking for friends of mine to their friends in England, cutting the packthread, breaking the seals, and tearing the wrappers without mercy. I saw the streets crowded with huge drays, carrying merchandise to and fro, and admired the solid construction of the docks, in which lay thousands of vessels from all parts of the globe. The walls of these docks are built of large blocks of red sandstone, with broad gateways opening to the river Mersey, and when the tide is at its height, which I believe is about thirty feet from low water, the gates are open, and vessels allowed to enter and depart. When the tide begins to retire, the gates are closed, and the water and the vessels locked in together. Along the river for miles, the banks are flanked with this massive masonry, which in some places I should judge to be nearly forty feet in height. Meantime the town is spreading into the interior; new streets are opened; in one field you may see the brickmakers occupied in their calling, and in the opposite one the bricklayers building rows of houses. New churches and new public buildings of various kinds are going up in these neighborhoods.

The streets which contain the shops have for the most part a gay and showy appearance; the buildings are generally of stucco, and show more of architectural decoration than in our cities. The greater part of the houses, however, are built of brick which has a rough surface, and soon acquires in this climate a dark color, giving a gloomy aspect to the streets. The public buildings, which are rather numerous, are of a drab-colored freestone, and those which have been built for forty or fifty years, the Town Hall, for example, and some of the churches, appear almost of a sooty hue. I went through the rooms of the Town Hall and was shown the statue of Canning, by Chantry, an impressive work as it seemed to me. One of the rooms contains a portrait of him by Lawrence, looking very much like a feeble old gentleman whom I remember as not long since an appraiser in the New York custom-house. We were shown a lofty saloon in which the Common Council of Liverpool enjoy their dinners, and very good dinners the woman who showed us the rooms assured us they were. But the spirit of corporation reform has broken in upon the old order of things, and those good dinners which a year or two since were eaten weekly, are now eaten but once a fortnight, and money is saved.

I strolled to the Zoological Gardens, a very pretty little place, where a few acres of uneven surface have been ornamented with plantations of flowering shrubs, many of which are now in full bloom, artificial ponds of water, rocks, and bridges, and picturesque buildings for the animals. Winding roads are made through the green turf, which is now sprinkled with daisies. It seems to be a favorite place of resort for the people of the town. They were amused by the tricks of an elephant, the performances of a band of music, which among other airs sang and played "Jim along Josey," and the feats of a young fellow who gave an illustration of the centrifugal force by descending a Montagne Russe in a little car, which by the help of a spiral curve in the railway, was made to turn a somerset in the middle of its passage, and brought him out at the end with his cap off, and his hair on end.

One of the most remarkable places in Liverpool, is St. James's Cemetery. In the midst of the populous and bustling city, is a chasm among the black rocks, with a narrow green level at the bottom. It is overlooked by a little chapel. You enter it by an arched passage cut through the living rock, which brings you by a steep descent to the narrow level of which I have spoken, where you find yourself among graves set with flowers and half concealed by shrubbery, while along the rocky sides of the hollow in which you stand, you see tombs or blank arches for tombs which are yet to be excavated. We found the thickets within and around this valley of the dead, musical with innumerable birds, which build here undisturbed. Among the monuments is one erected to Huskisson, a mausoleum with a glass door through which you see his statue from the chisel of Gibson. On returning by the passage through the rock, we found preparations making for a funeral service in the chapel, which we entered. Four men came staggering in under the weight of a huge coffin, accompanied by a clergyman of imposing stature, white hair, and florid complexion. Four other coffins were soon after brought in and placed in the church, attended by another clergyman of less pre-possessing appearance, who, to my disappointment, read the service. He did it in the most detestable manner, with much grimace, and with the addition of a supernumerary syllable after almost every word ending with a consonant. The clerk delivered the responses in such a mumbling tone, and with so much of the Lancashire dialect, as to be almost unintelligible. The other clergyman looked, I thought, as if, like myself, he was sorry to hear the beautiful funeral service of his church so profaned.

In a drive which we took into the country, we had occasion to admire the much talked of verdure and ornamental cultivation of England. Green hedges, rich fields of grass sprinkled with flowers, beautiful residences, were on every side, and the wheels of our carriage rolled over the smoothest roads in the world. The lawns before the houses are kept smoothly shaven, and carefully leveled by the roller. At one of these English houses, to which I was admitted by the hospitality of its opulent owner, I admired the variety of shrubs in full flower, which here grow in the open air, rhododendrons of various species, flushed with bloom, azaleas of different hues, one of which I recognized as American, and others of various families and names. In a neighboring field stood a plot of rye-grass two feet in height, notwithstanding the season was yet so early; and a part of it had been already mown for the food of cattle. Yet the people here complain of their climate. "You must get thick shoes and wrap yourself in flannel," said one of them to me. "The English climate makes us subject to frequent and severe colds, and here in Lancashire you have the worst climate of England, perpetually damp, with strong and chilly winds."

It is true that I have found the climate miserably chilly since I landed, but I am told the season is a late one. The apple-trees are just in bloom, though there are but few of them to be seen, and the blossoms of the hawthorn are only just beginning to open. The foliage of some of the trees, rich as it is, bears the appearance in some places of having felt the late frosts, and certain kinds of trees are not yet in leaf.

Among the ornaments of Liverpool is the new park called Prince's Park, which a wealthy individual, Mr. Robert Yates, has purchased and laid out with a view of making it a place for private residences. It has a pretty little lake, plantations of trees and shrubs which have just began to strike root, pleasant nooks and hollows, eminences which command extensive views, and the whole is traversed with roads which are never allowed to proceed from place to place in a straight line. The trees are too newly planted to allow me to call the place beautiful, but within a few years it will be eminently so.

I have followed the usual practice of travellers in visiting the ancient town of Chester, one of the old walled towns of England, distant about fifteen miles from Liverpool—rambled through the long galleries open to the street, above the ground-story of the houses, entered its crumbling old churches of red freestone, one of which is the church of St. John, of Norman architecture, with round arches and low massive pillars, and looked at the grotesque old carvings representing events in Scripture history which ornament some of the houses in Watergate-street. The walls are said to have been erected as early as the time of William the Conqueror, and here and there are towers rising above them. They are still kept in repair and afford a walk from which you enjoy a prospect of the surrounding country; but no ancient monument is allowed to stand in the way of modern improvements as they are called, and I found workmen at one corner tumbling down the stones and digging up the foundation to let in a railway. The river Dee winds pleasantly at the foot of the city walls. I was amused by an instance of the English fondness for hedges which I saw here. In a large green field a hawthorn hedge was planted, all along the city wall, as if merely for the purpose of hiding the hewn stone with a screen of verdure.

Yesterday we took the railway for Manchester. The arrangements for railway travelling in this country are much more perfect than with us. The cars of the first class are fitted up in the most sumptuous manner, cushioned at the back and sides, with a resting-place for your elbows, so that you sit in what is equivalent to the most luxurious armchair. Some of the cars intended for night travelling are so contrived that the seat can be turned into a kind of bed. The arrangement of springs and other contrivances to prevent shocks, and to secure an equable motion, are admirable and perfectly effectual. In one hour we had passed over the thirty-one miles which separate Manchester from Liverpool; shooting rapidly over Chat Moss, a black blot in the green landscape, overgrown with heath, which, at this season of the year, has an almost sooty hue, crossing bridge after bridge of the most solid and elegant construction, and finally entered Manchester by a viaduct, built on massive arches, at a level with the roofs of the houses and churches. Huge chimneys surrounded us on every side, towering above the house-tops and the viaduct, and vomiting smoke like a hundred volcanoes. We descended and entered Market-street, broad and well-built, and in one of the narrowest streets leading into it, we were taken to our comfortable hotel.

At Manchester we walked through the different rooms of a large calico-printing establishment. In one were strong-bodied men standing over huge caldrons ranged along a furnace, preparing and stirring up the colors; in another were the red-hot cylinders that singe the down from the cloth before it is stamped; in another the machines that stamp the colors and the heated rollers that dry the fabric after it is stamped. One of the machines which we were shown applies three different colors by a single operation. In another part of the establishment was the apparatus for steaming the calicoes to fasten the colors; huge hollow iron wheels into which and out of which the water was continually running and revolving in another part to wash the superfluous dye from the stamped cloths; the operation of drying and pressing them came next and in a large room, a group of young women, noisy, drab-like, and dirty, were engaged in measuring and folding them.

This morning we take the coach for the Peak of Derbyshire.

Letter XIX.

Edale in Derbyshire.

Derby, England, June 3, 1845.

I have passed a few pleasant days in Derbyshire, the chronicle of which I will give you.

On the morning of the 30th of May, we took places at Manchester in the stage-coach for Chapel-en-le-Frith. We waited for some time before the door of the Three Angels in Market-street, the finest street in Manchester, broad and well-built, while the porters were busy in fastening to the vehicle the huge loads of luggage with which the English commonly travel. As I looked on the passers by, I was again struck with what I had observed almost immediately on entering the town—the portly figures and florid complexions of some, and the very diminutive stature and sallow countenances of others. Among the crowds about the coach, was a ruddy round-faced man in a box-coat and a huge woollen cravat, walking about and occasionally giving a look at the porters, whom we took to be the coachman, so well did his appearance agree with the description usually given of that class. We were not mistaken, for in a short time we saw him buttoning his coat, and deliberately disentangling the lash from the handle of a long coach whip. We took our seats with him on the outside of the coach, and were rolled along smoothly through a level country of farms and hedge-rows, and fields yellow with buttercups, until at the distance of seven miles we reached Stockport, another populous manufacturing town lying in the smoke of its tall chimneys. At nearly the same distance beyond Stockport, the country began to swell into hills, divided by brooks and valleys, and the hedge-rows gave place to stone fences, which seamed the green region, bare of trees in every direction, separating it into innumerable little inclosures. A few miles further, brought us into that part of Derbyshire which is called the Peak, where the hills become mountains.

Among our fellow-passengers, was a powerfully made man, who had the appearance of being a commercial traveller, and was very communicative on the subject of the Peak, its caverns, its mines, and the old ruined castle of the Peverils, built, it is said, by one of the Norman invaders of England. He spoke in the Derbyshire dialect, with a strong provincial accent. When he was asked whether the castle was not the one spoken of by Scott, in his Peveril of the Peak, he replied,

"Scott? Scott? I dunna know him."

Chapel-en-le-Frith is a manufacturing village at the bottom of a narrow valley, clean-looking, but closely built upon narrow lanes; the houses are of stone, and have the same color as the highway. We were set down, with our Derbyshire friend, at the Prince's Arms, kept by John Clark, a jolly-looking man in knee-breeches, who claimed our fellow passenger as an old acquaintance. "I were at school with him," said he; "we are both Peakerels." John Clark, however, was the more learned man of the two, he knew something of Walter Scott; in the days when he was a coachman, he had driven the coach that brought him to the Peak, and knew that the ruined castle in the neighborhood was once the abode of Scott's Peveril of the Peak.

We procured here an odd vehicle called a car, with seats on the sides where the passengers sit facing each other, as in an omnibus, to take us to Edale, one of the valleys of Derbyshire. Our new acquaintance, who was about to proceed on foot to one of the neighboring villages, was persuaded to take a seat with us as far as his road was the same with ours. We climbed out of the valley up the bare green hills, and here our driver, who was from Cheshire, and whose mode of speaking English made him unintelligible to us, pointed to a house on a distant road, and made an attempt to communicate something which he appeared to think interesting. Our Derbyshire friend translated him.

"The water," said he, "that fall on one side of the roof of that 'ouse go into the 'Umber, and the water that fall on the other side go into the Mersey. Last winter that 'ouse were covered owre wi' snow, and they made a harchway to go in and out. We 'ad a heighteen month's storm last winter."

By an "eighteen month's storm" we learned, on inquiry, that he meant eighteen weeks of continued cold weather, the last winter having been remarkable for its severity.

Our kind interpreter now left us, and took his way across the fields, down a path which led through a chasm between high tower-like rocks, called the Winnets, which etymoloists say is a corruption of Windgates, a name given to this mountain-pass from the currents of air which are always blowing through it. Turning out of the main road, we began to ascend a steep green declivity. To the right of us rose a peaked summit, the name of which our driver told us was Mam Tor. We left the vehicle and climbed to its top, where a wide and beautiful prospect was out-spread before us. To the north lay Edale, a deep and almost circular valley, surrounded by a wavy outline of pastoral hills, bare of trees, but clothed in living green to their summits, except on the northern side of the valley, where, half-way down, they were black with a thick growth of heath. At the bottom of the valley winded a little stream, with a fringe of trees, some of which on account of the lateness of the season were not yet in leaf, and near this stream were scattered, for the most part, the habitations. In another direction lay the valley of Hopedale, with its two villages, Hope and Castleton, its ancient castle of the Peverils seated on a rock over the entrance of the Peak Cavern, and its lead mines worked ever since the time of the Saxons, the Odin mines as they are called, the white cinders of which lay in heaps at their entrance. We left the driver to take our baggage to its destination, and pursued our way across the fields. Descending a little distance from the summit, we came upon what appeared to be an ancient trench, thickly overgrown with grass, which seemed to encircle the upper part of the hill. It was a Roman circumvallation. The grass was gemmed with wild pansies, yellow, "freaked with jet," and fragrant, some of which we gathered for a memorial of the spot.

In descending to the valley, we came upon a little rivulet among hazels and hollies and young oaks, as wild and merry as a mountain brook of our own country. Cowslips and wild hyacinths were in flower upon its banks, and blue violets as scentless as our own. We followed it until it fell into the larger stream, when we crossed a bridge and arrived at a white house, among trees just putting out their leaves with plots of flowers in the lawn before it. Here we received a cordial welcome from a hospitable and warmhearted Scotchman.

After dinner our host took us up the side of the mountain which forms the northern barrier of Edale. We walked through a wretched little village, consisting of low cottages built of stone, one or two of which were alehouses; passed the parsonage, pleasantly situated on the edge of a little brook, and then the parson himself, a young man just from Cambridge, who was occupied in sketching one of the picturesque points in the scenery about his new habitation. A few minutes active climbing brought us among the heath, formming a thick elastic carpet under our feet, on which we were glad to seat ourselves for a moment's rest. We heard the cuckoo upon every side, and when we rose to pursue our walk we frequently startled the moor-fowl, singly or in flocks. The time allowed by the game laws for shooting them had not yet arrived, but in the mean time they had been unmercifully hunted by the hawks, for we often found the remains of such as had been slain by these winged sportsmen, lying in our path as we ascended. We found on the top of the hill, a level of several rods in width, covered to a considerable depth with peat, the produce of the decayed roots of the heath, which has sprung and perished for centuries. It was now soft with the abundant rains which had fallen, and seamed with deep muddy cracks, over which we made our way with difficulty. At length we came to a spot from which we could look down into another valley. "That," said our host, "is the Woodlands." We looked and saw a green hollow among the hills like Edale, but still more bare of trees, though like Edale it had its little stream at the bottom.

The next day we crossed the Mam Tor a second time, on a visit to the Derbyshire mines. On our way, I heard the lark for the first time. The little bird, so frequently named in English poetry, rose singing from the grass almost perpendicularly, until nearly lost to the sight in the clouds, floated away, first in one direction, then in another, descended towards the earth, arose again, pouring forth a perpetual, uninterrupted stream of melody, until at length, after the space of somewhat more than a quarter of an hour, he reached the ground, and closed his flight and his song together. The caverns which contain the Derbyshire spars of various kinds, have been the frequent theme of tourists, and it is hardly worth while to describe them for the thousandth time. Imagine a fissure in the limestone rock, descending obliquely five hundred feet into the bowels of the earth, with a floor of fallen fragments of rock and sand; jagged walls, which seem as if they would fit closely into each other if they could be brought together, sheeted, in many places, with a glittering, calcareous deposit, and gradually approaching each other overhead—imagine this, and you will have an idea of the Blue John mine, into which we descended. The fluor-spar taken from this mine is of a rich blue color, and is wrought into vases and cups, which were extremely beautiful.

The entrance to the Peak Cavern, as it is called, is very grand. A black opening, of prodigious extent, yawns in the midst of a precipice nearly three hundred feet in height, and you proceed for several rods in this vast portico, before the cave begins to contract to narrower dimensions. At a little distance from this opening, a fine stream rushes rapidly from under the limestone, and flows through the village. Above, and almost impending over the precipice, is the castle of the Peverils, the walls of which, built of a kind of stone which retains the chisel marks made eight hundred years since, are almost entire, though the roof has long ago fallen in, and trees are growing in the corners. "Here lived the English noblemen," said our friend, "when they were robbers—before they became gentlemen." The castle is three stories in height, and the space within its thick and strong walls is about twenty-five feet square. These would be thought narrow quarters by the present nobility, the race of gentlemen who have succeeded to the race of robbers.

The next day we attended the parish church. The young clergyman gave us a discourse on the subject of the Trinity, and a tolerably clever one, though it was only sixteen minutes long. The congregation were a healthy, though not a very intelligent looking set of men and women. The Derbyshire people have a saying—

"Darbyshire born, and Darbyshire bred, Strong o' the yarm and weak o' the yead."

The latter line, translated into English, would be—

"Strong of the arm, and weak of the head;"

and I was assured that, like most proverbs, it had a good deal of truth in it. The laboring people of Edale and its neighborhood, so far as I could learn, are not remarkable for good morals, and indifferent, or worse than indifferent, to the education of their children. They are, however, more fortunate in regard to the wages of their labor, than in many other agricultural districts. A manufactory for preparing cotton thread for the lace-makers, has been established in Edale, and the women and girls of the place, who are employed in it, are paid from seven to eight shillings a week. The farm laborers receive from twelve to thirteen shillings a week, which is a third more than is paid to the same class in some other counties.

The people of the Peak, judging from the psalmody I heard at church, are not without an ear for music. "I was at a funeral, not long since," said our host, "a young man, born deaf and dumb, went mad and cut his throat. The people came from far and near to the burial. Hot ale was handed about and drunk in silence, and a candle stood on the table, at which the company lighted their pipes. The only sound to be heard was the passionate sobbing of the father. At last the funeral service commenced, and the hymn being given out, they set it to a tune in the minor key, and I never heard any music performed in a manner more pathetic."

On Monday we left Edale, and a beautiful drive we had along the banks of the Derwent, woody and rocky, and wild enough in some places to be thought a river of our own country. Of our visit to Chatsworth, the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, one of the proudest of the modern English nobility, and to Haddon Hall, the finest specimen remaining of the residences of their ancestors, I will say nothing, for these have already been described till people are tired of reading them. We passed the night at Matlock in sight of the rock called the High Tor. In the hot season it swarms with cockneys, and to gratify their taste, the place, beautiful as it is with precipices and woods, has been spoiled by mock ruins and fantastic names. There is a piece of scene-painting, for example, placed conspicuously among the trees on the hill-side, representing an ancient tower, and another representing an old church. One place of retreat is called the Romantic Rocks, and another the Lover's Walk.

To-day we arrived at Derby, and hastened to see its Arboretum. This is an inclosure of eleven acres, given by the late Mr. Josiah Strutt to the town, and beautifully laid out by London, author of the work on Rural Architecture. It is planted with every kind of tree and shrub which will grow in the open air of this climate, and opened to the public for a perpetual place of resort. Shall we never see an example of the like munificence in New York?

Letter XX.

Works of Art.

London, June 18, 1845.

I have now been in London a fortnight. Of course you will not expect me to give you what you will find in the guide-books and the "Pictures of London."

The town is yet talking of a statue of a Greek slave, by our countryman Powers, which was to be seen a few days since at a print-shop in Pall Mall. I went to look at it. The statue represents a Greek girl exposed naked for sale in the slave-market. Her hands are fettered, the drapery of her nation lies at her feet, and she is shrinking from the public gaze. I looked at it with surprise and delight; I was dazzled with the soft fullness of the outlines, the grace of the attitude, the noble, yet sad expression of the countenance, and the exquisite perfection of the workmanship. I could not help acknowledging a certain literal truth in the expression of Byron, concerning a beautiful statue, that it

"——fills The air around with beauty."

It has fixed the reputation of Powers, and made his fortune. The possessor of the statue, a Mr. Grant, has refused to dispose of it, except to a public institution. The value which is set upon it, may be inferred from this circumstance, that one of the richest noblemen in England told the person who had charge of the statue, that if Mr. Grant would accept two thousand pounds sterling for it, he should be glad to send him a check for the amount. Some whispers of criticism have been uttered, but they appear to have been drowned and silenced in the general voice of involuntary admiration. I hear that since the exhibition of the statue, orders have been sent to Powers from England, for works of sculpture which will keep him employed for years to come.

The exhibition of paintings by the Royal Academy is now open. I see nothing in it to astonish one who has visited the exhibitions of our Academy of the Arts of Design in New York, except that some of the worst pictures were hung in the most conspicuous places. This is the case with four or five pictures by Turner—a great artist, and a man of genius, but who paints very strangely of late years. To my unlearned eyes, they were mere blotches of white paint, with streaks of yellow and red, and without any intelligible design. To use a phrase very common in England, they are the most extraordinary pictures I ever saw. Haydon also has spoiled several yards of good canvas with a most hideous picture of Uriel and Satan, and to this is assigned one of the very best places in the collection. There is more uniformity of style and coloring than with us; more appearance of an attempt to conform to a certain general model, so that of course there are fewer unpleasant contrasts of manner: but this is no advantage, inasmuch as it prevents the artist from seeking to attain excellence in the way for which he is best fitted. The number of paintings is far greater than in our exhibitions; but the proportion of good ones is really far smaller. There are some extremely clever things by Webster, who appears to be a favorite with the public; some fine miniatures by Thorburn, a young Scotch artist who has suddenly become eminent, and several beautiful landscapes by Stanfield, an artist of high promise. We observed in the catalogue, the names of three or four of our American artists; but on looking for their works, we found them all hung so high as to be out of sight, except one, and that was in what is called the condemned room, where only a glimmer of light enters, and where the hanging committee are in the practice of thrusting any such pictures as they can not help exhibiting, but wish to keep in the dark.

My English friends apologize for the wretchedness of the collection, its rows of indifferent portraits and its multitude of feeble imitations in historical and landscape painting, by saying that the more eminent artists are preparing themselves to paint the walls and ceilings of the new Houses of Parliament in fresco. The pinnacles and turrets of that vast and magnificent structure, built of a cream-colored stone, and florid with Gothic tracery, copied from the ancient chapel of St. Stephen, the greater part of which was not long ago destroyed by fire, are rising from day to day above the city roofs. We walked through its broad and long passages and looked into its unfinished halls, swarming with stone-cutters and masons, and thought that if half of them were to be painted in fresco, the best artists of England have the work of years before them.

With the exhibition of drawings in water-colors, which is a separate affair from the paintings in oil, I was much better pleased. The late improvement in this branch of art, is, I believe, entirely due to English artists. They have given to their drawings of this class a richness, a force of effect, a depth of shadow and strength of light, and a truth of representation which astonishes those who are accustomed only to the meagreness and tenuity of the old manner. I have hardly seen any landscapes which exceeded, in the perfectness of the illusion, one or two which I saw in the collection I visited, and I could hardly persuade myself that a flower-piece on which I looked, representing a bunch of hollyhocks, was not the real thing after all, so crisp were the leaves, so juicy the stalks, and with such skillful relief was flower heaped upon flower and leaf upon leaf.

Letter XXI

The Parks of London.—The Police.

London, June 24, 1845.

Nothing can be more striking to one who is accustomed to the little inclosures called public parks in our American cities, than the spacious, open grounds of London. I doubt, in fact, whether any person fully comprehends their extent, from any of the ordinary descriptions of them, until he has seen them or tried to walk over them. You begin at the east end of St. James's Park, and proceed along its graveled walks, and its colonnades of old trees, among its thickets of ornamental shrubs carefully inclosed, its grass-plots maintained in perpetual freshness and verdure by the moist climate and the ever-dropping skies, its artificial sheets of water covered with aquatic birds of the most beautiful species, until you begin almost to wonder whether the park has a western extremity. You reach it at last, and proceed between the green fields of Constitution Hill, when you find yourself at the corner of Hyde Park, a much more spacious pleasure-ground. You proceed westward in Hyde Park until you are weary, when you find yourself on the verge of Kensington Gardens, a vast extent of ancient woods and intervening lawns, to which the eye sees no limit, and in whose walks it seems as if the whole population of London might lose itself. North of Hyde Park, after passing a few streets, you reach the great square of Regent's Park, where, as you stand at one boundary the other is almost undistinguishable in the dull London atmosphere. North of this park rises Primrose Hill, a bare, grassy eminence, which I hear has been purchased for a public ground and will be planted with trees. All round these immense inclosures, presses the densest population of the civilized world. Within, such is their extent, is a fresh and pure atmosphere, and the odors of plants and flowers, and the twittering of innumerable birds more musical than those of our own woods, which build and rear their young here, and the hum of insects in the sunshine. Without are close and crowded streets, swarming with foot-passengers, and choked with drays and carriages.

These parks have been called the lungs of London, and so important are they regarded to the public health and the happiness of the people, that I believe a proposal to dispense with some part of their extent, and cover it with streets and houses, would be regarded in much the same manner as a proposal to hang every tenth man in London. They will probably remain public grounds as long as London has an existence.

The population of your city, increasing with such prodigious rapidity; your sultry summers, and the corrupt atmosphere generated in hot and crowded streets, make it a cause of regret that in laying out New York, no preparation was made, while it was yet practicable, for a range of parks and public gardens along the central part of the island or elsewhere, to remain perpetually for the refreshment and recreation of the citizens during the torrid heats of the warm season. There are yet unoccupied lands on the island which might, I suppose, be procured for the purpose, and which, on account of their rocky and uneven surface, might be laid out into surpassingly beautiful pleasure-grounds; but while we are discussing the subject the advancing population of the city is sweeping over them and covering them from our reach.

If we go out of the parks into the streets we find the causes of a corrupt atmosphere much more carefully removed than with us. The streets of London are always clean. Every day, early in the morning, they are swept; and some of them, I believe, at other hours also, by a machine drawn by one of the powerful dray-horses of this country. Whenever an unusually large and fine horse of this breed is produced in the country, he is sent to the London market, and remarkable animals they are, of a height and stature almost elephantine, large-limbed, slow-paced, shaggy-footed, sweeping the ground with their fetlocks, each huge foot armed with a shoe weighing from five to six pounds. One of these strong creatures is harnessed to a street-cleaning machine, which consists of brushes turning over a cylinder and sweeping the dust of the streets into a kind of box. Whether it be wet or dry dust, or mud, the work is thoroughly performed; it is all drawn into the receptacle provided for it, and the huge horse stalks backward and forward along the street until it is almost as clean as a drawing-room.

I called the other day on a friend, an American, who told me that he had that morning spoken with his landlady about her carelessness in leaving the shutters of her lower rooms unclosed during the night. She answered that she never took the trouble to close them, that so secure was the city from ordinary burglaries, under the arrangements of the new police, that it was not worth the trouble. The windows of the parlor next to my sleeping-room open upon a rather low balcony over the street door, and they are unprovided with any fastenings, which in New York we should think a great piece of negligence. Indeed, I am told that these night robberies are no longer practiced, except when the thief is assisted by an accessary in the house. All classes of the people appear to be satisfied with the new police. The officers are men of respectable appearance and respectable manners. If I lose my way, or stand in need of any local information, I apply to a person in the uniform of a police officer. They are sometimes more stupid in regard to these matters than there is any occasion for, but it is one of the duties of their office to assist strangers with local information.

Begging is repressed by the new police regulations, and want skulks in holes and corners, and prefers its petitions where it can not be overheard by men armed with the authority of the law. "There is a great deal of famine in London," said a friend to me the other day, "but the police regulations drive it out of sight." I was going through Oxford-street lately, when I saw an elderly man of small stature, poorly dressed, with a mahogany complexion, walking slowly before me. As I passed him he said in my ear, with a hollow voice, "I am starving to death with hunger," and these words and that hollow voice sounded in my ear all day.

Walking in Hampstead Heath a day or two since, with an English friend, we were accosted by two laborers, who were sitting on a bank, and who said that they had came to that neighborhood in search of employment in hay-making, but had not been able to get either work or food. My friend appeared to distrust their story. But in the evening, as we were walking home, we passed a company of some four or five laborers in frocks, with bludgeons in their hands, who asked us for something to eat. "You see how it is, gentlemen," said one of them, "we are hungry; we have come for work, and nobody will hire us; we have had nothing to eat all day." Their tone was dissatisfied, almost menacing; and the Englishman who was with us, referred to it several times afterward, with an expression of anxiety and alarm.

I hear it often remarked here, that the difference of condition between the poorer and the richer classes becomes greater every day, and what the end will be the wisest pretend not to foresee.

Letter XXII.


Edinburgh, July 17, 1845.

I Had been often told, since I arrived in England, that in Edinburgh, I should see the finest city I ever saw. I confess that I did not feel quite sure of this, but it required scarcely more than a single look to show me that it was perfectly true. It is hardly possible to imagine a nobler site for a town than that of Edinburgh, and it is built as nobly. You stand on the edge of the deep gulf which separates the old and the new town, and before you on the opposite bank rise the picturesque buildings of the ancient city—

"Piled deep and massy, close and high,"

looking, in their venerable and enduring aspect, as if they were parts of the steep bank on which they stand, an original growth of the rocks; as if, when the vast beds of stone crystallized from the waters, or cooled from their fusion by fire, they formed themselves by some freak of nature into this fantastic resemblance of the habitations of men. To the right your eyes rest upon a crag crowned with a grand old castle of the middle ages, on which guards are marching to and fro; and near you to the left, rises the rocky summit of Carlton Hill, with its monuments of the great men of Scotland. Behind you stretch the broad streets of the new town, overlooked by massive structures, built of the stone of the Edinburgh quarries, which have the look of palaces.

"Streets of palaces and walks of slate,"

form the new town. Not a house of brick or wood exists in Edinburgh; all are constructed of the excellent and lasting stone which the earth supplies almost close to their foundations. High and solid bridges of this material, with broad arches, connect the old town with the new, and cross the deep ravine of the Cowgate in the old town, at the bottom of which you see a street between prodigiously high buildings, swarming with the poorer population of Edinburgh.

From almost any of the eminences of the town you see spread below you its magnificent bay, the Frith of Forth, with its rocky islands; and close to the old town rise the lofty summits of Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crag, a solitary, silent, mountainous district, without habitations or inclosures, grazed by flocks of sheep. To the west flows Leith-water in its deep valley, spanned by a noble bridge, and the winds of this chilly climate that strike the stately buildings of the new town, along the cliffs that border this glen, come from the very clouds. Beyond the Frith lie the hills of Fifeshire; a glimpse of the blue Grampian ridges is seen where the Frith contracts in the northwest to a narrow channel, and to the southwest lie the Pentland hills, whose springs supply Edinburgh with water. All around you are places the names of which are familiar names of history, poetry, and romance.

From this magnificence of nature and art, the transition was painful to what I saw of the poorer population. On Saturday evening I found myself at the market, which is then held in High-street and the Netherbow, just as you enter the Canongate, and where the old wooden effigy of John Knox, with staring black eyes, freshly painted every year, stands in its pulpit, and still seems preaching to the crowd. Hither a throng of sickly-looking, dirty people, bringing with them their unhealthy children, had crawled from the narrow wynds or alleys on each side of the street. We entered several of these wynds, and passed down one of them, between houses of vast height, story piled upon story, till we came to the deep hollow of the Cowgate. Children were swarming in the way, all of them, bred in that close and impure atmosphere, of a sickly appearance, and the aspect of premature age in some of them, which were carried in arms, was absolutely frightful. "Here is misery," said a Scotch gentleman, who was my conductor. I asked him how large a proportion of the people of Edinbugh belonged to that wretched and squalid class which I saw before me. "More than half," was his reply. I will not vouch for the accuracy of his statistics. Of course his estimate was but a conjecture.

In the midst of this population is a House of Refuge for the Destitute, established by charitable individuals for the relief of those who may be found in a state of absolute destitution of the necessaries of life. Here they are employed in menial services, lodged and fed until they can be sent to their friends, or employment found for them. We went over the building, a spacious structure, in the Canongate, of the plainest Puritan architecture, with wide low rooms, which, at the time of the union of Scotland with England, served as the mansion of the Duke of Queensbury. The accommodations of course are of the humblest kind. We were shown into the sewing-room, were we saw several healthy-looking young women at work, some of them barefooted. Such of the inmates as can afford it, pay for their board from three and sixpence to five shillings a week, besides their labor.

In this part of the city also are the Night Asylums for the Houseless. Here, those who find themselves without a shelter for the night, are received into an antechamber, provided with benches, where they first get a bowl of soup, and are then introduced into a bathing-room, where they are stripped and scoured. They are next furnished with clean garments and accommodated with a lodging on an inclined plane of planks, a little raised from the floor, and divided into proper compartments by strips of board. Their own clothes are, in the mean time, washed, and returned to them when they leave the place.

It was a very different spectacle from the crowd in the Saturday evening market, that met my eyes the next morning in the clean and beautiful streets of the new town; the throng of well-dressed church-goers passing each other in all directions. The women, it appeared to me, were rather gaily dressed, and a large number of them prettier than I had seen in some of the more southern cities.

I attended worship in one of the Free Churches, as they are called, in which Dr. Candlish officiates. In the course of his sermon, he read long portions of an address from the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, appointing the following Thursday as a day of fasting and prayer, on account of the peculiar circumstances of the time, and more especially the dangers flowing from the influence of popery, alluding to the grant of money lately made by parliament to the Roman Catholic College at Maynooth. The address proposed no definite opposition, but protested against the measure in general, and, as it seemed to me, rather vague terms. In the course of the address the title of National Church was claimed for the Free Church, notwithstanding its separation from the government, and the era of that separation was referred to in phrases similar to those in which we speak of our own declaration of national independence. There were one or two allusions to the persecutions which the Free Church had suffered, and something was said about her children being hunted like partridges upon the mountains; but it is clear that if her ministers have been hunted, they have been hunted into fine churches; and if persecuted, they have been persecuted into comfortable livings. This Free Church, as far as I can learn, is extremely prosperous.

Dr. Candlish is a fervid preacher, and his church was crowded. In the afternoon I attended at one of the churches of the established or endowed Presbyterian Church, where a quiet kind of a preacher held forth, and the congregation was thin.

This Maynooth grant has occasioned great dissatisfaction in England and Scotland. If the question had been left to be decided by the public opinion of these parts of the kingdom, the grant would never have been made. An immense majority, of all classes and almost all denominations, disapprove of it. A dissenting clergyman of one of the evangelical persuasions, as they are called, said to me—"The dissenters claim nothing from the government; they hold that it is not the business of the state to interfere in religious matters, and they object to bestowing the public money upon the seminaries of any religious denomination." In a conversation which I had with an eminent man of letters, and a warm friend of the English Church, he said: "The government is giving offense to many who have hitherto been its firmest supporters. There was no necessity for the Maynooth grant; the Catholics would have been as well satisfied without it as they are with it; for you see they are already clamoring for the right to appoint through their Bishops the professors in the new Irish colleges. The Catholics were already establishing their schools, and building their churches with their own means: and this act of applying the money of the nation to the education of their priests is a gratuitous offense offered by the government to its best friends." In a sermon which I heard from the Dean of York, in the magnificent old minster of that city, he commended the liberality of the motives which had induced the government to make the grant, but spoke of the measure as one which the friends of the English Church viewed with apprehension and anxiety.

"They may dismiss their fears," said a shrewd friend of mine, with whom I was discussing the subject. "Endowments are a cause of lukewarmness and weakness. Our Presbyterian friends here, instead of protesting so vehemently against what Sir Robert Peel has done, should thank him for endowing the Catholic Church, for in doing it he has deprived it of some part of its hold upon the minds of men."

There is much truth, doubtless, in this remark. The support of religion to be effectual should depend upon individual zeal. The history of the endowed chapels of dissenting denominations in England is a curious example of this. Congregations have fallen away and come to nothing, and it is a general remark that nothing is so fatal to a sect as a liberal endowment, which provides for the celebration of public worship without individual contributions.

Letter XXIII.

The Scottish Lakes.

Glasgow, July 19, 1845.

I must not leave Scotland without writing you another letter.

On the 17th of this month I embarked at Newhaven, in the environs of Edinburgh, on board the little steamer Prince Albert, for Stirling. On our way we saw several samples of the Newhaven fishwives, a peculiar race, distinguished by a costume of their own; fresh-colored women, who walk the streets of Edinburgh with a large wicker-basket on their shoulders, a short blue cloak of coarse cloth under the basket, short blue petticoats, thick blue stockings, and a white cap. I was told that they were the descendants of a little Flemish colony, which long ago settled at Newhaven, and that they are celebrated for the readiness and point of their jokes, which, like those of their sisters of Billingsgate, are not always of the most delicate kind. Several of these have been related to me, but on running them over in my mind, I find, to my dismay, that none of them will look well on paper. The wit of the Newhaven fishwives seems to me, however, like that of our western boatmen, to consist mainly in the ready application of quaint sayings already current among themselves.

It was a wet day, with occasional showers, and sometimes a sprinkling of Scotch mist. I tried the cabin, but the air was too close. The steamboats in this country have but one deck, and that deck has no shelter, so I was content to stand in the rain for the sake of the air and scenery. After passing an island or two, the Frith, which forms the bay of Edinburgh, contracts into the river Forth. We swept by country seats, one of which was pointed out as the residence of the late Dugald Stewart, and another that of the Earl of Elgin, the plunderer of the Parthenon; and castles, towers, and churches, some of them in ruins ever since the time of John Knox, and hills half seen in the fog, until we came opposite to the Ochil mountains, whose grand rocky buttresses advanced from the haze almost to the river. Here, in the windings of the Forth, our steamer went many times backward and forward, first towards the mountains and then towards the level country to the south, in almost parallel courses, like the track of a ploughman in a field. At length we passed a ruined tower and some fragments of massy wall which once formed a part of Cambus Kenneth Abbey, seated on the rich lands of the Forth, for the monks, in Great Britain at least, seem always to have chosen for the site of their monasteries, the banks of a stream which would supply them with trout and salmon for Fridays. We were now in the presence of the rocky hills of Stirling, with the town on its declivity, and the ancient castle, the residence of the former kings of Scotland, on its summit.

We went up through the little town to the castle, which is still kept in perfect order, and the ramparts of which frown as grimly over the surrounding country as they did centuries ago. No troops however are now stationed here; a few old gunners alone remain, and Major somebody, I forget his name, takes his dinners in the banqueting-room and sleeps in the bed-chamber of the Stuarts. I wish I could communicate the impression which this castle and the surrounding region made upon me, with its vestiges of power and magnificence, and its present silence and desertion. The passages to the dungeons where pined the victims of state, in the very building where the court held its revels, lie open, and the chapel in which princes and princesses were christened, and worshiped, and were crowned and wed, is turned into an armory. From its windows we were shown, within the inclosure of the castle, a green knoll, grazed by cattle, where the disloyal nobles of Scotland were beheaded. Close to the castle is a green field, intersected with paths, which we were told was the tilting-ground, or place of tournaments, and beside it rises a rock, where the ladies of the court sat to witness the combats, and which is still called the Ladies' Rock. At the foot of the hill, to the right of the castle, stretches what was once the royal park; it is shorn of its trees, part is converted into a race-course, part into a pasture for cows, and the old wall which marked its limits is fallen down. Near it you see a cluster of grassy embankments of a curious form, circles and octagons and parallelograms, which bear the name of King James's Knot, and once formed a part of the royal-gardens, where the sovereign used to divert himself with his courtiers. The cows now have the spot to themselves, and have made their own paths and alleys all over it. "Yonder, to the southwest of the castle," said a sentinel who stood at the gate, "you see where a large field has been lately ploughed, and beyond it another, which looks very green. That green field is the spot where the battle of Bannockburn was fought, and the armies of England were defeated by Bruce." I looked, and so fresh and bright was the verdure, that it seemed to me as if the earth was still fertilized with the blood of those who fell in that desperate struggle for the crown of Scotland. Not far from this, the spot was shown us where Wallace was defeated at the battle of Falkirk. This region is now the scene of another and an unbloody warfare; the warfare between the Free Church and the Government Church. Close to the church of the establishment, at the foot of the rock of Stirling, the soldiers of the Free Church have erected their place of worship, and the sound of hammers from the unfinished interior could be heard almost up to the castle.

We took places the same day in the coach for Callander, in the Highlands. In a short time we came into a country of hillocks and pastures brown and barren, half covered with ferns, the breckan of the Scotch, where the broom flowered gaudily by the road-side, and harebells now in bloom, in little companies, were swinging, heavy with the rain, on their slender stems.

Crossing the Teith we found ourselves in Doune, a Highland village, just before entering which we passed a throng of strapping lasses, who had just finished their daily task at a manufactory on the Teith, and were returning to their homes. Between Doune and Callander we passed the woods of Cambus-More, full of broad beeches, which delight in the tenacious mountain soil of this district. This was the seat of a friend of the Scott family, and here Sir Walter in his youth passed several summers, and became familiar with the scenes which he has so well described in his Lady of the Lake. At Callander we halted for the night among a crowd of tourists, Scotch, English, American, and German, more numerous than the inn at which we stopped could hold. I went out into the street to get a look at the place, but a genuine Scotch mist covering me with water soon compelled me to return. I heard the people, a well-limbed brawny race of men, with red hair and beards, talking to each other in Gaelic, and saw through the fogs only a glimpse of the sides of the mountains and crags which surrounded the village.

The next morning was uncommonly bright and clear, and we set out early for the Trosachs. We now saw that the village of Callander lay under a dark crag, on the banks of the Teith, winding pleasantly among its alders, and overlooked by the grand summit of Benledi, which rises to the height of three thousand feet. A short time brought us to the stream

"Which, daughter of three mighty lakes, From Vennachar in silver breaks,"

and we skirted the lake for nearly its whole length. Loch Vennachar lies between hills of comparatively gentle declivity, pastured by flocks, and tufted with patches of the prickly gorse and coarse ferns. On its north bank lies Lanrick Mead, a little grassy level where Scott makes the tribe of Clan Alpine assemble at the command of Roderick Dhu. At a little distance from Vennachar lies Loch Achray, which we reached by a road winding among shrubs and low trees, birches, and wild roses in blossom, with which the air was fragrant. Crossing a little stone bridge, which our driver told us was the Bridge of Turk, we were on the edge of Loch Achray, a little sheet of water surrounded by wild rocky hills, with here and there an interval of level grassy margin, or a grove beside the water. Turning from Loch Achray we reached an inn with a Gaelic name, which I have forgotten how to spell, and which if I were to spell it, you could not pronounce. This was on the edge of the Trosachs, and here we breakfasted.

It is the fashion, I believe, for all tourists to pass through the Trosachs on foot. The mob of travellers, with whom I found myself on the occasion—there were some twenty of them—did so, to a man; even the ladies, who made about a third of the number, walked. The distance to Loch Katrine is about a mile and a half, between lofty mountains, along a glen filled with masses of rock, which seem to have been shaken by some convulsion of nature from the high steeps on either side, and in whose shelves and crevices time had planted a thick wood of the birch and ash.

But I will not describe the Trosachs after Walter Scott. Head what he says of them in the first canto of his poem. Loch Katrine, when we reached it, was crisped into little waves, by a fresh wind from the northwest, and a boat, with four brawny Highlanders, was waiting to convey us to the head of the lake. We launched upon the dark deep water, between craggy and shrubby steeps, the summits of which rose on every side of us; and one of the rowers, an intelligent-looking man, took upon himself the task of pointing out to us the places mentioned by the poet. "There," said he, as we receded from the shore, "is the spot in the Trosachs where Fitz James lost his gallant gray." He then repeated, in a sort of recitation, dwelling strongly on the rhyme, the lines in the Lady of the Lake which relate that incident. "Yonder is the island where Douglass concealed his daughter. Under that broad oak, whose boughs almost dip into the water, was the place where her skiff was moored. On that rock, covered with heath, Fitz James stood and wound his bugle. Near it, but out of sight, is the silver strand where the skiff received him on board."

Further on, he pointed out, on the south side of the lake, half way up among the rocks of the mountain, the place of the Goblin Cave, and still beyond it

"The wild pass, where birches wave, Of Beal-a-nam-bo."

On the north shore, the hills had a gentler slope, and on their skirts, which spread into something like a meadow, we saw a solitary dwelling. "In that," said he, "Rob Roy was born." In about two hours, our strong-armed rowers had brought us to the head of the lake. Before we reached it, we saw the dark crest of Ben Lomond, loftier than any of the mountains around us, peering over the hills which formed the southern rampart of Loch Katrine. We landed, and proceeded—the men on foot and the women on ponies —through a wild craggy valley, overgrown with low shrubs, to Inversnaid, on Loch Lomond, where a stream freshly swollen by rains tumbled down a pretty cascade into the lake. As we descended the steep bank, we saw a man and woman sitting on the grass weaving baskets; the woman, as we passed, stopped her work to beg; and the children, chubby and ruddy, came running after us with "Please give me a penny to buy a scone."

At Iversnaid we embarked in a steamboat which took us to the northern extremity of the lake, where it narrows into a channel like a river. Here we stopped to wait the arrival of a coach, and, in the mean time, the passengers had an hour to wander in the grassy valley of Glenfalloch, closed in by high mountains. I heard the roar of mountain-streams, and passing northward, found myself in sight of two torrents, one from the east, and the other from the west side of the valley, throwing themselves, foaming and white, from precipice to precipice, till their waters, which were gathered in the summit of the mountains, reached the meadows, and stole through the grass to mingle with those of the lake.

The coach at length arrived, and we were again taken on board the steamer, and conveyed the whole length of Loch Lomond to its southern extremity. We passed island after island, one of which showed among its thick trees the remains of a fortress, erected in the days of feudal warfare and robbery, and another was filled with deer. Towards the southern end of the lake, the towering mountains, peak beyond peak, which overlook the lake, subside into hills, between which the stream called Leven-water flows out through a rich and fertile valley.

Coaches were waiting at Balloch, where we landed, to take us to Dumbarton. Near the lake we passed a magnificent park, in the midst of which stood a castle, a veritable castle, a spacious massive building of stone, with a tower and battlements, on which a flag was flying. "It belongs to a dry-goods merchant in Glasgow," said the captain of the steamboat, who was in the coach with us; "and the flag is put up by his boys. The merchants are getting finer seats than the nobility." I am sorry to say that I have forgotten both the name of the merchant and that of his castle. He was, as I was told, a liberal, as well as an opulent man; had built a school-house in the neighborhood, and being of the Free Church party, was then engaged in building a church.

Near Renton, on the banks of the Leven, I saw a little neighborhood, embosomed in old trees. "There," said our captain, "Smollet was born." A column has been erected to his memory in the town of Renton, which we saw as we passed. The forked rock, on which stands Dumbarton Castle, was now in sight overlooking the Clyde; we were whirled into the town, and in a few minutes were on board a steamer which, as evening set in, landed us at Glasgow.

I must reserve what I have to tell of Glasgow and Ayrshire for yet another letter.

Letter XXIV.


Dublin, July 24, 1845.

I promised another letter concerning Scotland, but I had not time to write it until the Irish Channel lay between me and the Scottish coast.

When we reached Glasgow on the 18th of July, the streets were swarming with people. I inquired the occasion, and was told that this was the annual fair. The artizans were all out with their families, and great numbers of country people were sauntering about. This fair was once, what its name imports, an annual market for the sale of merchandise; but it is now a mere holiday in which the principal sales, as it appeared to me, were of gingerbread and whisky. I strolled the next morning to the Green, a spacious open ground that stretches along the Clyde. One part of it was occupied with the booths and temporary theatres and wagons of showmen, around and among which a vast throng was assembled, who seemed to delight in being deafened with the cries of the showmen and the music of their instruments. In one place a band was playing, in another a gong was thundering, and from one of the balconies a fellow in regal robes and a pasteboard crown, surrounded by several persons of both sexes in tawdry stage-dresses, who seemed to have just got out of bed and were yawning and rubbing their eyes, was vociferating to the crowd in praise of the entertainment which was shortly to be offered them, while not far off the stentor of a rival company, under a flag which announced a new pantomime for a penny, was declaiming with equal vehemence. I made my way with difficulty through the crowd to the ancient street called the Salt Market, in which Scott places the habitation of Baillie Jarvie. It was obstructed with little stalls, where toys and other inconsiderable articles were sold. Here at the corner of one of the streets stands the old tower of the Tolbooth where Rob Roy was confined, a solid piece of ancient architecture. The main building has been removed and a modern house supplies its place; the tower has been pierced below for a thoroughfare, and its clock still reports the time of day to the people of Glasgow. The crowd through which I passed had that squalid appearance which marks extreme poverty and uncertain means of subsistence, and I was able to form some idea of the prodigious number of this class in a populous city of Great Britain like Glasgow. For populous she is, and prosperous as a city, increasing with a rapidity almost equal to that of New York, and already she numbers, it is estimated, three hundred thousand inhabitants. Of these it is said that full one-third are Irish by birth or born of Irish parents.

The next day, which was Sunday, before going to church, I walked towards the west part of the city; where the streets are broad and the houses extremely well-built, of the same noble material as the new town of Edinburgh; and many of the dwellings have fine gardens. Their sites in many places overlook the pleasant valley of the Clyde, and I could not help acknowledging that Glasgow was not without claim to the epithet of beautiful, which I should have denied her if I had formed my judgment from the commercial streets only. The people of Glasgow also have shown their good sense in erecting the statues which adorn their public squares, only to men who have some just claim to distinction. Here are no statues, for example, of the profligate Charles II., or the worthless Duke of York, or the silly Duke of Cambridge, as you will see in other cities; but here the marble effigy of Walter Scott looks from a lofty column in the principal square, and not far from it is that of the inventor Watt; while the statues erected to military men are to those who, like Wellington, have acquired a just renown in arms. The streets were full of well-dressed persons going to church, the women for the most part, I must say, far from beautiful. I turned with the throng and followed it as far as St. Enoch's church, in Buchanan-street, where I heard a long discourse from a sensible preacher, Dr. Barr, a minister of the established Kirk of Scotland.

In the afternoon I climbed one of the steep streets to the north of my hotel, and found three places of worship, built with considerable attention to architectural effect, and fresh, as it seemed, from the hands of the mason. They all, as I was told, belonged to the Free Kirk, which has lately been rent from the establishment, and threatens to leave it a mere shadow of a church, like the Episcopal church in Ireland. "Nothing," said an intelligent Glasgow friend of mine, "can exceed the zeal of the friends of the Free Church. One of our Glasgow merchants has just given fifteen hundred pounds towards the fund for providing manses, or parsonages, for the ministers of that Church, and I know of several who have subscribed a thousand. In all the colleges of Scotland, the professors are obliged, by way of test, to declare their attachment to the Presbyterian Church as by law established. Parliament has just refused to repeal this test, and the friends of the Free Church are determined to found a college of their own. Twenty thousand pounds had already been subscribed before the government refused to dispense with this test, and the project will now be supported with more zeal than ever."

I went into one of these Free churches, and listened to a sermon from Dr. Lindsay, a comfortable-looking professor in some new theological school. It was quite common-place, though not so long as the Scotch ministers are in the habit of giving; for excessive brevity is by no means their besetting infirmity. At the close of the exercises, he announced that a third service would be held in the evening. "The subject," continued he, "will be the thoughts and exercises of Jonah in the whale's belly."

In returning to my hotel, I passed by another new church, with an uncommonly beautiful steeple and elaborate carvings. I inquired its name; it was the new St. John's, and was another of the buildings of the Free Church.

On Monday we made an excursion to the birthplace of Burns. The railway between Glasgow and Ayr took us through Paisley, worthy of note as having produced our eminent ornithologist, Alexander Wilson, and along the banks of Castle Semple Loch, full of swans, a beautiful sheet of water, sleeping among green fields which shelve gently to its edge. We passed by Irvine, where Burns learned the art of dressing flax, and traversing a sandy tract, close to the sea, were set down at Ayr, near the new bridge. You recollect Burns's dialogue between the "auld brig" of Ayr and the new, in which the former predicted that vain as her rival might be of her new and fresh appearance, the time would shortly come when she would be as much dilapidated as herself. The prediction is fulfilled; the bridge has begun to give way, and workmen are busy in repairing its arches.

We followed a pleasant road, sometimes agreeably shaded by trees, to Alloway. As we went out of Ayr we heard a great hammering and clicking of chisels, and looking to the right we saw workmen busy in building another of the Free Churches, with considerable elaborateness of architecture, in the early Norman style. The day was very fine, the sun bright, and the sky above us perfectly clear; but, as is generally the case in this country with an east wind, the atmosphere was thick with a kind of dry haze which veils distant objects from the sight. The sea was to our right, but we could not discern where it ended and the horizon began, and the mountains of the island of Arran and the lone and lofty rock of Ailsa Craig looked at first like faint shadows in the thick air, and were soon altogether undistinguishable. We came at length to the little old painted kirk of Alloway, in the midst of a burying ground, roofless, but with gable-ends still standing, and its interior occupied by tombs. A solid upright marble slab, before the church, marks the place where William Burns, the father of the poet, lies buried. A little distance beyond flows the Doon under the old bridge crossed by Tam O'Shanter on the night of his adventure with the witches.

This little stream well deserves the epithet of "bonnie," which Burns has given it. Its clear but dark current, flows rapidly between banks often shaded with ashes, alders, and other trees, and sometimes overhung by precipices of a reddish-colored rock. A little below the bridge it falls into the sea, but the tide comes not up to embitter its waters. From the west bank of the stream the land rises to hills of considerable height, with a heathy summit and wooded slopes, called Brown Carrick Hill. Two high cliffs near it impend over the sea, which are commonly called the Heads of Ayr, and not far from these stands a fragment of an ancient castle. I have sometimes wondered that born as Burns was in the neighborhood of the sea, which I was told is often swelled into prodigious waves by the strong west winds that beat on this coast, he should yet have taken little if any of his poetic imagery from the ocean, either in its wilder or its gentler moods. But his occupations were among the fields, and his thoughts were of those who dwelt among them, and his imagination never wandered where his feelings went not.

The monument erected to Burns, near the bridge, is an ostentatious thing, with a gilt tripod on its summit. I was only interested to see some of the relics of Burns which it contains, among which is the Bible given by him to his Highland Mary. A road from the monument leads along the stream among the trees to a mill, at a little distance above the bridge, where the water passes under steep rocks, and I followed it. The wild rose and the woodbine were in full bloom in the hedges, and these to me were a better memorial of Burns than any thing which the chisel could execute. A barefoot lassie came down the grassy bank among the trees with a pail, and after washing her feet in the swift current filled the pail and bore it again over the bank.

We saw many visitors sauntering about the bridge or entering the monument; some of them seemed to be country people,—young men with their sisters and sweethearts, and others in white cravats with a certain sleekness of appearance I took to be of the profession of divinity. At the inn beside the Doon, a young woman, with a face and head so round as almost to form a perfect globe, gave us a dish of excellent strawberries and cream, and we set off for the house in which Burns was born.

It is a clay-built cottage of the humblest class, and now serves, with the addition of two new rooms of a better architecture, for an ale-house. Mrs. Hastings, the landlady, showed us the register, in which we remarked that a very great number of the visitors had taken the pains to write themselves down as shoemakers. Major Burns, one of the sons of the poet, had lately visited the place with his two daughters and a younger brother, and they had inscribed their names in the book.

We returned to Ayr by a different road from that by which we went to Alloway. The haymakers were at work in the fields, and the vegetation was everywhere in its highest luxuriance. You may smile at the idea, but I affirm that a potato field in Great Britain, at this season, is a prettier sight than a vineyard in Italy. In this climate, the plant throws out an abundance of blossoms, pink and white, and just now the potato fields are as fine as so many flower gardens.

We crossed the old bridge of Ayr, which is yet in good preservation, though carriages are not allowed to pass over it. Looking up the stream, we saw solitary slopes and groves on its left bank, and I fancied that I had in my eye the sequestered spot on the banks of the Ayr, where Burns and his Highland Mary held the meeting described in his letters, and parted to meet no more.

Letter XXV.


Dublin, July 25, 1845.

We left Glasgow on the morning of the 22d, and taking the railway to Ardrossan were soon at the beach. One of those iron steamers which navigate the British waters, far inferior to our own in commodious and comfortable arrangements, but strong and safe, received us on board, and at ten o'clock we were on our way to Belfast. The coast of Ayr, with the cliff near the birthplace of Burns, continued long in sight; we passed near the mountains of Arran, high and bare steeps swelling out of the sea, which had a look of almost complete solitude; and at length Ailsa Craig began faintly to show itself, high above the horizon, through the thick atmosphere. We passed this lonely rock, about which flocks of sea-birds, the solan goose, and the gannet, on long white wings with jetty tips, were continually wheeling, and with a glass we could discern them sitting by thousands on the shelves of the rock, where they breed. The upper part of Ailsa, above the cliffs, which reach more than half-way to the summit, appears not to be destitute of soil, for it was tinged with a faint verdure.

In about nine hours—we were promised by a lying advertisement it should be six—we had crossed the channel, over smooth water, and were making our way, between green shores almost without a tree, up the bay, at the bottom of which stands, or rather lies, for its site is low, the town of Belfast. We had yet enough of daylight left to explore a part at least of the city. "It looks like Albany," said my companion, and really the place bears some resemblance to the streets of Albany which are situated near the river, nor is it without an appearance of commercial activity. The people of Belfast, you know, are of Scotch origin, with some infusion of the original race of Ireland. I heard English spoken with a Scotch accent, but I was obliged to own that the severity of the Scottish physiognomy had been softened by the migration and the mingling of breeds. I presented one of my letters of introduction, and met with so cordial a reception, that I could not but regret the necessity of leaving Belfast the next morning.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7     Next Part
Home - Random Browse