At an early hour the next day we were in our seats on the outside of the mail-coach. We passed through a well-cultivated country, interspersed with towns which had an appearance of activity and thrift. The dwellings of the cottagers looked more comfortable than those of the same class in Scotland, and we were struck with the good looks of the people, men and women, whom we passed in great numbers going to their work. At length, having traversed the county of Down, we entered Lowth, when an immediate change was visible. We were among wretched and dirty hovels, squalid-looking men and women, and ragged children—the stature of the people seemed dwarfed by the poverty in which they have so long lived, and the jet-black hair and broad faces which I saw around me, instead of the light hair and oval countenances so general a few miles back, showed me that I was among the pure Celtic race.
Shortly after entering the county of Lowth, and close on the confines of Armagh, perhaps partly within it, we traversed, near the village of Jonesborough, a valley full of the habitations of peat-diggers. Its aspect was most remarkable, the barren hills that inclose it were dark with heath and gorse and with ledges of brown rock, and their lower declivities, as well as the level of the valley, black with peat, which had been cut from the ground and laid in rows. The men were at work with spades cutting it from the soil, and the women were pressing the water from the portions thus separated, and exposing it to the air to dry. Their dwellings were of the most wretched kind, low windowless hovels, no higher than the heaps of peat, with swarms of dirty children around them. It is the property of peat earth to absorb a large quantity of water, and to part with it slowly. The springs, therefore, in a region abounding with peat make no brooks; the water passes into the spongy soil and remains there, forming morasses even on the slopes of the hills.
As we passed out of this black valley we entered a kind of glen, and the guard, a man in a laced hat and scarlet coat, pointed to the left, and said, "There is a pretty place." It was a beautiful park along a hill-side, groves and lawns, a broad domain, jealously inclosed by a thick and high wall, beyond which we had, through the trees, a glimpse of a stately mansion. Our guard was a genuine Irishman, strongly resembling the late actor Power in physiognomy, with the very brogue which Power sometimes gave to his personages. He was a man of pithy speech, communicative, and acquainted apparently with every body, of every class, whom we passed on the road. Besides him we had for fellow-passengers three very intelligent Irishmen, on their way to Dublin. One of them was a tall, handsome gentleman, with dark hair and hazel eyes, and a rich South-Irish brogue. He was fond of his joke, but next to him sat a graver personage, in spectacles, equally tall, with fair hair and light-blue eyes, speaking with a decided Scotch accent. By my side was a square-built, fresh-colored personage, who had travelled in America, and whose accent was almost English. I thought I could not be mistaken in supposing them to be samples of the three different races by which Ireland is peopled.
We now entered a fertile district, meadows heavy with grass, in which the haymakers were at work, and fields of wheat and barley as fine as I had ever seen, but the habitations of the peasantry had the same wretched look, and their inmates the same appearance of poverty. Wherever the coach stopped we were beset with swarms of beggars, the wittiest beggars in the world, and the raggedest, except those of Italy. One or two green mounds stood close to the road, and we saw others at a distance. "They are Danish forts," said the guard. "Every thing we do not know the history of, we put upon the Danes," added the South of Ireland man. These grassy mounds, which are from ten to twenty feet in height, are now supposed to have been the burial places of the ancient Celts. The peasantry can with difficulty be persuaded to open any of them, on account of a prevalent superstition that it will bring bad luck. A little before we arrived at Drogheda, I saw a tower to the right, apparently a hundred feet in height, with a doorway at a great distance from the ground, and a summit somewhat dilapidated. "That is one of the round towers of Ireland, concerning which there is so much discussion," said my English-looking fellow-traveller. These round towers, as the Dublin antiquarians tell me, were probably built by the early Christian missionaries from Italy, about the seventh century, and were used as places of retreat and defense against the pagans.
Not far from Drogheda, I saw at a distance a quiet-looking valley. "That," said the English-looking passenger, "is the valley of the Boyne, and in that spot was fought the famous battle of the Boyne." "Which the Irish are fighting about yet, in America," added the South of Ireland man. They pointed out near the spot, a cluster of trees on an eminence, where James beheld the defeat of his followers. We crossed the Boyne, entered Drogheda, dismounted among a crowd of beggars, took our places in the most elegant railway wagon we had ever seen, and in an hour were set down in Dublin.
I will not weary you with a description of Dublin. Scores of travellers have said that its public buildings are magnificent, and its rows of private houses, in many of the streets, are so many ranges of palaces. Scores of travellers have said that if you pass out of these fine streets, into the ancient lanes of the city, you see mud-houses that scarcely afford a shelter, and are yet inhabited.
"Some of these," said a Dublin acquaintance to me, "which are now roofless and no longer keep out the weather, yet show by their elaborate cornices and their elegant chimney-pieces, that the time has been, and that not very long since, when they were inhabited by the opulent class." He led me back of Dublin castle to show me the house in which Swift was born. It stands in a narrow, dirty lane called Holy's court, close to the well-built part of the town: its windows are broken out, and its shutters falling to pieces, and the houses on each side are in the same condition, yet they are swarming with dirty and ragged inmates.
I have seen no loftier nor more spacious dwellings than those which overlook St. Stephen's Green, a noble park, planted with trees, under which the showery sky and mild temperature maintain a verdure all the year, even in midwinter. About Merrion square, another park, the houses have scarcely a less stately appearance, and one of these with a strong broad balcony, from which to address the people in the street, is inhabited by O'Connell. The park of the University, in the midst of the city, is of great extent, and the beautiful public grounds called Phenix Park, have a circumference of eight miles. "Do not suppose," said a friend to me, "that these spacious houses which you see about you, are always furnished with a magnificence corresponding to that of their exterior. It is often the case that a few rooms only of these great ranges of apartments are provided with furniture, and the rest left empty and unoccupied. The Irishman of the higher class, as well as of the humbler, is naturally improvident, generous, fond of enjoying the moment, and does not allow his income to accumulate, either for the purpose of hoarding or the purpose of display."
I went into Conciliation Hall, which resembles a New York lecture-room, and was shown the chair where the autocrat of Ireland, the Liberator, as they call him, sits near the chairman at the repeal meetings. Conciliation Hall was at that time silent, for O'Connell was making a journey through several of the western counties, I think, of Ireland, for the purpose of addressing and encouraging his followers. I inquired of an intelligent dissenter what was the state of the public feeling in Ireland, with regard to the repeal question, and whether the popularity of O'Connell was still as great as ever.
"As to O'Connell," he answered, "I do not know whether his influence is increasing, but I am certain that it is not declining. With regard to the question of repealing the Union, there is a very strong leaning among intelligent men in Ireland to the scheme of a federal government, in other words to the creation of an Irish parliament for local legislation, leaving matters which concern Ireland in common with the rest of the empire to be decided by the British Parliament."
I mentioned an extraordinary declaration which I had heard made by John O'Connell on the floor of Parliament, in answer to a speech of Mr. Wyse, an Irish Catholic member, who supported the new-colleges bill. This younger O'Connell denounced Wyse as no Catholic, as an apostate from his religion, for supporting the bill, and declared that for himself, after the Catholic Bishops of Ireland had expressed their disapproval of the bill, he inquired no further, but felt himself bound as a faithful member of the Catholic Church to oppose it.
"It is that declaration," said the gentleman, "which has caused a panic among those of the Irish Protestants who were well-affected to the cause of repeal. If the Union should be repealed, they fear that O'Connell, whose devotion to the Catholic Church appears to grow stronger and stronger, and whose influence over the Catholic population is almost without limit, will so direct the legislation of the Irish Parliament as only to change the religious oppression that exists from one party to the other. There is much greater liberality at present among the Catholics than among their adversaries in Ireland, but I can not say how much of it is owing to the oppression they endure. The fact that O'Connell has been backward to assist in any church reforms in Ireland has given occasion to the suspicion that he only desires to see the revenues and the legal authority of the Episcopal Church transferred to the Catholic Church. If that should happen, and if the principle avowed by John O'Connell should be the rule of legislation, scarcely any body but a Catholic will be able to live in Ireland."
Mr. Wall, to whom our country is indebted for the Hudson River Portfolio, and who resided in the United States for twenty-two years, is here, and is, I should think, quite successful in his profession. Some of his later landscapes are superior to any of his productions that I remember. Among them is a view on Lough Corrib, in which the ruined castle on the island of that lake is a conspicuous object. It is an oil painting, and is a work of great merit. The Dublin Art Union made it their first purchase from the exhibition in which it appeared. Mr. Wall remembers America with much pleasure, and nothing can exceed his kindness to such of the Americans as he meets in Ireland.
He took us to the exhibition of the Royal Hibernian Society. Among its pictures is a portrait of a lady by Burton, in water-colors, most surprising for its perfection of execution and expression, its strength of coloring and absolute nature. Burton is a native of Dublin, and is but twenty-five years old. The Irish connoisseurs claim for him the praise of being the first artist in water-colors in the world. He paints with the left hand. There are several other fine things by him in the exhibition. Maclise, another Irish artist, has a picture in the exhibition, representing a dramatic author offering his piece to an actor. The story is told in Gil Blas. It is a miracle of execution, though it has the fault of hardness and too equal a distribution of light. I have no time to speak more at large of this exhibition, and my letter is already too long.
This afternoon we sail for Liverpool.
The Lunatic Asylum at Hanwell.
London, July 28, 1845.
Since we came to England we have visited the Lunatic Asylum at Hanwell, in the neighborhood of London. It is a large building, divided into numerous apartments, with the plainest accommodations, for the insane poor of the county of Middlesex. It is superintended by Dr. Conolly, who is most admirably fitted for the place he fills, by his great humanity, sagacity, and ingenuity.
I put these qualities together as necessary to each other. Mere humanity, without tact and skill, would fail deplorably. The rude and coarse methods of government which consist in severity, are the most obvious ones; they suggest themselves to the dullest minds, and cost nothing but bodily strength to put them in execution; the gentler methods require reflection, knowledge, and dexterity. It is these which Dr. Conolly applies with perfect success. He has taken great pains to make himself acquainted, by personal observation, with the treatment of the insane in different hospitals, not only in England, but on the continent. He found that to be the most efficacious which interferes least with their personal liberty, and on this principle, the truth of which an experience of several years has now confirmed, he founded the system of treatment at Hanwell.
We had letters to Dr. Conolly, with the kindness and gentleness of whose manners we were much struck. He conducted us over the several wards of the Asylum. We found in it a thousand persons of both sexes, not one of whom was in seclusion, that is to say confined because it was dangerous to allow him to go at large; nor were they subjected to any apparent restraint whatever. Some were engaged in reading, some in exercises and games of skill; of the females some were occupied in sewing, others at work in the kitchen or the laundry; melancholic patients were walking about in silence or sitting gloomily by themselves; idiots were rocking their bodies backward and forward as they sat, but all were peaceable in their demeanor, and the greatest quiet prevailed. No chastisement of any kind is inflicted; the lunatic is always treated as a patient, and never as an offender. When he becomes so outrageous and violent that his presence can be endured no longer, he is put into a room with padded walls and floors where he can do himself no mischief, and where his rage is allowed to exhale. Even the straight jacket is unknown here.
I said that the demeanor of all the patients with whom the Asylum was swarming was peaceable. There was one exception. On entering one of the wards, a girl of an earnest and determined aspect, as soon as she saw Dr. Conolly began to scream violently, and sprang towards him, thrusting aside the bystanders by main force. Two of the female attendants came immediately up and strove to appease her, holding her back without severity, as a mother would restrain her infant. I saw them struggling with her for some time; how they finally disposed of her I did not observe, but her screams had ceased before we left the ward.
Among the patients was one who, we were told, was remarkable for his extravagant love of finery, and whose cell was plastered over with glaring colored prints and patches of colored paper ornamentally disposed. He wore on his hat a broad strip of tarnished lace, and had decorated his waistcoat with several perpendicular rows of pearl buttons.
"You have made your room very fine here," said the doctor.
"Yes," said he, smiling and evidently delighted, "but, my dear sir, all is vanity—all is vanity, sir, and vexation of spirit. There is but one thing that we ought to strive for, and that is the kingdom of heaven."
As there was no disputing this proposition, we passed on to another cell, at the door of which stood a tall, erect personage, who was busy with a pot of paint and a brush, inscribing the pannels with mottoes and scraps of verse. The walls of his room were covered with poetry and pithy sentences. Some of the latter appeared to be of his own composition, and, were not badly turned; their purport generally was this: that birth is but a trivial accident, and that virtue and talent are the only true nobility. This man was found wandering about in Chiswick, full of a plan for educating the Prince of Wales in a manner to enable him to fill the throne with credit and usefulness. As his name could not be learned, the appellation of "Chiswick" was given him, which he had himself adopted, styling himself Mr. "Chiswick" in his mottoes, but always taking care to put the name between inverted commas.
As we proceeded, a man rose from his seat, and laying both hands on a table before him, so as to display his fingers, ornamented with rings made of black ribbon, in which glass buttons were set for jewels, addressed Dr. Conolly with great respect, formally setting forth that he was in great want of a new coat for Sundays, the one he had on being positively unfit to appear in, and that a better had been promised him. The doctor stopped, inquired into the case, and the poor fellow was gratified by the assurance that the promised coat should be speedily forthcoming.
In his progress through the wards Dr. Conolly listened with great patience to the various complaints of the inmates. One of them came up and told us that he did not think the methods of the institution judicious. "The patients," said he, "are many of them growing worse. One in particular, who has been here for several weeks, I can see is growing worse every day." Dr. Conolly asked the name of this patient—"I can not tell," said the man, "but I can bring him to you." "Bring him then," said the doctor; and after a moment's absence he returned, leading up one of the healthiest and quietest looking men in the ward. "He looks better to be sure," said the man, "but he is really worse." A burst of laughter from the patients who stood by followed this saying, and one of them looking at me knowingly, touched his forehead to intimate that the objector was not exactly in his senses.
In one of the female wards we were introduced, as gentlemen from America, to a respectable-looking old lady in black, who sat with a crutch by her side. "Are you not lawyers?" she asked, and when we assured her that we were only Yankees, she rebuked us mildly for assuming such a disguise, when she knew very well that we were a couple of attorneys. "And you, doctor," she added, "I am surprised that you should have any thing to do with such a deception." The doctor answered that he was very sorry she had so bad an opinion of him, as she must be sensible that he had never said any thing to her which was not true. "Ah, doctor," she rejoined, "but you are the dupe of these people."
It was in the same ward, I think, that a well-dressed woman, in a bonnet and shawl, was promenading the room, carrying a bible and two smaller volumes, apparently prayer or hymn books. "Have you heard the very reverend Mr. ——, in —— chapel?" she asked of my fellow-traveller. I have unfortunately forgotten the name of the preacher and his chapel. On being answered in the negative, "Then go and hear him," she added, "when you return to London." She went on to say that the second coming of the Saviour was to take place, and the world to be destroyed in a very few days, and that she had a commission to proclaim the approach of that event. "These poor people," said she, "think that I am here on the same account as themselves, when I am only here to prepare the way for the second coming."
"I'm thinking, please yer honor, that it is quite time I was let out of this place," said a voice as we entered one of the wards. Dr. Conolly told me that he had several Irish patients in the asylum, and that they gave him the most trouble on account of the hurry in which they were to be discharged. We heard the same request eagerly made in the same brogue by various other patients of both sexes.
As I left this multitude of lunatics, promiscuously gathered from the poor and the reduced class, comprising all varieties of mental disease, from idiocy to madness, yet all of them held in such admirable order by the law of kindness, that to the casual observer most of them betrayed no symptoms of insanity, and of the rest, many appeared to be only very odd people, quietly pursuing their own harmless whims, I could not but feel the highest veneration for the enlightened humanity by which the establishment was directed. I considered, also, if the feeling of personal liberty, the absence of physical restraint, and the power of moral motives, had such power to hold together in perfect peace and order, even a promiscuous band of lunatics, how much greater must be their influence over the minds of men in a state of sanity, and on how false a foundation rest all the governments of force! The true basis of human polity, appointed by God in our nature, is the power of moral motives, which is but another term for public opinion.
Of the political controversies which at present agitate the country, the corn-law question is that which calls forth the most feeling; I mean on the part of those who oppose the restrictions on the introduction of foreign grain—for, on the other side, it appears to me that the battle is languidly fought. Nothing can exceed the enthusiasm of the adversaries of the corn-laws. With some of them the repeal of the tax on bread is the remedy for all political evils. "Free trade, free trade," is the burden of their conversation, and although a friend of free trade myself, to the last and uttermost limit, I have been in circles in England, in which I had a little too much of it. Yet this is an example to prove what a strong hold the question has taken of the minds of men, and how completely the thoughts of many are absorbed by it. Against such a feeling as that which has been kindled in Great Britain, on the corn-law question, no law in our country could stand. So far as I can judge, it is spreading, as well as growing stronger. I am told that many of the farmers have become proselytes of the League. The League is a powerful and prodigiously numerous association, with ample and increasing funds, publishing able tracts, supporting well-conducted journals, and holding crowded public meetings, which are addressed by some of the ablest speakers in the United Kingdom. I attended one of these at Covent Garden. Stage, pit, boxes, and gallery of that large building were filled with one of the most respectable-looking audiences, men and women, I have ever seen. Among the speakers of the evening were Cobden and Fox. Cobden in physiognomy and appearance might almost pass for an American, and has a certain New England sharpness and shrewdness in his way of dealing with a subject. His address was argumentative, yet there was a certain popular clearness about it, a fertility of familiar illustration, and an earnest feeling, which made it uncommonly impressive. Fox is one of the most fluent and ingenious speakers I ever heard in a popular assembly. Both were listened to by an audience which seemed to hang on every word that fell from their lips.
The musical world here are talking about Colman's improvement in the piano. I have seen the instrument which the inventor brought out from America. It is furnished with a row of brass reeds, like those of the instrument called the Seraphine. These take up the sound made by the string of the piano, and prolong it to any degree which is desired. It is a splicing of the sounds of one instrument upon another. Yet if the invention were to be left where it is, in Colman's instrument, it could not succeed with the public. The notes of the reeds are too harsh and nasal, and want the sweetness and mellowness of tone which belong to the string of the piano.
At present the invention is in the hands of Mr. Rand, the portrait painter, a countryman of ours, who is one of the most ingenious mechanicians in the world. He has improved the tones of the reeds till they rival, in softness and fullness, those of the strings, and, in fact, can hardly be distinguished from them, so that the sounds of the two instruments run into one another without any apparent difference. Mr. Rand has contrived three or four different machines for making the reeds with dispatch and precision; and if the difficulty of keeping the strings, which are undergoing a constant relaxation, in perfect unison with the reeds can be overcome, I see nothing to prevent the most complete and brilliant success.
Changes in Paris.
Paris, August 9, 1845.
My last letter was dated at London, in my passage across England. I have been nearly a fortnight in Paris. In ten years I find a considerable change in the external aspect of this great capital. The streets are cleaner, in many of them sidewalks have been made, not always the widest to be sure, but smoothly floored with the asphaltum of Seyssel, which answers the purpose admirably; the gutters have been removed from the middle of the street to the edge of the curbstone, and lately the curbstone has been made to project over them, so that the foot-passengers may escape the bespattering from carriage-wheels which he would otherwise be sure to get in a rainy day, and there are many such days in this climate—it has rained every day but one since I entered France.
New passages have been cut from street to street, old streets have been made wider, new streets have been made, with broad sidewalks, and stately rows of houses hewn from the easily wrought cream-colored stone of the quarries of the Seine. The sidewalks of the Boulevards, and all the public squares, wherever carriages do not pass, have been covered with this smooth asphaltic pavement, and in the Boulevards have been erected some magnificent buildings, with richly carved pilasters and other ornaments in relief, and statues in niches, and balconies supported by stone brackets wrought into bunches of foliage. New columns and statues have been set up, and new fountains pour out their waters. Among these is the fountain of Moliere, in the Rue Richelieu, where the effigy of the comic author, chiseled from black marble, with flowing periwig and broad-skirted coat, presides over a group of naked allegorical figures in white marble, at whose feet the water is gushing out.
In external morality also, there is some improvement; public gaming-houses no longer exist, and there are fewer of those uncleanly nuisances which offend against the code of what Addison calls the lesser morals. The police have had orders to suppress them on the Boulevards and the public squares. The Parisians are, however, the same gay people as ever, and as easily amused as when I saw them last. They crowd in as great numbers to the opera and the theatres; the Boulevards, though better paved, are the same lively places; the guingettes are as thronged; the public gardens are as full of dancers. In these, as at the New Tivoli, lately opened at Chateau Rouge in the suburbs, a broad space made smooth for the purpose is left between tents, where the young grisettes of Paris, married and unmarried, or in that equivocal state which lies somewhere between, dance on Sunday evening till midnight.
At an earlier hour on the same day, as well as on other days, at old Franconi's Hippodrome, among the trees, just beyond the triumphal arch of Neuilly, imitations of the steeple chase, with female riders who leap over hedges, and of the ancient chariot-races with charioteers helmeted and mailed, and standing in gilt tubs on wheels, are performed in a vast amphiteatre, to a crowd that could scarcely have been contained in the Colosseum of Home.
I have heard since I came here, two or three people lamenting the physical degeneracy of the Parisians. One of them quoted a saying from a report of Marshal Soult, that the Parisian recruits for the army of late years were neither men nor soldiers. This seems to imply a moral as well as a physical deterioration. "They are growing smaller and smaller in stature," said the gentleman who made this quotation, "and it is difficult to find among them men who are of the proper height to serve as soldiers. The principal cause no doubt is in the prevailing licentiousness. Among that class who make the greater part of the population of Paris, the women of the finest persons rarely become mothers." Whatever may be the cause, I witnessed a remarkable example of the smallness of the Parisian stature on the day of my arrival, which was the last of the three days kept in memory of the revolution of July. I went immediately to the Champs Elysees, to see the people engaged in their amusements. Some twenty boys, not fully grown, as it seemed to me at first, were dancing and capering with great agility, to the music of an instrument. Looking at them nearer, I saw that those who had seemed to me boys of fourteen or fifteen, were mature young men, some of them with very fierce mustaches.
Since my arrival I have seen the picture which Vanderlyn is painting for the Rotunda at Washington. It represents the Landing of Columbus on the shores of the New World. The great discoverer, accompanied by his lieutenant and others, is represented as taking possession of the newly found country. Some of the crew are seen scrambling for what they imagine to be gold dust in the sands of the shore, and at a little distance among the trees are the naked natives, in attitudes of wonder and worship. The grouping is happy, the expression and action skillfully varied—the coloring, so far as I could judge in the present state of the picture, agreeable. "Eight or ten weeks hard work," said the artist, "will complete it." It is Vanderlyn's intention to finish it, and take it to the United States in the course of the autumn.
A Journey through The Netherlands.
Arnheim, Guelderland, August 19, 1848.
After writing my last I was early asleep, that I might set out early the next morning in the diligence for Brussels. This I did, and passing through Compeigne, where Joan of Arc was made prisoner—a town lying in the midst of extensive forests, with here and there a noble group of trees; and through Noyon, where Calvin was born, and in the old Gothic church of which he doubtless worshiped; and through Cambray, where Fenelon lived; and through fields of grain and poppy and clover, where women were at work, reaping the wheat, or mowing and stacking the ripe poppies, or digging with spades in their wet clothes, for it had rained every day but one during the thirteen we were in France, we arrived in the afternoon of the second day at the French frontier. From this a railway took us in a few hours to Brussels. Imagine a rather clean-looking city, of large light-colored buildings mostly covered with stucco, situated on an irregular declivity, with a shady park in the highest part surrounded by palaces, and a little lower down a fine old Gothic cathedral, and still lower down, the old Town Hall, also of Gothic architecture, and scarcely less venerable, standing in a noble paved square, around which are white and stately edifices, built in the era of the Spanish dominion;—imagine handsome shops and a good-looking people, with a liberal sprinkling of priests, in their long-skirted garments, and throw in the usual proportion of dirt and misery, and mendicancy, in the corners and by-places, and you have Brussels before you.
It still rained, but we got a tilbury and drove out to see the battle-ground of Waterloo. It was a dreary drive beside the wood of Soignes and through a part of it,—that melancholy-looking forest of tall-stemmed beeches—beech, beech, nothing but beech—and through the Walloon villages—Waterloo is one of them—and through fields where wet women were at work, and over roads where dirty children by dozens were dabbling like ducks in the puddles. At last we stopped at the village of Mont St. Jean, whence we walked through the slippery mud to the mound erected in the midst of the battle-field, and climbed to its top, overlooking a country of gentle declivities and hollows. Here the various positions of the French and allied armies during the battle which decided the fate of an empire, were pointed out to us by a young Walloon who sold wine and drams in a shed beside the monument. The two races which make up the population of Belgium are still remarkably distinct, notwithstanding the centuries which have elapsed since they occupied the same country together. The Flemings of Teutonic origin, keep their blue eyes and fair hair, and their ancient language—the same nearly as the Dutch of the sixteenth century. The Walloons, a Celtic race, or Celtic mixed with Roman, are still known by their dark hair and black eyes, and speak a dialect derived from the Latin, resembling that of some of the French provinces. Both languages are uncultivated, and the French has been adopted as the language of commerce and literature in Belgium.
If you would see a city wholly Flemish in its character, you should visit Antwerp, to which the railway takes you in an hour and a half. The population here is almost without Walloon intermixture, and there is little to remind you of what you have seen in France, except the French books in the booksellers' windows. The arts themselves have a character of their own which never came across the Alps. The churches, the interior of which is always carefully kept fresh with paint and gilding, are crowded with statues in wood, carved with wonderful skill and spirit by Flemish artists, in centuries gone by—oaken saints looking down from pedestals, and Adam and Eve in the remorse of their first transgression supporting, by the help of the tree of knowledge and the serpent, a curiously wrought pulpit. The walls are hung with pictures by the Flemish masters, wherever space can be found for them. In the Cathedral, is the Descent from the Cross, by Rubens, which proves, what one might almost doubt who had only seen his pictures in the Louvre, that he was a true artist and a man of genius in the noblest sense of the term.
We passed two nights in Antwerp, and then went down the Scheldt in a steamer, which, in ten hours, brought us to Rotterdam, sometimes crossing an arm of the sea, and sometimes threading a broad canal. The houses on each side of these channels, after we entered Holland, were for the most part freshly painted; the flat plains on each side protected by embankments, and streaked by long wide ditches full of water, and rows of pollard willows. Windmills by scores, some grinding corn, but most of them pumping water out of the meadows and pouring it into the channel, stood on the bank and were swinging their long arms madly in a high wind.
On arriving at Rotterdam, you perceive at once that you are in Holland. The city has as many canals as streets, the canals are generally overhung with rows of elms, and the streets kept scrupulously clean with the water of the canals, which is salt. Every morning there is a vigorous splashing and mopping performed before every door by plump servant girls, in white caps and thick wooden shoes. Our hotel stood fronting a broad sheet of water like the lagoons at Venice, where a solid and straight stone wharf was shaded with a row of elms, and before our door lay several huge vessels fastened to the wharf, which looked as if they were sent thither to enjoy a vacation, for they were neither loading nor unloading, nor did any person appear to be busy about them. Rotterdam was at that time in the midst of a fair which filled the open squares and the wider streets of the city with booths, and attracted crowds of people from the country. There were damsels from North Holland, fair as snow, and some of them pretty, in long-eared lace caps, with their plump arms bare; and there were maidens from another province, the name of which I did not learn, equally good-looking, with arms as bare, and faces in white muslin caps drawn to a point on each cheek. Olycoeks were frying, and waffles baking in temporary kitchens on each side of the streets.
The country about Rotterdam is little better than a marsh. The soil serves only for pasture, and the fields are still covered with "yellow blossoms," as in the time of Goldsmith, and still tufted with willows. I saw houses in the city standing in pools of dull blue water, reached by a bridge from the street: I suppose, however, there might be gardens behind them. Many of the houses decline very much from the perpendicular; they are, however, apparently well-built and are spacious. We made no long stay in Rotterdam, but after looking at its bronze statue of Erasmus, and its cathedral, which is not remarkable in any other respect than that it is a Gothic building of brick, stone being scarce in Holland, we took the stage-coach for the Hague the next day.
Green meadows spotted with buttercups and dandelions, flat and low, lower than the canals with which the country is intersected, and which bring in between them, at high tide, the waters of the distant sea, stretched on every side. They were striped with long lines of water which is constantly pumped out by the windmills, and sent with the ebb tide through the canals to the ocean. Herds of cattle were feeding among the bright verdure. From time to time, we passed some pleasant country-seat, the walls bright with paint, and the grounds surrounded by a ditch, call it a moat if you please, the surface of which was green with duck-weed. But within this watery inclosure, were little artificial elevations covered with a closely-shaven turf, and plantations of shrubbery, and in the more extensive and ostentatious of them, were what might be called groves and forests. Before one of these houses was a fountain with figures, mouths of lions and other animals, gushing profusely with water, which must have been pumped up for the purpose, into a reservoir, by one of the windmills.
Passing through Schiedam, still famous for its gin, and Delft, once famous for its crockery, we reached in a couple of hours the Hague, the cleanest of cities, paved with yellow brick, and as full of canals as Rotterdam. I called on an old acquaintance, who received me with a warm embrace and a kiss on each cheek. He was in his morning-gown, which he immediately exchanged for an elegant frock coat of the latest Parisian cut, and took us to see Baron Vorstolk's collection of pictures, which contains some beautiful things by the Flemish artists, and next, to the public collection called the Museum. From this we drove to the Chateau du Bois, a residence of the Dutch Stadtholders two hundred years ago, when Holland was a republic, and a powerful and formidable one. It is pleasantly situated in the edge of a wood, which is said to be part of an original forest of the country. I could believe this, for here the soil rises above the marshy level of Holland, and trees of various kinds grow irregularly intermingled, as in the natural woods of our own country. The Chateau du Bois is principally remarkable for a large room with a dome, the interior of which is covered with large paintings by Rubens, Jordaens, and other artists.
Our friend took leave of us, and we drove out to Scheveling, where Charles II. embarked for England, when he returned to take possession of his throne. Here dwell a people who supply the fish-market of the Hague, speak among themselves a dialect which is not understood elsewhere in Holland, and wear the same costume which they wore centuries ago. We passed several of the women going to market or returning, with large baskets on their heads, placed on the crown of a broad-brimmed straw bonnet, tied at the sides under the chin, and strapping creatures they were, striding along in their striped black and white petticoats. In the streets of Scheveling, I saw the tallest woman I think I ever met with, a very giantess, considerably more than six feet high, straddling about the street of the little village, and scouring and scrubbing the pavement with great energy. Close at hand was the shore; a strong west wind was driving the surges of the North Sea against it. A hundred fishing vessels rocking in the surf, moored and lashed together with ropes, formed a line along the beach; the men of Scheveling, in knit woollen caps, short blue jackets, and short trowsers of prodigious width, were walking about on the shore, but the wind was too high and the sea too wild for them to venture out. Along this coast, the North Sea has heaped a high range of sand-hills, which protect the low lands within from its own inundations; but to the north and south the shore is guarded by embankments, raised by the hand of man with great cost, and watched and kept in constant repair.
We left the Hague, and taking the railway, in a little more than two hours were at Amsterdam, a great commercial city in decay, where nearly half of the inhabitants live on the charity of the rest. The next morning was Sunday, and taking advantage of an interval of fair weather, for it still continued to rain every day, I went to the Oudekerk, or Old Church, as the ancient Cathedral is called, which might have been an impressive building in its original construction, but is now spoiled by cross-beams, paint, galleries, partitions, pews, and every sort of architectural enormity. But there is a noble organ, with a massive and lofty front of white marble richly sculptured, occupying the west end of the chancel. I listened to a sermon in Dutch, the delivery of which, owing partly to the disagreeable voice of the speaker and partly no doubt to my ignorance of the language, seemed to me a kind of barking. The men all wore their hats during the service, but half the women were without bonnets. When the sermon and prayer were over, the rich tones of the organ broke forth and flooded the place with melody.
Every body visits Broek, near Amsterdam, the pride of Dutch villages, and to Broek I went accordingly. It stands like the rest, among dykes and canals, but consists altogether of the habitations of persons in comfortable circumstances, and is remarkable, as you know, for its scrupulous cleanliness. The common streets and footways, are kept in the same order as the private garden-walks. They are paved with yellow bricks, and as a fair was to open in the place that afternoon, the most public parts of them were sanded for the occasion, but elsewhere, they appeared as if just washed and mopped. I have never seen any collection of human habitations so free from any thing offensive to the senses. Saardam, where Peter the Great began his apprenticeship as a shipwright, is among the sights of Holland, and we went the next day to look at it. This also is situated on a dyke, and is an extremely neat little village, but has not the same appearance of opulence in the dwellings. We were shown the chamber in which the Emperor of Russia lodged, and the hole in the wall where he slept, for in the old Dutch houses, as in the modern ones of the farmers, the bed is a sort of high closet, or, more properly speaking, a shelf within the wall, from which a door opens into the room. I should have mentioned that, in going to Broek, I stopped to look at one of the farm-houses of the country, and at Saardam I visited another. They were dairy houses, in which the milk of large herds is made into butter. The lower story of the dwelling, paved with bricks, is used in winter as a stable for the cattle; in the summer, it is carefully cleansed and painted, so that not a trace of its former use remains, and it then becomes both the dairy and the abode of the family. The story above is as neat as the hands of Dutch housewives can make it; the parlor, the dining-room, the little boxes in the wall which hold the beds, are resplendent with cleanliness.
In going from Amsterdam by railway to Utrecht, we perceived the canals by which the plains were intersected became fewer and fewer, and finally we began to see crops of grain and potatoes, a sign that we had emerged from the marshes. We stopped to take a brief survey of Utrecht. A part of its old cathedral has been converted into a beautiful Gothic church, the rest having been levelled many years ago by a whirlwind. But what I found most remarkable in the city was its public walks. The old walls by which Utrecht was once inclosed having been thrown down, the rubbish has formed hillocks and slopes which almost surround the entire city and border one of its principal canals. On these hillocks and slopes, trees and shrubs have been planted, and walks laid out through the green turf, until it has become one of the most varied and charming pleasure-grounds I ever saw—swelling into little eminences, sinking into little valleys, descending in some places smoothly to the water, and in others impending over it. We fell in with a music-master, of whom we asked a question or two. He happened to know a little German, by the help of which he pieced out his Dutch so as to make it tolerably intelligible to me. He insisted upon showing us every thing remarkable in Utrecht, and finally walked us tired.
The same evening the diligence brought us to Arnheim, a neat-looking town with about eighteen hundred inhabitants, in the province of Guelderland, where the region retains not a trace of the peculiarities of Holland. The country west of the town rises into commanding eminences, overlooking the noble Rhine, and I feel already that I am in Germany, though I have yet to cross the frontier.
American Artists Abroad.
Rome, October, 1845.
You would perhaps like to hear what the American artists on the continent are doing. I met with Leutze at Duesseldorf. After a sojourn of some days in Holland, in which I was obliged to talk to the Dutchmen in German and get my answers in Dutch, with but a dim apprehension of each other's meaning, as you may suppose, on both sides; after being smoked through and through like a herring, with the fumes of bad tobacco in the railway wagons, and in the diligence which took us over the long and monotonous road on the plains of the Rhine between Arnheim and Duesseldorf—after dodging as well as we were able, the English travellers, generally the most disagreeable of the travelling tribe, who swarm along the Rhine in the summer season, it was a refreshment to stop a day at Duesseldorf and take breath, and meet an American face or two. We found Leutze engaged upon a picture, the subject of which is John Knox reproving Queen Mary. It promises to be a capital work. The stern gravity of Knox, the embarrassment of the Queen, and the scorn with which the French damsels of her court regard the saucy Reformer, are extremely well expressed, and tell the story impressively.
At Duesseldorf, which is the residence of so many eminent painters, we expected to find some collection, or at least some of the best specimens, of the works of the modern German school. It was not so, however—fine pictures are painted at Duesseldorf, but they are immediately carried elsewhere. We visited the studio of Schroeter—a man with humor in every line of his face, who had nothing to show us but a sketch, just prepared for the easel, of the scene in Goethe's Faust, where Mephistophiles, in Auerbach's cellar, bores the edge of the table with a gimlet, and a stream of champagne gushes out. Koehler, an eminent artist, allowed us to see a clever painting on his easel, in a state of considerable forwardness, representing the rejoicings of the Hebrew maidens at the victory of David over Goliath. At Lessing's—a painter whose name stands in the first rank, and whom we did not find at home—we saw a sketch on which he was engaged, representing the burning of John Huss; yet it was but a sketch, a painting in embryo.
But I am wandering from the American artists. At Cologne, whither we were accompanied by Leutze, he procured us the sight of his picture of Columbus before the Council of Salamanca, one of his best. Leutze ranks high in Germany, as a young man of promise, devoting himself with great energy and earnestness to his art.
At Florence we found Greenough just returned from a year's residence at Graefenberg, whence he had brought back his wife, a patient of Priessnitz and the water cure, in florid health. He is now applying himself to the completion of the group which he has engaged to execute for the capitol at Washington. It represents an American settler, an athletic man, in a hunting shirt and cap, a graceful garb, by the way, rescuing a female and her infant from a savage who has just raised his tomahawk to murder them. Part of the group, the hunter and the Indian, is already in marble, and certainly the effect is wonderfully fine and noble. The hunter has approached his enemy unexpectedly from behind, and grasped both his arms, holding them back, in such a manner that he has no command of their muscles, even for the purpose of freeing himself. Besides the particular incident represented by the group, it may pass for an image of the aboriginal race of America overpowered and rendered helpless by the civilized race. Greenough's statue of Washington is not as popular as it deserves to be; but the work on which he is now engaged I am very sure will meet with a different reception.
In a letter from London, I spoke of the beautiful figure of the Greek slave, by Powers. At Florence I saw in his studio, the original model, from which his workmen were cutting two copies in marble. At the same place I saw his Proserpine, an ideal bust of great sweetness and beauty, the fair chest swelling out from a circle of leaves of the acanthus. About this also the workmen were busy, and I learned that seven copies of it had been recently ordered from the hand of the artist. By its side stood the unfinished statue of Eve, with the fatal apple in her hand, an earlier work, which the world has just begun to admire. I find that connoisseurs are divided in opinion concerning the merit of Powers as a sculptor.
All allow him the highest degree of skill in execution, but some deny that he has shown equal ability in his conceptions. "He is confessedly," said one of them to me, who, however, had not seen his Greek slave, "the greatest sculptor of busts in the world—equal, in fact, to any that the world ever saw; the finest heads of antiquity are not of a higher order than his." He then went on to express his regret that Powers had not confined his labors to a department in which he was so pre-eminent. I have heard that Powers, who possesses great mechanical skill, has devised several methods of his own for giving precision and perfection to the execution of his works. It may be that my unlearned eyes are dazzled by this perfection, but really I can not imagine any thing more beautiful of its kind than his statue of the Greek slave.
Gray is at this moment in Florence, though he is soon coming to Rome. He has made some copies from Titian, one of which I saw. It was a Madonna and child, in which the original painting was rendered with all the fidelity of a mirror. So indisputably was it a Titian, and so free from the stiffness of a copy, that, as I looked at it, I fully sympathized with the satisfaction expressed by the artist at having attained the method of giving with ease the peculiarity of coloring which belongs to Titian's pictures.
An American landscape painter of high merit is G. L. Brown, now residing at Florence. He possesses great knowledge of detail, which he knows how to keep in its place, subduing it, and rendering it subservient to the general effect. I saw in his studio two or three pictures, in which I admired his skill in copying the various forms of foliage and other objects, nor was I less pleased to see that he was not content with this sort of merit, but, in going back from the foreground, had the art of passing into that appearance of an infinity of forms and outlines which the eye meets with in nature. I could not help regretting that one who copied nature so well, should not prefer to represent her as she appears in our own fresh and glorious land, instead of living in Italy and painting Italian landscapes.
To refer again to foreign artists—before I left Florence I visited the annual exhibition which had been opened in the Academy of the Fine Arts. There were one or two landscapes reminding me somewhat of Cole's manner, but greatly inferior, and one or two good portraits, and two or three indifferent historical pictures. The rest appeared to me decidedly bad; wretched landscapes; portraits, some of which were absolutely hideous, stiff, ill-colored, and full of grimace.
Here at Rome, we have an American sculptor of great ability, Henry K. Brown, who is just beginning to be talked about. He is executing a statue of Ruth gleaning in the field of Boaz, of which the model has been ready for some months, and is also modelling a figure of Rebecca at the Well. When I first saw his Ruth I was greatly struck with it, but after visiting the studios of Wyatt and Gibson, and observing their sleek imitations of Grecian art, their learned and faultless statues, nymphs or goddesses or gods of the Greek mythology, it was with infinite pleasure that my eyes rested again on the figure and face of Ruth, perhaps not inferior in perfection of form, but certainly informed with a deep human feeling which I found not in their elaborate works. The artist has chosen the moment in which Ruth is addressed by Boaz as she stands among the gleaners. He quoted to me the lines of Keats, on the song of the nightingale—
"Perchance the self-same song that found a path To the sad heart of Ruth, when sick for home, She stood in tears amid the alien's corn."
She is not in tears, but her aspect is that of one who listens in sadness; her eyes are cast down, and her thoughts are of the home of her youth, in the land of Moab. Over her left arm hangs a handful of ears of wheat, which she has gathered from the ground, and her right rests on the drapery about her bosom. Nothing can be more graceful than her attitude or more expressive of melancholy sweetness and modesty than her physiognomy. One of the copies which the artist was executing—there were two of them—is designed for a gentleman in Albany. Brown will shortly, or I am greatly mistaken, achieve a high reputation among the sculptors of the time.
Rosseter, an American painter, who has passed six years in Italy, is engaged on a large picture, the subject of which is taken from the same portion of Scripture history, and which is intended for the gallery of an American gentleman. It represents Naomi with her two daughters-in-law, when "Orpah kissed her, but Ruth clave unto her." The principal figures are those of the Hebrew matron and Ruth, who have made their simple preparations for their journey to the land of Israel, while Orpah is turning sorrowfully away to join a caravan of her country people. This group is well composed, and there is a fine effect of the rays of the rising sun on the mountains and rocks of Moab.
At the studio of Lang, a Philadelphia artist, I saw two agreeable pictures, one of which represents a young woman whom her attendants and companions are arraying for her bridal. As a companion piece to this, but not yet finished, he had upon the easel a picture of a beautiful girl, decked for espousals of a different kind, about to take the veil, and kneeling in the midst of a crowd of friends and priests, while one of them is cutting off her glossy and flowing hair. Both pictures are designed for a Boston gentleman, but a duplicate of the first has already been painted for the King of Wirtemberg.
Steamer Oregon, Lake Huron, Off Thunder Bay, July 24, 1846.
As I approached the city of Buffalo the other morning, from the east, I found myself obliged to confess that much of the beauty of a country is owing to the season. For twenty or thirty miles before we reached Lake Erie, the fields of this fertile region looked more and more arid and sun-scorched, and I could not but contrast their appearance with that of the neighborhood of New York, where in a district comparatively sterile, an uncommonly showery season has kept the herbage fresh and deep, and made the trees heavy with leaves. Here, on the contrary, I saw meadows tinged by the drought with a reddish hue, pastures grazed to the roots of the grass, and trees spreading what seemed to me a meagre shade. Yet the harvests of wheat, and even of hay, in western New York, are said to be by no means scanty.
Buffalo continues to extend on every side, but the late additions to the city do not much improve its beauty. Its nucleus of well-built streets does not seem to have grown much broader within the last five years, but the suburbs are rapidly spreading—small wooden houses, scattered or in clusters, built hastily for emigrants along unpaved and powdery streets. I saw, however, on a little excursion which I made into the surrounding country, that pleasant little neighborhoods are rising up at no great distance, with their neat houses, their young trees, and their new shrubbery. They have a fine building material at Buffalo—a sort of brown stone, easily wrought—but I was sorry to see that most of the houses built of it, both in the town and country, seemed to have stood for several years.
We visited the new fort which the government is erecting on the lake, a little to the north of the town, commanding the entrance of Niagara river. It is small, but of wonderful apparent strength, with walls of prodigious thickness, and so sturdy in its defences that it seemed to me one might as well think of cannonading the cliffs of Weehawken. It is curious to see how, as we grow more ingenious in the means of attack, we devise more effectual means of defence. A castle of the middle ages, in which a grim warrior of that time would hold his enemies at bay for years, would now be battered down before breakfast. The finest old forts of the last century are now found to be unsafe against attack. That which we have at St. Augustine was an uncommonly good sample of its kind, but when I was in Florida, three or four years since, an engineer of the United States was engaged in reconstructing it. Do mankind gain any thing by these improvements, as they are called, in the art of war? Do not these more dreadful engines of attack on the one side, and these more perfect means of protection on the other, leave the balance just where it was before?
On Tuesday evening, at seven o'clock, we took passage in the steamer Oregon, for Chicago, and soon lost sight of the roofs and spires of Buffalo. A lady of Buffalo on her way to Cleveland placed herself at the piano, and sang several songs with such uncommon sweetness and expression that I saw no occasion to be surprised at what I heard of the concert of Leopold de Meyer, at Buffalo, the night before. The concert room was crowded with people clinging to each other like bees when they swarm, and the whole affair seemed an outbreak of popular enthusiasm. A veteran teacher of music in Buffalo, famous for being hard to be pleased by any public musical entertainment, found himself unable to sit still during the first piece played by De Meyer, but rose, in the fullness of his delight, and continued standing. When the music ceased, he ran to him and shook both of his hands, again and again, with most uncomfortable energy. At the end of the next performance he sprang again on the platform and hugged the artist so rapturously that the room rang with laughter. De Meyer was to give another concert on Tuesday evening at Niagara Falls, and the people of Buffalo were preparing to follow him.
The tastes of our people are certainly much changed within the last twenty years. A friend of ours used to relate, as a good joke, the conversation of two men, who came to the conclusion that Paganini was the greatest man in the world. They were only a little in advance of their age. If such are the honors reaped by De Meyer, we shall not be astonished if Sivori, when he comes over, passes for the greatest man of his time.
The next morning found us with the southern shore of Lake Erie in sight—a long line of woods, with here and there a cluster of habitations on the shore. "That village where you see the light-house," said one of the passengers, who came from the hills of Maine, "is Grand River, and from that place to Cleveland, which is thirty miles distant, you have the most beautiful country under the sun—perfectly beautiful, sir; not a hill the whole way, and the finest farms that were ever seen; you can buy a good farm there for two thousand dollars." In two or three hours afterward we were at Cleveland, and I hastened on shore.
It is situated beyond a steep bank of the lake, nearly as elevated as the shore at Brooklyn, which we call Brooklyn Heights. As I stood on the edge of this bank and looked over the broad lake below me, stretching beyond the sight and quivering in the summer wind, I was reminded of the lines of Southey:
—"Along the bending line of shore Such hue is thrown as when the peacock's neck Assumes its proudest tint of amethyst, Embathed in emerald glory."
But it was not only along the line of the shore that these hues prevailed; the whole lake glowed with soft amethystine and emerald tinges, in irregular masses, like the shades of watered silk. Cleveland stands in that beautiful country without a hill, of which my fellow-passenger spoke—a thriving village yet to grow into a proud city of the lake country. It is built upon broad dusty ways, in which not a pebble is seen in the fat dark earth of the lake shore, and which are shaded with locust-trees, the variety called seed-locust, with crowded twigs and clustered foliage—a tree chosen, doubtless, for its rapid growth, as the best means of getting up a shade at the shortest notice. Here and there were gardens filled with young fruit-trees; among the largest and hardiest in appearance was the peach-tree, which here spreads broad and sturdy branches, escapes the diseases that make it a short-lived tree in the Atlantic states, and produces fruit of great size and richness. One of my fellow-passengers could hardly find adequate expressions to signify his high sense of the deliciousness of the Cleveland peaches.
I made my way to a street of shops: it had a busy appearance, more so than usual, I was told, for a company of circus-riders, whose tents I had seen from a distance on the lake, was in town, and this had attracted a throng of people from the country. I saw a fruit-stall tended by a man who had the coarsest red hair I think I ever saw, and of whom I bought two or three enormous "bough apples," as he called them. He apologized for the price he demanded. "The farmers," said he, "know that just now there is a call for their early fruit, while the circus people are in town, and they make me pay a 'igh price for it." I told him I perceived he was no Yankee. "I am a Londoner," he replied; "and I left London twelve years ago to slave and be a poor man in Ohio." He acknowledged, however, that he had two or three times got together some property, "but the Lord," he said, "laid his hand on it."
On returning to the steamer, I found a party of country people, mostly young persons of both sexes, thin and lank figures, by no means equal, as productions of the country, to their bough apples. They passed through the fine spacious cabin on the upper deck, extending between the state-rooms the whole length of the steamer. At length they came to a large mirror, which stood at the stern, and seemed by its reflection to double the length of the cabin. They walked on, as if they would extend their promenade into the mirror, when suddenly observing the reflection of their own persons advancing, and thinking it another party, they politely made way to let it pass. The party in the mirror at the same moment turned to the same side, which first showed them the mistake they had made. The passengers had some mirth at their expense, but I must do our visitors the justice to say that they joined in the laugh with a very good grace.
The same evening, at twelve o'clock, we were at Detroit. "You must lock your state-rooms in the night," said one of the persons employed about the vessel, "for Detroit is full of thieves." We followed the advice, slept soundly, and saw nothing of the thieves, nor of Detroit either, for the steamboat was again on her passage through Lake St. Clair at three this morning, and when I awoke we were moving over the flats, as they are called, at the upper end of the lake. The steamer was threading her way in a fog between large patches of sedge of a pea-green color. We had waited several hours at Detroit, because this passage is not safe at night, and steamers of a larger size are sometimes grounded here in the day-time.
I had hoped, when I began, to bring down the narrative of my voyage to this moment, but my sheet is full, and I shall give you the remainder in another letter.
A Trip from Detroit to Mackinaw.
Steamer Oregon, Lake Michigan, July 25, 1846.
Soon after passing the flats described in my last letter, and entering the river St. Clair, the steamer stopped to take in wood on the Canadian side. Here I went on shore. All that we could see of the country was a road along the bank, a row of cottages at a considerable distance from each other along the road, a narrow belt of cleared fields behind them, and beyond the fields the original forest standing like a long lofty wall, with its crowded stems of enormous size and immense height, rooted in the strong soil—ashes and maples and elms, the largest of their species. Scattered in the foreground were numbers of leafless elms, so huge that the settlers, as if in despair of bringing them to the ground by the ax, had girdled them and left them to decay and fall at their leisure.
We went up to one of the houses, before which stood several of the family attracted to the door by the sight of our steamer. Among them was an intelligent-looking man, originally from the state of New York, who gave quick and shrewd answers to our inquiries. He told us of an Indian settlement about twenty miles further up the St. Clair. Here dwell a remnant of the Chippewa tribe, collected by the Canadian government, which has built for them comfortable log-houses with chimneys, furnished them with horses and neat cattle, and utensils of agriculture, erected a house of worship, and given them a missionary. "The design of planting them here," saidth esettler, "was to encourage them to cultivate the soil."
"And what has been the success of the plan?" I asked.
"It has met with no success at all," he answered. "The worst thing that the government could do for these people is to give them every thing as it has done, and leave them under no necessity to provide for themselves. They chop over a little land, an acre or two to a family; their squaws plant a little corn and a few beans, and this is the extent of their agriculture. They pass their time in hunting and fishing, or in idleness. They find deer and bears in the woods behind them, and fish in the St. Clair before their doors, and they squander their yearly pensions. In one respect they are just like white men, they will not work if they can live without."
"What fish do they find in the St. Clair?"
"Various sorts. Trout and white-fish are the finest, but they are not so abundant at this season. Sturgeon and pike are just now in season, and the pike are excellent."
One of us happening to observe that the river might easily be crossed by swimming, the settler answered:
"Not so easily as you might think. The river is as cold as a well, and the swimmer would soon be chilled through, and perhaps taken with the cramp. It is this coldness of the water which makes the fish so fine at this season."
This mention of sturgeons tempts me to relate an anecdote which I heard as I was coming up the Hudson. A gentleman who lived east of the river, a little back of Tivoli, caught last spring one of these fish, which weighed about a hundred and sixty pounds. He carried it to a large pond near his house, the longest diameter of which is about a mile, and without taking it out of the net in which he had caught it, he knotted part of the meshes closely around it, and attaching them to a pair of lines like reins, put the creature into the water. To the end of the lines he had taken care to attach a buoy, to mark the place of the fish in the pond. He keeps a small boat, and when he has a mind to make a water-excursion, he rows to the place where the buoy is floating, ties the lines to the boat and, pulling them so as to disturb the fish, is drawn backward and forward with great rapidity over the surface. The pond, in its deepest part, has only seven feet water, so that there is no danger of being dragged under.
We now proceeded up the river, and in about two hours came to a neat little village on the British side, with a windmill, a little church, and two or three little cottages, prettily screened by young trees. Immediately beyond this was the beginning of the Chippewa settlement of which we had been told. Log-houses, at the distance of nearly a quarter of a mile from each other, stood in a long row beside the river, with scattered trees about them, the largest of the forest, some girdled and leafless, some untouched and green, the smallest trees between having been cut away. Here and there an Indian woman, in a blue dress and bare-headed, was walking along the road; cows and horses were grazing near the houses; patches of maize were seen, tended in a slovenly manner and by no means clear of bushes, but nobody was at work in the fields. Two females came down to the bank, with paddles, and put off into the river in a birch-bark canoe, the ends of which were carved in the peculiar Indian fashion. A little beyond stood a group of boys and girls on the water's edge, the boys in shirts and leggins, silently watching the steamer as it shot by them. Still further on a group of children of both sexes, seven in number, came running with shrill cries down the bank. It was then about twelve o'clock, and the weather was extremely sultry. The boys in an instant threw off their shirts and leggins, and plunged into the water with shouts, but the girls were in before them, for they wore only a kind of petticoat which they did not take off, but cast themselves into the river at once and slid through the clear water like seals.
This little Indian colony on the edge of the forest extends for several miles along the river, where its banks are highest and best adapted to the purpose of settlement. It ends at last just below the village which bears the name of Fort Saranae, in the neighborhood of which I was shown an odd-looking wooden building, and was told that this was the house of worship provided for the Indians by the government.
At Fort Huron, a village on the American side, opposite to Fort Saranae, we stopped to land passengers. Three Indians made their appearance on the shore, one of whom, a very large man, wore a kind of turban, and a white blanket made into a sort of frock, with bars of black in several places, altogether a striking costume. One of this party, a well-dressed young man, stopped to speak with somebody in the crowd on the wharf, but the giant in the turban, with his companion, strode rapidly by, apparently not deigning to look at us, and disappeared in the village. He was scarcely out of sight when I perceived a boat approaching the shore with a curiously mottled sail. As it came nearer I saw that it was a quilt of patchwork taken from a bed. In the bottom of the boat lay a barrel, apparently of flour, a stout young fellow pulled a pair of oars, and a slender-waisted damsel, neatly dressed, sat in the stern, plying a paddle with a dexterity which she might have learned from the Chippewa ladies, and guiding the course of the boat which passed with great speed over the water.
We were soon upon the broad waters of Lake Huron, and when the evening closed upon us we were already out of sight of land. The next morning I was awakened by the sound of rain on the hurricane deck. A cool east wind was blowing. I opened the outer door of my state-room, and snuffed the air which was strongly impregnated with the odor of burnt leaves or grass, proceeding, doubtless, from the burning of woods or prairies somewhere on the shores of the lake. For mile after mile, for hour after hour, as we flew through the mist, the same odor was perceptible: the atmosphere of the lake was full of it.
"Will it rain all day?" I asked of a fellow-passenger, a Salem man, in a white cravat.
"The clouds are thin," he answered; "the sun will soon burn them off."
In fact, the sun soon melted away the clouds, and before ten o'clock I was shown, to the north of us, the dim shore of the Great Manitoulin Island, with the faintly descried opening called the West Strait, through which a throng of speculators in copper mines are this summer constantly passing to the Sault de Ste. Marie. On the other side was the sandy isle of Bois Blanc, the name of which is commonly corrupted into Bob Low Island, thickly covered with pines, and showing a tall light-house on the point nearest us. Beyond another point lay like a cloud the island of Mackinaw. I had seen it once before, but now the hazy atmosphere magnified it into a lofty mountain; its limestone cliffs impending over the water seemed larger; the white fort—white as snow—built from the quarries of the island, looked more commanding, and the rocky crest above it seemed almost to rise to the clouds. There was a good deal of illusion in all this, as we were convinced as we came nearer, but Mackinaw with its rocks rising from the most transparent waters that the earth pours out from her springs, is a stately object in any condition of the atmosphere. The captain of our steamer allowed us but a moment at Mackinaw; a moment to gaze into the clear waters, and count the fish as they played about without fear twenty or thirty feet below our steamer, as plainly seen as if they lay in the air; a moment to look at the fort on the heights, dazzling the eyes with its new whiteness; a moment to observe the habitations of this ancient village, some of which show you roofs and walls of red-cedar bark confined by horizontal strips of wood, a kind of architecture between the wigwam and the settler's cabin. A few baskets of fish were lifted on board, in which I saw trout of enormous size, trout a yard in length, and white-fish smaller, but held perhaps in higher esteem, and we turned our course to the straits which lead into Lake Michigan.
I remember hearing a lady say that she was tired of improvements, and only wanted to find a place that was finished, where she might live in peace. I think I shall recommend Mackinaw to her. I saw no change in the place since my visit to it five years ago. It is so lucky as to have no back-country, it offers no advantages to speculation of any sort; it produces, it is true, the finest potatoes in the world, but none for exportation. It may, however, on account of its very cool summer climate, become a fashionable watering-place, in which case it must yield to the common fate of American villages and improve, as the phrase is.
Journey from Detroit to Princeton.
Princeton, Illinois, July 31, 1846.
Soon after leaving the island of Mackinaw we entered the straits and passed into Lake Michigan. The odor of burnt leaves continued to accompany us, and from the western shore of the lake, thickly covered with wood, we saw large columns of smoke, several miles apart, rising into the hazy sky. The steamer turned towards the eastern shore, and about an hour before sunset stopped to take in wood at the upper Maneto island, where we landed and strolled into the forest. Part of the island is high, but this, where we went on shore, consists of hillocks and hollows of sand, like the waves of the lake in one of its storms, and looking as if successive storms had swept them up from the bottom. They were covered with an enormous growth of trees which must have stood for centuries. We admired the astonishing transparency of the water on this shore, the clean sands without any intermixture of mud, the pebbles of almost chalky whiteness, and the stones in the edge of the lake, to which adhered no slime, nor green moss, nor aquatic weed. In the light-green depths, far down, but distinctly seen, shoals of fish, some of them of large size, came quietly playing about the huge hull of our steamer.
On the shore were two log-houses inhabited by woodmen, one of whom drew a pail of water for the refreshment of some of the passengers, from a well dug in the sand by his door. "It is not so good as the lake water," said I, for I saw it was not so clear. "It is colder, though," answered the man; "but I must say that there is no purer or sweeter water in the world than that of our lake."
Next morning we were coasting the western shore of Lake Michigan, a high bank presenting a long line of forest. This was broken by the little town of Sheboygan, with its light-house among the shrubs of the bank, its cluster of houses just built, among which were two hotels, and its single schooner lying at the mouth of a river. You probably never heard of Sheboygan before; it has just sprung up in the forests of Wisconsin; the leaves have hardly withered on the trees that were felled to make room for its houses; but it will make a noise in the world yet. "It is the prettiest place on the lake," said a passenger, whom we left there, with three chubby and healthy children, a lady who had already lived long enough at Sheboygan to be proud of it.
Further on we came to Milwaukie, which is rapidly becoming one of the great cities of the West. It lies within a semicircle of green pastoral declivities sprinkled with scattered trees, where the future streets are to be built. We landed at a kind of wharf, formed by a long platform of planks laid on piles, under which the water flows, and extending to some distance into the lake, and along which a car, running on a railway, took the passengers and their baggage, and a part of the freight of the steamer to the shore.
"Will you go up to town, sir?" was the question with which I was saluted by the drivers of a throng of vehicles of all sorts, as soon as I reached the land. They were ranged along a firm sandy beach between the lake and the river of Milwaukie. On one side the light-green waters of the lake, of crystalline clearness, came rolling in before the wind, and on the other the dark thick waters of the river lay still and stagnant in the sun. We did not go up to the town, but we could see that it was compactly built, and in one quarter nobly. A year or two since that quarter had been destroyed by fire, and on the spot several large and lofty warehouses had been erected, with an hotel of the largest class. They were of a fine light-brown color, and when I learned that they were of brick, I inquired of a by-stander if that was the natural color of the material. "They are Milwaukie brick," he answered, "and neither painted nor stained; and are better brick besides than are made at the eastward." Milwaukie is said to contain, at present, about ten thousand inhabitants. Here the belt of forest that borders the lake stretches back for several miles to the prairies of Wisconsin. "The Germans," said a passenger, "are already in the woods hacking at the trees, and will soon open the country to the prairies."
We made a short stop at Racine, prettily situated on the bank among the scattered trees of an oak opening, and another at Southport, a rival town eleven miles further south. It is surprising how many persons travel, as way-passengers, from place to place on the shores of these lakes. Five years ago the number was very few, now they comprise, at least, half the number on board a steamboat plying between Buffalo and Chicago. When all who travel from Chicago to Buffalo shall cross the peninsula of Michigan by the more expeditious route of the railway, the Chicago and Buffalo line of steamers, which its owners claim to be the finest line in the world, will still be crowded with people taken up or to be set down at some of the intermediate towns.
When we awoke the next morning our steamer was at Chicago. Any one who had seen this place, as I had done five years ago, when it contained less than five thousand people, would find some difficulty in recognizing it now when its population is more than fifteen thousand. It has its long rows of warehouses and shops, its bustling streets; its huge steamers, and crowds of lake-craft, lying at the wharves; its villas embowered with trees; and its suburbs, consisting of the cottages of German and Irish laborers, stretching northward along the lake, and westward into the prairies, and widening every day. The slovenly and raw appearance of a new settlement begins in many parts to disappear. The Germans have already a garden in a little grove for their holidays, as in their towns in the old country, and the Roman Catholics have just finished a college for the education of those who are to proselyte the West.
The day was extremely hot, and at sunset we took a little drive along the belt of firm sand which forms the border of the lake. Light-green waves came to the shore in long lines, with a crest of foam, like a miniature surf, rolling in from that inland ocean, and as they dashed against the legs of the horses, and the wheels of our carriage, the air that played over them was exceedingly refreshing.
When we set out the following day in the stage-coach for Peru, I was surprised to see how the settlement of Chicago had extended westward into the open country. "Three years ago," said a traveller in the coach, "it was thought that this prairie could neither be inhabited nor cultivated. It is so level and so little elevated, that for weeks its surface would remain covered with water; but we have found that as it is intersected with roads, the water either runs off in the ditches of the highways, or is absorbed into the sand which lies below this surface of dark vegetable mould, and it is now, as you perceive, beginning to be covered with habitations."
If you ever go by the stage-coach from Chicago to Peru, on the Illinois river, do not believe the glozing tongue of the agent who tells you that you will make the journey in sixteen hours. Double the number, and you will be nearer the truth. A violent rain fell in the course of the morning; the coach was heavily loaded, nine passengers within, and three without, besides the driver; the day was hot, and the horses dragged us slowly through the black mud, which seemed to possess the consistency and tenacity of sticking-plaster. We had a dinner of grouse, which here in certain seasons, are sold for three cents apiece, at a little tavern on the road; we had passed the long green mound which bears the name of Mount Joliet, and now, a little before sunset, having travelled somewhat less than fifty miles, we were about to cross the channel of the Illinois canal for the second or third time.
There had once been a bridge at the crossing-place, but the water had risen in the canal, and the timbers and planks had floated away, leaving only the stones which formed its foundation. In attempting to ford the channel the blundering driver came too near the bridge; the coach-wheels on one side rose upon the stones, and on the other sank deep into the mud, and we were overturned in an instant. The outside passengers were pitched head-fore-most into the canal, and four of those within were lying under water. We extricated ourselves as well as we could, the men waded out, the women were carried, and when we got on shore it was found that, although drenched with water and plastered with mud, nobody was either drowned or hurt.
A farm wagon passing at the moment, forded the canal without the least difficulty, and taking the female passengers, conveyed them to the next farm-house, about a mile distant. We got out the baggage, which was completely soaked with water, set up the carriage on its wheels, in doing which we had to stand waist high in the mud and water, and reached the hospitable farm-house about half-past nine o'clock. Its owner was an emigrant from Kinderhook, on the Hudson, who claimed to be a Dutchman and a Christian, and I have no reason to doubt that he was either. His kind family made us free of their house, and we passed the night in drying ourselves, and getting our baggage ready to proceed the next day.
We travelled in a vehicle built after the fashion of the English post-coach, set high upon springs, which is the most absurd kind of carriage for the roads of this country that could be devised. Those stage-wagons which ply on Long Island, in one of which you sometimes see about a score of Quakers and Quakeresses, present a much better model. Besides being tumbled into the canal, we narrowly escaped being overturned in a dozen other places, where the mud was deep or the roads uneven.
In my journey the next day, I was struck with the difference which five years had made in the aspect of the country. Frame or brick houses in many places had taken the places of log-cabins; the road for long distances now passed between fences, the broad prairie, inclosed, was turned into immense fields of maize, oats, and wheat, and was spotted here and there with young orchards, or little groves, and clumps of bright-green locust-trees, and where the prairie remained open, it was now depastured by large herds of cattle, its herbage shortened, and its flowers less numerous. The wheat harvest this year is said to have failed in northern Illinois. The rust has attacked the fields which promised the fairest, and they are left unreaped, to feed the quails and the prairie-hens.
Another tedious day's journey, over a specially bad road, brought us to Peru a little before midnight, and we passed the rest of the night at an inn just below the bank, on the margin of the river, in listening to the mosquitoes. A Massachusetts acquaintance the next morning furnished us with a comfortable conveyance to this pleasant neighborhood.
Return to Chicago.
Chicago, August 8, 1846.
You may be certain that in returning to this place from Princeton I did not take the stage coach. I had no fancy for another plunge into the Illinois canal, nor for being overturned upon the prairies in one of those vehicles which seem to be set high in the air in order they may more easily lose their balance. We procured a private conveyance and made the journey in three days—three days of extreme heat, which compelled us to travel slowly. The quails, which had repaired for shade to the fences by the side of the road, ran from them into the open fields, as we passed, with their beaks open, as if panting with the excessive heat.
The number of these birds at the present time is very great. They swarm in the stubble fields and in the prairies, and manifest little alarm at the approach of man. Still more numerous, it appears to me, are the grouse, or prairie-hens, as they call them here, which we frequently saw walking leisurely, at our approach, into the grass from the road, whither they resorted for the sake of scattered grains of oats or wheat that had fallen from the loaded wagons going to Chicago. At this season they are full fed and fearless, and fly heavily when they are started. We frequently saw them feeding at a very short distance from people at work in the fields. In some neighborhoods they seem almost as numerous as fowls in a poultry-yard. A settler goes out with his gun, and in a quarter of an hour brings in half a dozen birds which in the New York market would cost two dollars a pair. At one place where we stopped to dine, they gave us a kind of pie which seemed to me an appropriate dessert for a dinner of prairie-hens. It was made of the fruit of the western crab-apple, and was not unpalatable. The wild apple of this country is a small tree growing in thickets, natural orchards. In spring it is profusely covered with light-pink blossoms, which have the odor of violets, and at this season it is thickly hung with fruit of the color of its leaves.
Another wild fruit of the country is the plum, which grows in thickets, plum-patches, as they are called, where they are produced in great abundance, and sometimes, I am told, of excellent quality. In a drive which I took the other day from Princeton to the alluvial lands of the Bureau River, I passed by a declivity where the shrubs were red with the fruit, just beginning to ripen. The slope was sprinkled by them with crimson spots, and the odor of the fruit was quite agreeable. I have eaten worse plums than these from our markets, but I hear that there is a later variety, larger and of a yellow color, which is finer.
I spoke in my last of the change caused in the aspect of the country by cultivation. Now and then, however, you meet with views which seem to have lost nothing of their original beauty. One such we stopped to look at from an eminence in a broad prairie in Lee county, between Knox Grove and Pawpaw Grove. The road passes directly over the eminence, which is round and regular in form, with a small level on the summit, and bears the name of the Mound. On each side the view extends to a prodigious distance; the prairies sink into basins of immense breadth and rise into swells of vast extent; dark groves stand in the light-green waste of grass, and a dim blue border, apparently of distant woods, encircles the horizon. To give a pastoral air to the scene, large herds of cattle were grazing at no great distance from us.
I mentioned in my last letter that the wheat crop of northern Illinois has partially failed this year. But this is not the greatest calamity which has befallen this part of the country. The season is uncommonly sickly. We passed the first night of our journey at Pawpaw Grove—so named from the number of pawpaw-trees which grow in it, but which here scarcely find the summer long enough to perfect their fruit. The place has not had the reputation of being unhealthy, but now there was scarce a family in the neighborhood in which one or more was not ill with an intermittent or a bilious fever. At the inn where we stopped, the landlady, a stout Pennsylvania woman, was just so far recovered as to be able, as she informed us, "to poke about;" and her daughter, a strapping lass, went out to pass the night at the bedside of one of the numerous sick neighbors. The sickness was ascribed by the settlers to the extremely dry and hot weather following a rainy June. At almost every place where we stopped we heard similar accounts. Pale and hollow-eyed people were lounging about. "Is the place unhealthy," I asked one of them. "I reckon so," he answered; and his looks showed that he had sufficient reason. At Aurora, where we passed the second night, a busy little village, with mills and manufactories, on the Fox River, which here rushes swiftly over a stony bed, they confessed to the fever and ague. At Naperville, pleasantly situated among numerous groves and little prairies swelling into hills, we heard that the season was the most sickly the inhabitants had known. Here, at Chicago, which boasts, and with good reason, I believe, of its healthy site, dysenteries and bilious attacks are just now very common, with occasional cases of fever.
It is a common remark in this country, that the first cultivation of the earth renders any neighborhood more or less unhealthy. "Nature," said a western man to me, some years since, "resents the violence done her, and punishes those who first break the surface of the earth with the plough." The beautiful Rock River district, with its rapid stream, its noble groves, its banks disposed in natural terraces, with fresh springs gushing at their foot, and airy prairies stretching away from their summits, was esteemed one of the most healthy countries in the world as long as it had but few inhabitants. With the breaking up of the soil came in bilious fever and intermittents. A few years of cultivation will render the country more healthy, and these diseases will probably disappear, as they have done in some parts of western New York. I can remember the time when the "Genesee Country," as it was called, was thought quite a sickly region—a land just in the skirts of the shadow of death. It is now as healthy, I believe, as any part of the state.
Voyage to Sault Ste. Marie.
Sault Ste. Marie, August 13, 1846.
When we left Chicago in the steamer, the other morning, all the vessels in the port had their flags displayed at half-mast in token of dissatisfaction with the fate of the harbor bill. You may not recollect that the bill set apart half a million of dollars for the construction or improvement of various harbors of the lakes, and authorized the deepening of the passages through the St. Clair Flats, now intricate and not quite safe, by which these bulky steamers make their way from the lower lakes to the upper. The people of the lake region had watched the progress of the bill through Congress with much interest and anxiety, and congratulated each other when at length it received a majority of votes in both houses. The President's veto has turned these congratulations into expressions of disappointment which are heard on all sides, sometimes expressed with a good deal of energy. But, although the news of the veto reached Chicago two or three days before we left the place, nobody had seen the message in which it was contained. Perhaps the force of the President's reasonings will reconcile the minds of people here to the disappointment of their hopes.
It was a hot August morning as the steamer Wisconsin, an unwieldy bulk, dipping and bobbing upon the small waves, and trembling at every stroke of the engine, swept out into the lake. The southwest wind during the warmer portion of the summer months is a sort of Sirocco in Illinois. It blows with considerable strength, but passing over an immense extent of heated plains it brings no coolness. It was such an air that accompanied us on our way north from Chicago; and as the passengers huddled into the shady places outside of the state-rooms on the upper deck, I thought of the flocks of quails I had seen gasping in the shadow of the rail-fences on the prairies.
People here expose themselves to a draught of air with much less scruple than they do in the Atlantic states. "We do not take cold by it," they said to me, when I saw them sitting in a current of wind, after perspiring freely. If they do not take cold, it is odds but they take something else, a fever perhaps, or what is called a bilious attack. The vicissitudes of climate at Chicago and its neighborhood are more sudden and extreme than with us, but the inhabitants say that they are not often the cause of catarrhs, as in the Atlantic states. Whatever may be the cause, I have met with no person since I came to the West, who appeared to have a catarrh. From this region perhaps will hereafter proceed singers with the clearest pipes.
Some forty miles beyond Chicago we stopped for half an hour at Little Fort, one of those flourishing little towns which are springing up on the lake shore, to besiege future Congresses for money to build their harbors. This settlement has started up in the woods within the last three or four years, and its cluster of roofs, two of the broadest of which cover respectable-looking hotels, already makes a considerable figure when viewed from the lake. We passed to the shore over a long platform of planks framed upon two rows of posts or piles planted in the sandy shallows. "We make a port in this manner on any part of the western shore of the lake," said a passenger, "and convenient ports they are, except in very high winds. On the eastern shore, the coast of Michigan, they have not this advantage; the ice and the northwest winds would rend such a wharf as this in pieces. On this side too, the water of the lake, except when an east wind blows, is smoother than on the Michigan coast, and the steamers therefore keep under the shelter of this bank."
At Southport, still further north, in the new state of Wisconsin, we procured a kind of omnibus and were driven over the town, which, for a new settlement, is uncommonly pretty. We crossed a narrow inlet of the lake, a creek in the proper sense of the term, a winding channel, with water in the midst, and a rough growth of water-flags and sedges on the sides. Among them grew the wild rice, its bending spikes, heavy with grain, almost ready for the harvest.