The old Doctor was overjoyed to see us again. "Ah!" said he, "it is a good fortune that you have got back alive. When the weather was so cold, I thought of you, travelling over the Norwegian fjeller, and thought you must certainly be frozen to death." His wife was no less cordial in her welcome. They brought us ale and Swedish punch, with reindeer cheese for our frozen noses, and insisted on having their horse put into the sled to take us over to Tornea and bring us back to dinner. The doctor's boy drove us, facing the wind with our faces exposed, at -42 deg., but one night's rest and good food enabled us to bear it without inconvenience. Tornea is a plain Swedish town, more compactly built than Haparanda, yet scarcely larger. The old church is rather picturesque, and there were some tolerable houses, which appeared to be government buildings, but the only things particularly Russian which we noticed were a Cossack sentry, whose purple face showed that he was nearly frozen, and a guide-post with "150 versts to Uleaborg" upon it. On returning to the Doctor's we found a meal ready, with a capital salad of frozen salmon, bouillon, ale, and coffee. The family were reading the Swedish translation of "Dred" in the Aftonblad, and were interested in hearing some account of Mrs. Beecher Stowe. We had a most agreeable and interesting visit to these kind, simple-hearted people.
I made a sunset sketch of Tornea. I proposed also to draw Fredrika, but she at once refused, in great alarm. "Not for anything in the world," said she, "would I have it done!" What superstitious fears possessed her I could not discover. We made arrangements to start for Kalix the next day, on our way to Stockholm. The extreme temperature still continued. The air was hazy with the frozen moisture—the smoke froze in solid masses—the snow was brittle and hard as metal—iron stuck like glue—in short, none of the signs of an Arctic winter were wanting. Nevertheless, we trusted to the day's rest and fatter fare on the road for strength to continue the battle.
INCIDENTS OF THE RETURN JOURNEY.
We left Haparanda on the 30th of January. After six days of true Arctic weather—severer than any registered by De Haven's expedition, during a winter in the polar ice—the temperature rose suddenly to 26 deg. below zero. We were happy and jolly at getting fairly started for Stockholm at last, and having such mild (!) weather to travel in. The difference in our sensations was remarkable. We could boldly bare our faces and look about us; our feet kept warm and glowing, and we felt no more the hazardous chill and torpor of the preceding days. On the second stage the winter road crossed an arm of the Bothnian Gulf. The path was well marked out with fir-trees—a pretty avenue, four or five miles in length, over the broad, white plain. On the way we saw an eruption of the ice, which had been violently thrown up by the confined air. Masses three feet thick and solid as granite were burst asunder and piled atop of each other.
We travelled too fast this day for the proper enjoyment of the wonderful scenery on the road. I thought I had exhausted my admiration of these winter forests—but no, miracles will never cease. Such fountains, candelabra, Gothic pinnacles, tufts of plumes, colossal sprays of coral, and the embodiments of the fairy pencillings of frost on window panes, wrought in crystal and silver, are beyond the power of pen or pencil. It was a wilderness of beauty; we knew not where to look, nor which forms to choose, in the dazzling confusion. Silent and all unmoved by the wind they stood, sharp and brittle as of virgin ore—not trees of earth, but the glorified forests of All-Father Odin's paradise, the celestial city of Asgaard. No living forms of vegetation are so lovely. Tropical palms, the tree-ferns of Penang, the lotus of Indian rivers, the feathery bamboo, the arrowy areca—what are they beside these marvellous growths of winter, these shining sprays of pearl, ivory and opal, gleaming in the soft orange light of the Arctic sun?
At Sangis we met a handsome young fellow with a moustache, who proved to be the Lansman of Kalix. I was surprised to find that he knew all about us. He wondered at our coming here north, when we might stay at home thought once would be enough for us, and had himself been no further than Stockholm. I recognised our approach to Nasby by the barrels set in the snow—an ingenious plan of marking the road in places where the snow drifts, as the wind creates a whirl or eddy around them. We were glad to see Nasby and its two-story inn once more. The pleasant little handmaiden smiled all over her face when she saw us again. Nasby is a crack place: the horses were ready at once, and fine creatures they were, taking us up the Kalix to Mansbyn, eight miles in one hour. The road was hard as a rock and smooth as a table, from much ploughing and rolling.
The next day was dark and lowering, threatening snow, with a raw wind from the north-west, and an average temperature of 15 deg. below zero. We turned the north-western corner of the Bothnian Gulf in the afternoon, and pushed on to Old Lulea by supper-time. At Perso, on the journey north, I had forgotten my cigar-case, an old, familiar friend of some years' standing, and was overjoyed to find that the servant-girl had carefully preserved it, thinking I might return some day. We drove through the streets of empty stables and past the massive church of Old Lulea, to the inn, where we had before met the surly landlord. There he was again, and the house was full, as the first time. However we obtained the promise of a bed in the large room, and meanwhile walked up and down to keep ourselves warm. The guests' rooms were filled with gentlemen of the neighborhood, smoking and carousing. After an hour had passed, a tall, handsome, strong fellow came out of the rooms, and informed us that as we were strangers he would give up the room to us and seek lodgings elsewhere. He had drunk just enough to be mellow and happy, and insisted on delaying his own supper to let us eat first. Who should come along at this juncture but the young fellow we had seen in company with Brother Horton at Mansbyn, who hailed us with: "Thank you for the last time!" With him was a very gentlemanly man who spoke English. They were both accompanied by ladies, and were returning from the ball of Pitea. The guests all treated us with great courtesy and respect, and the landlord retired and showed his surly face no more. Our first friend informed me that he had been born and brought up in the neighborhood, but could not recollect such a severe winter.
As we descended upon the Lulea River in the morning we met ten sleighs coming from the ball. The horses were all in requisition at the various stations, but an extra supply had been provided, and we were not detained anywhere. The Norrland sleds are so long that a man may place his baggage in the front part and lie down at full length behind it. A high back shields the traveller from the wind, and upon a step in the rear stands the driver, with a pair of reins as long as a main-top-bowline, in order to reach the horse, who is at the opposite end of a very long pair of shafts. In these sleds one may travel with much comfort, and less danger of overturning, though not so great speed as in the short, light, open frames we bought in Sundsvall. The latter are seldom seen so far north, and were a frequent object of curiosity to the peasants at the stations. There is also a sled with a body something like a Hansom cab, entirely closed, with a window in front, but they are heavy, easily overturned, and only fit for luxurious travellers.
We approached Pitea at sunset. The view over the broad embouchure of the river, studded with islands, was quite picturesque, and the town itself, scattered along the shore and over the slopes of the hills made a fair appearance. It reminded me somewhat of a small New-England country town, with its square frame houses and an occasional garden. Here I was rejoiced by the sight of a cherry-tree, the most northern fruit-tree which I saw. On our way up, we thought Pitea, at night and in a snow-storm, next door to the North Pole. Now, coming from the north, seeing its snowy hills and house-roofs rosy with the glow of sunset, it was warm and southern by contrast. The four principal towns of West and North Bothnia are thus characterised in an old verse of Swedish doggerel: Umea, the fine; Pitea, the needle-making; Lulea, the lazy; and in Tornea, everybody gets drunk.
We took some refreshment, pushed on and reached Abyn between nine and ten o'clock, having travelled seventy miles since morning. The sleighing was superb. How I longed for a dashing American cutter, with a span of fast horses, a dozen strings of bells and an ebony driver! Such a turnout would rather astonish the northern solitudes, and the slow, quaint northern population. The next day we had a temperature of 2 deg. above zero, with snow falling, but succeeded in reaching Skelleftea for breakfast. For the last two or three miles we travelled along a hill-side overlooking a broad, beautiful valley, cleared and divided into cultivated fields, and thickly sprinkled with villages and farm-houses. Skelleftea itself made an imposing appearance, as the lofty dome of its Grecian church came in sight around the shoulder of the hill. We took the wrong road, and in turning about split one of our shafts, but Braisted served it with some spare rope, using the hatchet-handle as a marlingspike, so that it held stoutly all the rest of the way to Stockholm.
We went on to Burea that night, and the next day to Djekneboda, sixty miles farther. The temperature fluctuated about the region of zero, with a heavy sky and light snow-falls. As we proceeded southward the forests became larger, and the trees began to show a dark green foliage where the wind had blown away the snow, which was refreshing to see, after the black or dark indigo hue they wear farther north. On the 4th of February, at noon, we passed through Umea, and congratulated ourselves on getting below the southern limit of the Lapland climate. There is nothing to say about these towns; they are mere villages with less than a thousand inhabitants each, and no peculiar interest, either local or historical, attaching to any of them. We have slept in Lulea, and Pitea, and dined in Umea,—and further my journal saith not.
The 5th, however, was a day to be noticed. We started from Angersjo, with a violent snow storm blowing in our teeth—thermometer at zero. Our road entered the hilly country of Norrland, where we found green forests, beautiful little dells, pleasant valleys, and ash and beech intermingled with the monotonous but graceful purple birch. We were overwhelmed with gusts of fine snow shaken from the trees as we passed. Blinding white clouds swept the road, and once again we heard the howl of the wind among boughs that were free to toss. At Afwa, which we reached at one o'clock, we found a pale, weak, sickly young Swede, with faded moustaches, who had decided to remain there until next day. This circumstance induced us to go on, but after we had waited half an hour and were preparing to start, the weather being now ten times worse than before, he announced his resolution to start also. He had drunk four large glasses of milk and two cups of coffee during the half hour.
We went ahead, breaking through drifts of loose snow which overtopped our sleds, and lashed by the furious wind, which drove full in our faces. There were two or three plows at work but we had no benefit from them, so long as we were not directly in their wake. Up and down went our way, over dark hills and through valleys wild with the storm, and ending in chaos as they opened toward the Bothnian Gulf. Hour after hour passed by, the storm still increased, and the snow beat in our eyes so that we were completely blinded. It was impossible to keep them open, and yet the moment we shut them the lashes began to freeze together. I had a heavy weight of ice on my lids, and long icicles depending from every corner of my beard. Yet our frozen noses appeared to be much improved by the exposure, and began to give promise of healing without leaving a red blotch as a lasting record of what they had endured. We finally gave up all attempts to see or to guide the horse, but plunged along at random through the chaos, until the postillion piloted our baggage-sled into the inn-yard of Onska, and our horse followed it. The Swede was close upon our heels, but I engaged a separate room, so that we were freed from the depressing influence of his company. He may have been the best fellow in the world, so far as his heart was concerned, but was too weak in the knees to be an agreeable associate. There was no more stiffness of fibre in him than in a wet towel, and I would as soon wear a damp shirt as live in the same room with such a man. After all, it is not strange that one prefers nerve and energy, even when they are dashed with a flavour of vice, to the negative virtues of a character too weak and insipid to be tempted.
Our inn, in this little Norrland village, was about as comfortable and as elegant as three-fourths of the hotels in Stockholm. The rooms were well furnished; none of the usual appliances were wanting; the attendance was all that could be desired; the fare good and abundant, and the charges less than half of what would be demanded in the capital. Yet Stockholm, small as it is, claims to be for Sweden what Paris is to France, and its inhabitants look with an eye of compassion on those of the provinces. Norrland, in spite of its long winter, has a bracing, healthy climate, and had it not been for letters from home, facilities for studying Swedish, occasional recreation and the other attractions of a capital, I should have preferred waiting in some of those wild valleys for the spring to open. The people, notwithstanding their seclusion from the world, have a brighter and more intelligent look than the peasants of Uppland, and were there a liberal system of common school education in Sweden, the raw material here might be worked up into products alike honourable and useful to the country.
The Norrlanders seem to me to possess an indolent, almost phlegmatic temperament, and yet there are few who do not show a latent capacity for exertion. The latter trait, perhaps, is the true core and substance of their nature; the former is an overgrowth resulting from habits and circumstances. Like the peasants, or rather small farmers, further north, they are exposed to the risk of seeing their summer's labours rendered fruitless by a single night of frost. Such a catastrophe, which no amount of industry and foresight can prevent, recurring frequently (perhaps once in three years on an average), makes them indifferent, if not reckless; while that patience and cheerfulness which is an integral part of the Scandinavian as of the Saxon character, renders them contented and unrepining under such repeated disappointments. There is the stuff here for a noble people, although nature and a long course of neglect and misrule have done their best to destroy it.
The Norrlanders live simply, perhaps frugally, but there seems to be little real destitution among them. We saw sometimes in front of a church, a representation of a beggar with his hat in his hand, under which was an iron box, with an appeal to travellers to drop something in for the poor of the parish; but of actual beggars we found none. The houses, although small, are warm and substantial, mostly with double windows, and a little vestibule in front of the door, to create an intermediate temperature between the outer and inner air. The beds, even in many of the inns, are in the family room, but during the day are either converted into sofas or narrow frames which occupy but little space. At night, the bedstead is drawn out to the required breadth, single or double, as may be desired. The family room is always covered with a strong home-made rag carpet, the walls generally hung with colored prints and lithographs, illustrating religion or royalty, and as many greenhouse plants as the owner can afford to decorate the windows. I have seen, even beyond Umea, some fine specimens of cactus, pelargonium, calla, and other exotics. It is singular that, with the universal passion of the Swedes for flowers and for music, they have produced no distinguished painters or composers—but, indeed, a Linnaeus.
We spent the evening cosily in the stately inn's best room, with its white curtains, polished floor, and beds of sumptuous linen. The great clipper-plows were out early in the morning, to cut a path through the drifts of the storm, but it was nearly noon before the road was sufficiently cleared to enable us to travel. The temperature, by contrast with what we had so recently endured, seemed almost tropical—actually 25 deg. above zero, with a soft, southern breeze, and patches of brilliant blue sky between the parting clouds. Our deliverance from the Arctic cold was complete.
CONCLUSION OF THE ARCTIC TRIP.
On leaving Onska, we experienced considerable delay on account of the storm. The roads were drifted to such an extent that even the ploughs could not be passed through in many places, and the peasants were obliged to work with their broad wooden spades. The sky, however, was wholly clear and of a pure daylight blue, such as we had not seen for two months. The sun rode high in the firmament, like a strong healthy sun again, with some warmth in his beams as they struck our faces, and the air was all mildness and balm. It was heavenly, after our Arctic life. The country, too, boldly undulating, with fir-forested hills, green and warm in the sunshine, and wild, picturesque valleys sunk between, shining in their covering of snow, charmed us completely. Again we saw the soft blue of the distant ranges as they melted away behind each other, suggesting space, and light, and warmth. Give me daylight and sunshine, after all! Our Arctic trip seems like a long, long night full of splendid dreams, but yet night and not day.
On the road, we bought a quantity of the linen handkerchiefs of the country, at prices varying from twenty-five to forty cents a piece, according to the size and quality. The bedding, in all the inns, was of home-made linen, and I do not recollect an instance where it was not brought out, fresh and sweet from the press, for us. In this, as in all other household arrangements, the people are very tidy and cleanly, though a little deficient as regards their own persons. Their clothing, however, is of a healthy substantial character, and the women consult comfort rather than ornament. Many of them wear cloth pantaloons under their petticoats, which, therefore, they are able to gather under their arms in wading through snow-drifts. I did not see a low-necked dress or a thin shoe north of Stockholm.
"The damsel who trips at daybreak Is shod like a mountaineer."
Yet a sensible man would sooner take such a damsel to wife than any delicate Cinderella of the ball-room. I protest I lose all patience when I think of the habits of our American women, especially our country girls. If ever the Saxon race does deteriorate on our side of the Atlantic, as some ethnologists anticipate, it will be wholly their fault.
We stopped for the night at Hornas, and had a charming ride the next day among the hills and along the inlets of the Gulf. The same bold, picturesque scenery, which had appeared so dark and forbidding to us on our way north, now, under the spring-like sky, cheered and inspired us. At the station of Docksta, we found the peasant girls scrubbing the outer steps, barefooted. At night, we occupied our old quarters at Weda, on the Angermann river. The next morning the temperature was 25 deg. above zero, and at noon rose to 39 deg.. It was delightful to travel once more with cap-lappets turned up, fur collar turned down, face and neck free, and hands bare. On our second stage we had an overgrown, insolent boy for postillion, who persisted in driving slow, and refused to let us pass him. He finally became impertinent, whereupon Braisted ran forward and turned his horse out of the road, so that I could drive past. The boy then seized my horse by the head; B. pitched him into a snow-bank, and we took the lead. We had not gone far before we took the road to Hernosand, through mistake, and afterwards kept it through spite, thus adding about seven miles to our day's journey. A stretch of magnificent dark-green forests brought us to a narrow strait which separates the island of Hernosand from the main land. The ice was already softening, and the upper layer repeatedly broke through under us.
Hernosand is a pretty town, of about 2000 inhabitants, with a considerable commerce. It is also the capital of the most northern bishopric of Sweden. The church, on an eminence above the town, is, next to that of Skelleftea, the finest we saw in the north. We took a walk while breakfast was preparing, and in the space of twenty minutes saw all there was to be seen. By leaving the regular road, however, we had incurred a delay of two hours, which did not add to our amiability. Therefore, when the postillion, furiously angry now as well as insolent, came in to threaten us with legal prosecution in case we did not pay him heavy damages for what he called an assault, I cut the discussion short by driving him out of the room, and that was the last we saw of him. We reached Fjal as the moon rose,—a globe of silver fire in a perfect violet sky. Two merry boys, who sang and shouted the whole way, drove us like the wind around the hay to Wifsta. The moonlight was as bright as the Arctic noonday, and the snowy landscape flashed and glittered under its resplendent shower. From the last hill we saw Sundsvall, which lay beneath us, with its wintry roofs, like a city of ivory and crystal, shining for us with the fairy promise of a warm supper and a good bed.
On the 9th, we drove along the shores of the magnificent bay of Sundsvall. Six vessels lay frozen in, at a considerable distance from the town. Near the southern extremity of the bay, we passed the village of Svartvik, which, the postillion informed us, is all owned by one person, who carries on ship-building. The appearance of the place justified his statements. The labourers' houses were mostly new, all built on precisely the same model, and with an unusual air of comfort and neatness. In the centre of the village stood a handsome white church, with a clock tower, and near it the parsonage and school-house. At the foot of the slope were the yards, where several vessels were on the stocks, and a number of sturdy workmen busy at their several tasks. There was an air of "associated labour" and the "model lodging-house" about the whole place, which was truly refreshing to behold, except a touch of barren utilitarianism in the cutting away of the graceful firs left from the forest, and thus depriving the houses of all shade and ornament. We met many wood-teams, hauling knees and spars, and were sorely troubled to get out of their way. Beyond the bay, the hills of Norrland ceased, sinking into those broad monotonous undulations which extend nearly all the way to Stockholm. Gardens with thriving fruit-trees now began to be more frequent, giving evidence of a climate where man has a right to live. I doubt whether it was ever meant that the human race should settle in any zone so frigid that fruit cannot ripen.
Thenceforth we had the roughest roads which were ever made upon a foundation of snow. The increase in travel and in the temperature of the air, and most of all, the short, loosely-attached sleds used to support the ship-timber, had worn them into a succession of holes, channels, and troughs, in and out of which we thumped from morning till night. On going down hill, the violent shocks frequently threw our runners completely into the air, and the wrench was so great that it was a miracle how the sled escaped fracture. All the joints, it is true, began to work apart, and the ash shafts bent in the most ticklish way; but the rough little conveyance which had already done us such hard service held out gallantly to the end. We reached Mo Myskie on the second night after leaving Sundsvall, and I was greeted with "Salaam aleikoom, ya Sidi!" from the jolly old Tripolitan landlord. There was an unusual amount of travel northward on the following day, and we were detained at every station, so that it was nearly midnight before we reached the extortionate inn at Gefle. The morning dawned with a snow-storm, but we were within 120 miles of Stockholm, and drove in the teeth of it to Elfkarleby. The renowned cascades of the Dal were by no means what I expected, but it was at least a satisfaction to see living water, after the silent rivers and fettered rapids of the North.
The snow was now getting rapidly thinner. So scant was it on the exposed Upsala plain that we fully expected being obliged to leave our sleds on the way. Even before reaching Upsala, our postillions chose the less-travelled field-roads whenever they led in the same direction, and beyond that town we were charged additional post-money for the circuits we were obliged to make to keep our runners on the snow. On the evening of the 13th we reached Rotebro, only fourteen miles from Stockholm, and the next morning, in splendid sunshine, drove past Haga park and palace, into the North-Gate, down the long Drottning-gatan, and up to Kahn's Hotel, where we presented our sleds to the valet-de-place, pulled off our heavy boots, threw aside our furs for the remainder of the winter, and sat down to read the pile of letters and papers which Herr Kahn brought us. It was precisely two months since our departure in December, and in that time we had performed a journey of 2200 miles, 250 of which were by reindeer, and nearly 500 inside of the Arctic Circle. Our frozen noses had peeled off, and the new skin showed no signs of the damage they had sustained—so that we had come out of the fight not only without a scar, but with a marked increase of robust vitality.
I must confess, however, that, interesting as was the journey, and happily as we endured its exposures, I should not wish to make it again. It is well to see the North, even after the South; but, as there is no one who visits the tropics without longing ever after to return again, so, I imagine, there is no one who, having once seen a winter inside the Arctic Circle, would ever wish to see another. In spite of the warm, gorgeous, and ever-changing play of colour hovering over the path of the unseen sun, in spite of the dazzling auroral dances and the magical transfiguration of the forests, the absence of true daylight and of all signs of warmth and life exercises at last a depressing influence on the spirits. The snow, so beautiful while the sunrise setting illumination lasts, wears a ghastly monotony at all other times, and the air, so exhilarating, even at the lowest temperature, becomes an enemy to be kept out, when you know its terrible power to benumb and destroy. To the native of a warmer zone, this presence of an unseen destructive force in nature weighs like a nightmare upon the mind. The inhabitants of the North also seem to undergo a species of hibernation, as well as the animals. Nearly half their time is passed in sleep; they are silent in comparison with the natives of the other parts of the world; there is little exuberant gaiety and cheerfulness, but patience, indifference, apathy almost. Aspects of nature which appear to be hostile to man, often develop and bring into play his best energies, but there are others which depress and paralyse his powers. I am convinced that the extreme North, like the Tropics, is unfavourable to the best mental and physical condition of the human race. The proper zone of man lies between 30 deg. and 55 deg. North.
To one who has not an unusual capacity to enjoy the experiences of varied travel, I should not recommend such a journey. With me, the realization of a long-cherished desire, the sense of novelty, the opportunity for contrasting extremes, and the interest with which the people inspired me, far outweighed all inconveniences and privations. In fact, I was not fully aware of the gloom and cold in which I had lived until we returned far enough southward to enjoy eight hours of sunshine, and a temperature above the freezing point. It was a second birth into a living world. Although we had experienced little positive suffering from the intense cold, except on the return from Muoniovara to Haparanda, our bodies had already accommodated themselves to a low temperature, and the sudden transition to 30 deg. above zero came upon us like the warmth of June. My friend, Dr. Kane, once described to me the comfort he felt when the mercury rose to 7 deg. below zero, making it pleasant to be on deck. The circumstance was then incomprehensible to me, but is now quite plain. I can also the better realise the terrible sufferings of himself and his men, exposed to a storm in a temperature of -47 deg., when the same degree of cold, with a very light wind, turned my own blood to ice.
Most of our physical sensations are relative, and the mere enumeration of so many degrees of heat or cold gives no idea of their effect upon the system. I should have frozen at home in a temperature which I found very comfortable in Lapland, with my solid diet of meat and butter, and my garments of reindeer. The following is a correct scale of the physical effect of cold, calculated for the latitude of 65 deg. to 70 deg. North:
15 deg. above zero—Unpleasantly warm.
Zero—Mild and agreeable.
10 deg. below zero—Pleasantly fresh and bracing.
20 deg. below zero—Sharp, but not severely cold. Keep your fingers and toes in motion, and rub your nose occasionally.
30 deg. below zero—Very cold; take particular care of your nose and extremities: eat the fattest food, and plenty of it 40 deg. below—Intensely cold; keep awake at all hazards, muffle up to the eyes, and test your circulation frequently, that it may not stop somewhere before you know it.
50 deg. below—A struggle for life.
* We kept a record of the temperature from the time we left Sundsvall (Dec. 21) until our return to Stockholm. As a matter of interest, I subjoin it, changing the degrees from Reaumur to Fahrenheit. We tested the thermometer repeatedly on the way, and found it very generally reliable, although in extremely low temperature it showed from one to two degrees more than a spirit thermometer. The observations were taken at from 9 to 8 A. M., 12 to 2 P. M., and 7 to 11 P. M., whenever it was possible.
Morning. Noon. Evening. December 21 + 6 .. zero. " 22 + 6 .. - 3 " 23 -22 -29 -22 " 24 - 6 -22 -22 " 25 -35 -38 mer. frozen. " 26 -30 -24 -31 " 27 (storm) -18 -18 -18 " 28 (storm) zero. zero. zero. " 29 - 6 -13 -13 " 30 - 6 -13 -22 " 31 (storm) - 3 + 9 + 9 January 1, 1857 + 3 + 3 + 3 " 2 - 6 - 6 - 6 " 3 -30 -22 -22 " 4 -18 .. -22 " 5 -31 -30 -33 " 6 -20 - 4 zero. " 7 + 4 +18 +25 " 8 +18 .. -11 " 9 -28 -44 -44 " 10(storm) - 5 .. - 2 " 11(storm) - 2 zero. - 5 " 12, 1857 (storm) - 5 - 4 - 4 " 13 (storm) + 5 + 5 + 5 " 14 - 6 -13 - 6 " 15 - 8 -13 -33 " 16 - 9 -10 -11 " 17 (fog) zero. zero. zero. " 18 -10 -18 -23 " 19 (storm) - 3 - 3 - 9 " 20 +20 .. + 6 " 21 - 4 zero. zero. " 22 + 2 - 6 -13 " 23 -13 - 3 -13 " 24 -15 -22 -44 " 25 mer. froz. -50? -42 mer. frozen " 26 -45 -35 -39 " 27 frozen -47? -45 -35 " 28 frozen -49? -47 -44 " 29 -47? -43 -43 " 30 -27 -11 -35 " 31 -17 -16 - 7 February 1 zero. - 9 -13 " 2 + 2 + 6 zero. " 3 zero. zero. zero. " 4 - 9 zero. - 3 " 5 (storm) + 3 + 3 + 3 " 6 +25 +25 +18 " 7 +14 +18 +25 " 8 +25 +39 +22 " 9 + 5 +22 +16 " 10 +25 +37 +37 " 11 +34 +34 +32 " 12 +32 +37 +23 " 13 +16 +30 +21 " 14 +25 +30 +25
LIFE IN STOCKHOLM.
The Swedes are proud of Stockholm, and justly so. No European capital, except Constantinople, can boast such picturesque beauty of position, and none whatever affords so great a range of shifting yet ever lovely aspects. Travellers are fond of calling it, in the imitative nomenclature of commonplace, the "Venice of the North"—but it is no Venice. It is not that swan of the Adriatic, singing her death-song in the purple sunset, but a northern eaglet, nested on the islands and rocky shores of the pale green Malar lake. The Stad, or city proper, occupies three islands, which lie in the mouth of the narrow strait, by which the waters of the lake, after having come a hundred miles from the westward, and washed in their course the shores of thirteen hundred islands, pour themselves into the outer archipelago which is claimed by the Baltic Sea. On the largest of these islands, according to tradition, Agne, King of Sweden, was strangled with his own golden chain, by the Finnish princess Skiolfa, whom he had taken prisoner. This was sixteen hundred years ago, and a thousand years later, Birger Jarl, on the same spot, built the stronghold which was the seed out of which Stockholm has grown.
This island, and the adjoining Riddarholm, or Island of the Knights, contain all the ancient historic landmarks of the city, and nearly all of its most remarkable buildings. The towers of the Storkyrka and the Riddarholm's Church lift themselves high into the air; the dark red mass of the Riddarhus, or House of Nobles, and the white turrets and quadrangles of the penitentiary are conspicuous among the old white, tile-roofed blocks of houses; while, rising above the whole, the most prominent object in every view of Stockholm, is the Slot, or Royal Palace. This is one of the noblest royal residences in Europe. Standing on an immense basement terrace of granite, its grand quadrangle of between three and four hundred feet square, with wings (resembling, in general design, the Pitti Palace at Florence), is elevated quite above the rest of the city, which it crowns as with a mural diadem. The chaste and simple majesty of this edifice, and its admirable proportions, are a perpetual gratification to the eye, which is always drawn to it, as a central point, and thereby prevented from dwelling on whatever inharmonious or unsightly features there may be in the general view.
Splendid bridges of granite connect the island with the northern and southern suburbs, each of which is much greater in extent than the city proper. The palace fronts directly upon the Norrbro, or Northern Bridge, the great thoroughfare of Stockholm, which leads to the Square of Gustavus Adolphus, flanked on either side by the palace of the Crown Prince and the Opera House. The northern suburb is the fashionable quarter, containing all the newest streets and the handsomest private residences. The ground rises gradually from the water, and as very little attention is paid to grading, the streets follow the undulations of the low hills over which they spread, rising to the windmills on the outer heights and sinking into the hollows between. The southern suburb, however, is a single long hill, up the steep side of which the houses climb, row after row, until they reach the Church of St. Catherine, which crowns the very summit. In front of the city (that is eastward, and toward the Baltic), lie two other islands, connected by bridges with the northern suburb. Still beyond is the Djurgard, or Deer-Park, a singularly picturesque island, nearly the whole of which is occupied by a public park, and the summer villas of the wealthy Stockholmers. Its natural advantages are superior to those of any other park in Europe. Even in April, when there was scarcely a sign of spring, its cliffs of grey rock, its rolling lawns of brown grass, and its venerable oaks, with their iron trunks and gnarled, contorted boughs, with blue glimpses of ice-free water on all sides, attracted hundreds of visitors daily.
The streets of Stockholm are, with but two or three exceptions, narrow and badly paved. The municipal regulations in regard to them appear to be sadly deficient. They are quite as filthy as those of New-York, and the American reader will therefore have some idea of their horrid condition. A few trottoirs have been recently introduced, but even in the Drottning-gatan, the principal street, they are barely wide enough for two persons to walk abreast. The pavements are rough, slippery, and dangerous both to man and beast. I have no doubt that the great number of cripples in Stockholm is owing to this cause. On the other hand, the houses are models of solidity and stability. They are all of stone, or brick stuccoed over, with staircases of stone or iron, wood being prohibited by law, and roofs of copper, slate or tiles. In fact, the Swedes have singularly luxurious ideas concerning roofs, spending much more money upon them, proportionately, than on the house itself. You even see wooden shanties with copper roofs, got up regardless of expense. The houses are well lighted (which is quite necessary in the dark streets), and supplied with double windows against the cold. The air-tight Russian stove is universal. It has the advantage of keeping up sufficient warmth with a very small supply of fuel, but at the expense of ventilation. I find nothing yet equal to the old-fashioned fireplace in this respect, though I must confess I prefer the Russian stove to our hot-air furnaces. Carpets are very common in Sweden, and thus the dwellings have an air of warmth and comfort which is not found in Germany and other parts of the Continent. The arrangements for sleeping and washing are tolerable, though scanty, as compared with England, but the cleanliness of Swedish houses makes amends for many deficiencies.
The manner of living in Stockholm, nevertheless, is not very agreeable to the stranger. There is no hotel, except Kahn's, where one can obtain both beds and meals. The practice is to hire rooms, generally with the privilege of having your coffee in the morning, and to get your meals at a restaurant, of which there are many, tolerably cheap and not particularly good. Even Davison's, the best and most fashionable, has but an ordinary cuisine. Rooms are quite dear—particularly during our sojourn, when the Diet was in session and the city crowded with country visitors—and the inclusive expenses of living were equal to Berlin and greater than in Paris. I found that it cost just about as much to be stationary here, as to travel with post-horses in the Northern provinces. The Swedes generally have a cup of coffee on getting out of bed, or before, a substantial breakfast at nine, dinner at three, and tea in the evening. The wealthier families dine an hour or two later, but the crowds at the restaurants indicate the prevailing time. Dinner, and frequently breakfast, is prefaced with a smorgas (butter-goose), consisting of anchovies, pickled herrings, cheese and brandy. Soup which is generally sweet, comes in the middle and sometimes at the end of dinner, and the universal dessert is preserved fruit covered with whipped cream. I have had occasion to notice the fondness of the Swedes for sugar, which some persons seem to apply to almost every dish, except fish and oysters. I have often seen them season crab soup with powdered sugar. A favourite dish is raw salmon, buried in the earth until it is quite sodden—a great delicacy, they say, but I have not yet been hungry enough to eat it. Meat, which is abundant, is rarely properly cooked, and game, of which Sweden has a great variety, is injured by being swamped in sauces. He must be very fastidious, however, who cannot live passably well in Stockholm, especially if he has frequent invitations to dine with private families, many of whom have very excellent cooks.
My Swedish friends all said, "You should see Stockholm in summer! You have passed the worst part of the whole year among us, and you leave just when our fine days begin." I needed no assurance, however, of the summer charm of the place. In those long, golden evenings, which give place to an unfading twilight, when the birch is a network of silver and green, and the meadows are sown with the bright wild flowers of the North, those labyrinths of land and water must be truly enchanting. But were the glories of the Northern Summer increased tenfold, I could not make my home where such a price must be paid for them. From the time of our arrival, in February, until towards the close of April, the weather was of that kind which aggravates one to the loss of all patience. We had dull, raw, cloudy skies, a penetrating, unnerving, and depressing atmosphere, mud under foot, alternating with slushy snow,—in short, everything that is disagreeable in winter, without its brisk and bracing qualities. I found this season much more difficult to endure than all the cold of Lapland, and in spite of pleasant society and the charms of rest after a fatiguing journey, our sojourn in Stockholm was for a time sufficiently tedious.
At first, we lived a rather secluded life in our rooms in the Beridarebansgatan, in the northern suburb, devoting ourselves principally to gymnastics and the study of the Swedish language,—both of which can be prosecuted to more advantage in Stockholm than anywhere else. For, among the distinguished men of Sweden may be reckoned Ling, the inventor of what may be termed anatomical gymnastics. His system not only aims at reducing to a science the muscular development of the body, but, by means of both active and passive movements, at reaching the seat of disease and stimulating the various organs to healthy action. In the former of these objects, Ling has certainly succeeded; there is no other system of muscular training that will bear comparison with his; and if he has to some extent failed in the latter, it is because, with the enthusiasm of a man possessed by a new discovery, he claimed too much. His successor, Prof. Branting, possesses equal enthusiasm, and his faith in gymnastics, as a panacea for all human infirmities, is most unbounded. The institution under his charge is supported by Government, and, in addition to the officers of the army and navy, who are obliged to make a complete gymnastic course, is largely attended by invalids of all ages and classes.
Neither of us required the system as a medical application. I wished to increase the girth of my chest, somewhat diminished by a sedentary life, and Braisted needed a safety-valve for his surplus strength. However, the professor, by dint of much questioning, ascertained that one of us was sometimes afflicted with cold feet, and the other with headaches, and thereupon clapped us both upon the sick list. On entering the hall, on the first morning of our attendance, a piece of paper containing the movements prescribed for our individual cases, was stuck in our bosoms. On inspecting the lists, we found we had ten movements apiece, and no two of them alike. What they were we could only dimly guess from such cabalistic terms as "Stodgangst," "Krhalfligg," "Simhang," or "Hogstrgrsitt." The hall, about eighty feet in length by thirty in height, was furnished with the usual appliances for gymnastic exercises. Some fifty or sixty patients were present, part of whom were walking up and down the middle passage with an air of great solemnity, while the others, gathered in various little groups on either side, appeared to be undergoing uncouth forms of torture. There was no voluntary exercise, if I except an old gentleman in a black velvet coat, who repeatedly suspended himself by the hands, head downwards, and who died of apoplexy not long afterwards; every one was being exercised upon. Here, a lathy young man, bent sideways over a spar, was struggling, with a very red face, to right himself, while a stout teacher held him down; there, a corpulent gentleman, in the hands of five robust assistants, was having his body violently revolved upon the base of his hip joints, as if they were trying to unscrew him from his legs; and yonder again, an individual, suspended by his arms from a cross-bar, had his feet held up and his legs stretched apart by another, while a third pounded vigorously with closed fists upon his seat of honour. Now and then a prolonged yell, accompanied with all sorts of burlesque variations, issued from the throats of the assembly. The object of this was at first not clear to me, but I afterwards discovered that the full use of the lungs was considered by Ling a very important part of the exercises. Altogether, it was a peculiar scene, and not without a marked grotesque character.
On exhibiting my matsedel, or "bill of fare," to the first teacher who happened to be disengaged, I received my first movement, which consisted in being held with my back against a post, while I turned my body from side to side against strong resistance, employing the muscles of the chest only. I was then told to walk for five minutes before taking the second movement. It is unnecessary to recapitulate the various contortions I was made to perform; suffice it to say, that I felt very sore after them, which Professor Branting considered a promising sign, and that, at the end of a month, I was taken off the sick list and put among the friskas, or healthy patients, to whom more and severer movements, in part active, are allotted. This department was under the special charge of Baron Vegesach, an admirable teacher, and withal a master of fencing with the bayonet, a branch of defensive art which the Swedes have the honour of originating. The drill of the young officers in bayonet exercise was one of the finest things of the kind I ever saw. I prospered so well under the Baron's tuition, that at the end of the second month I was able to climb a smooth mast, to run up ropes with my hands, and to perform various other previous impossibilities, while my chest had increased an inch and a half in circumference, the addition being solid muscle.
During the time of my attendance I could not help but notice the effect of the discipline upon the other patients, especially the children. The weak and listless gradually straightened themselves; the pale and sallow took colour and lively expression; the crippled and paralytic recovered the use of their limbs; in short, all, with the exception of two or three hypochondriacs, exhibited a very marked improvement. The cheerfulness and geniality which pervaded the company, and of which Professor Branting himself was the best example, no doubt assisted the cure. All, both teachers and pupils, met on a platform of the most absolute equality, and willingly took turns in lending a hand wherever it was needed. I have had my feet held up by a foreign ambassador, while a pair of Swedish counts applied the proper degree of resistance to the muscles of my arms and shoulders. The result of my observation and experience was, that Ling's system of physical education is undoubtedly the best in the world, and that, as a remedial agent in all cases of congenital weakness or deformity, as well as in those diseases which arise from a deranged circulation, its value can scarcely be over-estimated. It may even afford indirect assistance in more serious organic diseases, but I do not believe that it is of much service in those cases where chemical agencies are generally employed. Professor Branting, however, asserts that it is a specific for all diseases whatsoever, including consumption, malignant fevers, and venereal affections. One thing at least is certain—that in an age when physical training is most needed and most neglected, this system deserves to be introduced into every civilised country, as an indispensable branch in the education of youth.
I found the Swedish language as easy to read as it is difficult to speak correctly. The simplicity of its structure, which differs but slightly from English, accounts for the former quality, while the peculiar use of the definite article as a terminal syllable, attached to the noun, is a great impediment to fluent speaking. The passive form of the verb also requires much practice before it becomes familiar, and the mode of address in conversation is awkward and inconvenient beyond measure. The word you, or its correspondent, is never used, except in speaking to inferiors; wherever it occurs in other languages, the title of the person addressed must be repeated; as, for example: "How is the Herr Justizrad? I called at the Herr Justizrad's house this morning, but the Herr Justizrad was not at home." Some of the more progressive Swedes are endeavouring to do away with this absurdity, by substituting the second person plural, ni, which is already used in literature, but even they only dare to use it in their own private circle. The Swedes, especially in Stockholm, speak with a peculiar drawl and singing accent, exactly similar to that which is often heard in Scotland. It is very inferior to the natural, musical rhythm of Spanish, to which, in its vocalisation, Swedish has a great resemblance. Except Finnish, which is music itself, it is the most melodious of northern languages, and the mellow flow of its poetry is often scarcely surpassed by the Italian. The infinitive verb always ends in a, and the language is full of soft, gliding iambics, which give a peculiar grace to its poetry.
It is rather singular that the Swedish prose, in point of finish and elegance, is far behind the Swedish poetry. One cause of this may be, that it is scarcely more than fifty years since the prose writers of the country began to use their native language. The works of Linnaeus, Swedenborg, and other authors of the past century must now be translated into Swedish. Besides, there are two prose dialects—a conversational and a declamatory, the latter being much more artificial and involved than the former. All public addresses, as well as prose documents of a weighty or serious character, must be spoken or written in this pompous and antiquated style, owing to which, naturally, the country is almost destitute of orators. But the poets,—especially men of the sparkling fancy of Bellman, or the rich lyrical inspiration of Tegner, are not to be fettered by such conventionalities; and they have given the verse of Sweden an ease, and grace, and elegance, which one vainly seeks in its prose. In Stockholm, the French taste, so visible in the manners of the people, has also affected the language, and a number of French words and forms of expression, which have filtered through society, from the higher to the lower classes, are now in general use. The spelling, however, is made to conform to Swedish pronunciation, and one is amused at finding on placards such words as "trottoar," "salong," and "paviljong."
No country is richer in song-literature than Sweden. The popular songs and ballads of the different provinces, wedded to airs as original and characteristic as the words, number many hundreds. There are few Swedes who cannot sing, and I doubt whether any country in Europe would be able to furnish so many fine voices. Yet the taste for what is foreign and unaccustomed rules, and the minstrels of the cafes and the Djurgard are almost without exception German. Latterly, two or three bands of native singers have been formed, who give concerts devoted entirely to the country melodies of Sweden; and I believe they have been tolerably successful.
In these studies, relieved occasionally by rambles over the hills, whenever there was an hour's sunshine, and by occasional evenings with Swedish, English, and American friends, we passed the months of March and April, waiting for the tardy spring. Of the shifting and picturesque views which Stockholm presents to the stranger's eye, from whatever point he beholds her, we never wearied; but we began at last to tire of our ice-olation, and to look forward to the reopening of the Gotha Canal, as a means of escape. Day after day it was a new satisfaction to behold the majestic palace crowning the island-city and looking far and wide over the frozen lakes; the tall, slender spire of the Riddarholm, soaring above the ashes of Charles XII. and Gustavus Adolphus, was always a welcome sight; but we had seen enough of the hideous statues which ornament the public squares, (Charles XII. not among them, and the imbecile Charles XIII. occupying the best place); we grew tired of the monotonous perambulators on the Forrbro, and the tameness and sameness of Stockholm life in winter: and therefore hailed the lengthening days which heralded our deliverance.
As to the sights of the capital, are they not described in the guide-books? The champion of the Reformation lies in his chapel, under a cloud of his captured banners: opposite to him, the magnificent madman of the North, with hundreds of Polish and Russian ensigns rustling above his heads. In the royal armory you see the sword and the bloody shirt of the one, the bullet-pierced hat and cloak of the other, still coated with the mud of the trench at Fredrickshall. There are robes and weapons of the other Carls and Gustavs, but the splendour of Swedish history is embodied in these two names, and in that of Gustavus Vasa, who lies entombed in the old cathedral at Upsala. When I had grasped their swords, and the sabre of Czar Peter, captured at Narva, I felt that there were no other relics in Sweden which could make my heart throb a beat the faster.
MANNERS AND MORALS OF STOCKHOLM.
As a people, the Swedes are very hospitable, and particularly so toward foreigners. There is perhaps no country in Europe where travellers are treated with so much kindness and allowed so many social privileges. This is fortunate, as the conventionalities of the country are more rigid than the laws of the Medes and Persians. Nothing excites greater scandal than an infraction of the numberless little formalities with which the descendants of the honest, spontaneous, impulsive old Scandinavians have, somehow or other, allowed themselves to be fettered, and were not all possible allowance made for the stranger, he would have but a dismal time of it. Notwithstanding these habits have become a second nature, they are still a false nature, and give a painfully stiff and constrained air to society. The Swedes pride themselves on being the politest people in Europe. Voltaire called them the "Frenchmen of the North," and they are greatly flattered by the epithet. But how much better, to call themselves Swedes?—to preserve the fine, manly characteristics of their ancient stock, rather than imitate a people so alien to them in blood, in character, and in antecedents. Those meaningless social courtesies which sit well enough upon the gay, volatile, mercurial Frenchman, seem absurd affectations when practiced by the tall, grave, sedate Scandinavian. The intelligent Swedes feel this, but they are powerless to make headway against the influence of a court which was wholly French, even before Bernadotte's time. "We are a race of apes," said one of them to me bitterly. Gustavus III. was thoroughly French in his tastes, but the ruin of Swedish nationality in Stockholm was already commenced when he ascended the throne.
Stockholm manners, at present, are a curious mixture of English and French, the latter element, of course, being predominant. In costume, the gentlemen are English, with exaggeration. Nowhere are to be seen such enormously tall and stiff black chimney-pots (misnamed hats), nowhere such straight-cut overcoats, descending to the very heels. You might stick all the men you see into pasteboard cards, like a row of pins, so precisely are they clothed upon the same model. But when you meet one of these grim, funereal figures, he pulls off his hat with a politeness which is more than French; he keeps it off, perhaps, while he is speaking; you shake hands and accept his invitation to enter his house. After you are within, he greets you a second time with the same ceremonies, as if you had then first met; he says, "Tak for sist!" (equivalent to; "thank you for the pleasure of your company the last time we met!") and, after your visit is over, you part with equal formality. At dinner the guests stand gravely around the table with clasped hands, before sitting down. This is repeated on rising, after which they bow to each other and shake hands with the host and hostess. Formerly they used to say "I thank you for the meal," a custom still retained in Denmark and Norway. Not long ago the guests were obliged to make a subsequent visit of ceremony to thank the host for his entertainment, and he was obliged to invite them all to a second dinner, in consequence thereof; so that giving one dinner always involved giving two. Fortunately the obligation was cancelled by the second, or the visits and dinners might have gone on alternately, ad infinitum.
At dinners and evening parties, white gloves and white cravats are invariably worn, and generally white vests. The same custom is observed at funerals, even the drivers of the hearse and carriages being furnished with resplendent white gloves for the occasion. I have a horror of white cravats, and took advantage of the traveller's privilege to wear a black one. I never could understand why, in England, where the boundaries of caste are so distinctly marked, a gentleman's full dress should be his servant's livery. The chimney-pots are no protection to the head in raw or very cold weather, and it required no little courage in me to appear in fur or felt. "I wish I could wear such a comfortable hat," said a Swede to me; "but I dare not; you are a traveller, and it is permitted; but a Swede would lose his position in society, if he were to do so." Another gentleman informed me that his own sisters refused to appear in the streets with him, because he wore a cap. A former English Consul greatly shocked the people by carrying home his own marketing. A few gentlemen have independence enough to set aside, in their own houses, some of the more disagreeable features of this conventionalism, and the success of two or three, who held weekly soirees through the winter, on a more free and unrestrained plan, may in the end restore somewhat of naturalness and spontaneity to the society of Stockholm.
The continual taking off of your hat to everybody you know, is a great annoyance to many strangers. A lift of the hat, as in Germany, is not sufficient. You must remove it entirely, and hold it in the air a second or two before you replace it. King Oscar once said to an acquaintance of mine, who was commiserating him for being obliged to keep his hat off, the whole length of the Drottning-gatan, in a violent snow-storm: "You are quite right; it was exceedingly disagreeable, and I could not help wishing that instead of being king of Sweden, I were king of Thibet, where, according to Huc, the polite salutation is simply to stick out your tongue." The consideration extended to foreigners is, I am told, quite withdrawn after they become residents; so that, as an Englishman informed me, Stockholm is much more pleasant the first year than the second. The principle, on the whole, is about the same as governs English, and most American society, only in Sweden its tyranny is more severely felt, on account of the French imitations which have been engrafted upon it.
I do not wish to be understood as saying a word in censure of that genial courtesy which is characteristic of the Swedes, not less of the bonder, or country farmers, than of the nobility. They are by nature a courteous people, and if, throughout the country, something of the primness and formality of ancient manners has been preserved, it the rather serves to give a quaint and picturesque grace to society. The affectation of French manners applies principally to the capital, which, both in manners and morals, can by no means be taken as a standard for the whole country. The Swedes are neither licentious, nor extravagantly over-mannered: the Stockholmers are both. During the whole of our journey to Lapland, we were invariably treated with a courtesy which bordered on kindness, and had abundant opportunities of noticing the general amenity which exists in the intercourse even of the poorest classes. The only really rude people we saw, were travelling traders, especially those from the capital, who thought to add to their importance by a little swaggering.
I recollect hearing of but a single instance in which the usual world-wide rules of hospitality were grossly violated. This occurred to an English traveller, who spent some time in the interior of the country. While taking tea one evening with a prominent family of the province, he happened to make use of his thumb and fore-finger in helping himself to a lump of sugar. The mistress of the house immediately sent out the servant, who reappeared after a short time with another sugar-bowl, filled with fresh lumps. Noticing this, the traveller, in order to ascertain whether his harmless deviation from Swedish customs had really contaminated the whole sugar-bowl, sweetened his second cup in the same manner. The result was precisely the same: the servant was again sent out, and again returned with a fresh supply. The traveller, thereupon, coolly walked to the stove, opened the door, and threw in his cup, saucer, and tea-spoon, affecting to take it for granted that they never could be used again.
Speaking of King Oscar reminds me that I should not fail to say a word about this liberal and enlightened monarch. There is probably no king in Europe at present, who possesses such extensive acquirements, or is animated by a more genuine desire for the good of his kingdom. The slow progress which Sweden has made in introducing needful reforms is owing to the conservative spirit of the nobility and the priesthood, who possess half the legislative power. I do not believe there is a greater enemy to progress than an established church. Oscar is deservedly popular throughout Sweden, and I wish I could believe that his successor will exhibit equal intelligence and liberality. During my stay I saw all the members of the Royal Family frequently, and once had an informal self-presentation to the whole of them. I was descending the stairway of Kahn's Hotel one afternoon, when a tall, black-bearded, Frenchy gentleman coming up, brushed so close to me in the narrow passage that he received the full benefit of a cloud of smoke which I was ejaculating. It was the Crown Prince, as a servant whispered to me, but as my cigar was genuine Havana, and he is said to be a connoisseur of the article, there was no harm done. As I reached the street door a dragoon dashed up, preceding the carriages containing the Royal Family, who were coming to view Professor Enslen's panoramas. First, the Crown Princess, with her children; she bowed gracefully in answer to my greeting. The Princess Eugenia, a lady of twenty-seven, or thereabouts, with a thoroughly cheerful and amiable face, came next and nodded, smiling. With her was the Queen, a daughter of Eugene Beauharnais, a handsome woman for her years, with the dark hair and eyes of her grandmother, Josephine. King Oscar followed, at the head of a company of officers and nobles, among whom was his second son, Prince Oscar, the handsomest young man in Stockholm. He wore his Admiral's uniform, and made me a naval salute as he passed. The King is about medium height, with a symmetrical head, a bold, finely-cut nose, keen, intelligent eyes, and a heavy grey moustache. There was something gallant, dashing, and manly in his air, despite his fifty-seven years. He gave me the impression of an honest, energetic and thoroughly accomplished man; and this is the character he bears throughout Sweden, except with a small class, who charge him with being insincere, and too much under the influence of the Queen, against whom, however, they can find no charge, except that of her Catholicism.
I was sorry to notice, not only in Stockholm, but more or less throughout Sweden, a spirit of detraction in regard to everything Swedish. Whenever I mentioned with admiration the name of a distinguished Swede, I was almost always sure to hear, in return, some disparaging remark, or a story to his disadvantage. Yet, singularly enough, the Swedes are rather sensitive to foreign criticism, seeming to reserve for themselves the privilege of being censorious. No amount of renown, nor even the sanctity which death gives to genius, can prevent a certain class of them from exhibiting the vices and weaknesses of their countrymen. Much the severest things which I heard said about Sweden, were said by Swedes themselves, and I was frequently obliged to rely upon my own contrary impressions, to protect me from the chance of being persuaded to paint things worse than they really are.
Just before leaving Stockholm I made application, through the Hon. Mr. Schroeder, our Minister Resident, and Baron Lagerheim, for the privilege of an interview with the king. A few days previously, however, he had been attacked with that illness which has obliged him to withdraw from the labours of government, and was advised by his physicians to receive no one. He sent me a very kind message, with an invitation to renew my request as soon as his health should be restored. Gentlemen who had opportunities of knowing the fact, assured me that his health broke down under an accumulation of labour and anxiety, in his endeavours to bring the question of religious liberty before the Diet—a measure in which he had to contend with the united influence of the clergy, the House of Peasants, whom the clergy rule to a great extent, and a portion of the House of Nobles. It is not often that a king is in advance of the general sentiment of his people, and in losing the services of Oscar, I fear that Sweden has lost her best man. The Crown Prince, now Prince Regent, is said to be amiably weak in his character, rather reactionary in his views, and very ambitious of military glory. At least, that is the average of the various opinions which I heard expressed concerning him.
After speaking of the manners of Stockholm, I must not close this chapter without saying a few words about its morals. It has been called the most licentious city in Europe, and, I have no doubt, with the most perfect justice. Vienna may surpass it in the amount of conjugal infidelity, but certainly not in general incontinence. Very nearly half the registered births are illegitimate, to say nothing of the illegitimate children born in wedlock. Of the servant-girls, shop-girls, and seamstresses in the city, it is very safe to say that scarcely ten out of a hundred are chaste, while, as rakish young Swedes have coolly informed me, many girls of respectable parentage, belonging to the middle class, are not much better. The men, of course, are much worse than the women, and even in Paris one sees fewer physical signs of excessive debauchery. Here, the number of broken-down young men, and blear-eyed, hoary sinners, is astonishing. I have never been in any place where licentiousness was so open and avowed—and yet, where the slang of a sham morality was so prevalent. There are no houses of prostitution in Stockholm, and the city would be scandalised at the idea of allowing such a thing. A few years ago two were established and the fact was no sooner known than a virtuous mob arose and violently pulled them down! At the restaurants, young blades order their dinners of the female waiters, with an arm around their waists, while the old men place their hands unblushingly upon their bosoms. All the baths in Stockholm are attended by women (generally middle-aged and hideous, I must confess), who perform the usual scrubbing and shampooing with the greatest nonchalance. One does not wonder when he is told of young men who have passed safely through the ordeals of Berlin and Paris, and have come at last to Stockholm to be ruined.[B]
It is but fair to say that the Swedes account for the large proportion of illegitimate births, by stating that many unfortunate females come up from the country to hide their shame in the capital, which is no doubt true. Everything that I have said has been derived from residents of Stockholm, who, proud as they are, and sensitive, cannot conceal this glaring depravity. The population of Stockholm, as is proved by statistics, has only been increased during the last fifty years by immigration from the country, the number of deaths among the inhabitants exceeding the births by several hundreds every year. I was once speaking with a Swede about these facts, which he seemed inclined to doubt. "But," said I, "they are derived from your own statistics." "Well," he answered, with a naive attempt to find some compensating good, "you must at least admit that the Swedish statistics are as exact as any in the world!"
Drunkenness is a leading vice among the Swedes, as we had daily evidence. Six years ago the consumption of brandy throughout the kingdom was nine gallons for every man, woman, and child annually; but it has decreased considerably since then, mainly through the manufacture of beer and porter. "Bajerskt ol" (Bavarian beer) is now to be had everywhere, and is rapidly becoming the favourite drink of the people. Sweden and the United States will in the end establish the fact that lager beer is more efficacious in preventing intemperance than any amount of prohibitory law. Brandy-drinking is still, nevertheless, one of the greatest curses of Sweden. It is no unusual thing to see boys of twelve or fourteen take their glass of fiery finkel before dinner. The celebrated Swedish punch, made of arrack, wine, and sugar, is a universal evening drink, and one of the most insidious ever invented, despite its agreeable flavor. There is a movement in favor of total abstinence, but it seems to have made but little progress, except as it is connected with some of the new religious ideas, which are now preached throughout the country.
I have rarely witnessed a sadder example of ruin, than one evening in a Stockholm cafe. A tall, distinguished-looking man of about forty, in an advanced state of drunkenness, was seated at a table opposite to us. He looked at me awhile, apparently endeavoring to keep hold of some thought with which his mind was occupied. Rising at last he staggered across the room, stood before me, and repeated the words of Bellman:
"Sa vandra vara stora man' Fran ljuset ned til skuggan."[C]
A wild, despairing laugh followed the lines, and he turned away, but came back again and again to repeat them. He was a nobleman of excellent family, a man of great intellectual attainments, who, a few years ago, was considered one of the most promising young men in Sweden. I saw him frequently afterwards, and always in the same condition, but he never accosted me again. The Swedes say the same thing of Bellman himself, and of Tegner, and many others, with how much justice I care not to know, for a man's faults are to be accounted for to God, and not to a gossiping public.
[B] The substance of the foregoing paragraph was contained in a letter published in The New-York Tribune during my travels in the North, and which was afterwards translated and commented upon by the Swedish papers. The latter charged me with having drawn too dark a picture and I therefore took some pains to test my statements, both by means of the Government statistics, and the views of my Swedish friends. I see no reason to change my first impression: had I accepted all that was told me by natives of the capital, I should have made the picture much darker. The question is simply whether there is much difference between the general adoption of illicit connections, or the existence of open prostitution. The latter is almost unknown; the former is almost universal, the supply being kept up by the miserable rates of wages paid to female servants and seamstresses. The former get, on an average, fifty rigsdaler ($13) per year, out of which they must clothe themselves: few of the latter can make one rigsdaler a day. These connections are also encouraged by the fact, that marriage legitimates all the children previously born. In fact, during the time of my visit to Stockholm, a measure was proposed in the House of Clergy, securing to bastards the same right of inheritance, as to legitimate children. Such measures, however just they may be so far as the innocent offspring of a guilty connection are concerned, have a direct tendency to impair the sanctity of marriage, and consequently the general standard of morality.
This, the most vital of all the social problems, is strangely neglected. The diseases and excesses which it engenders are far more devastating than those which spring from any other vice, and yet no philanthropist is bold enough to look the question in the face. The virtuous shrink from it, the vicious don't care about it, the godly simply condemn, and the ungodly indulge—and so the world rolls on, and hundreds of thousands go down annually to utter ruin. It is useless to attempt the extirpation of a vice which is inherent in the very nature of man, and the alternative of either utterly ignoring, or of attempting to check and regulate it, is a question of the most vital importance to the whole human race.
[C] "Thus our great men wander from the light down into the shades."
JOURNEY TO GOTTENBURG AND COPENHAGEN.
I never knew a more sudden transition from winter to summer than we experienced on the journey southward from Stockholm. When we left that city on the evening of the 6th of May, there were no signs of spring except a few early violets and anemones on the sheltered southern banks in Haga Park; the grass was still brown and dead, the trees bare, and the air keen; but the harbour was free from ice and the canal open, and our winter isolation was therefore at an end. A little circulation entered into the languid veins of society; steamers from Germany began to arrive; fresh faces appeared in the streets, and less formal costumes—merchants and bagmen only, it is true, but people of a more dashing and genial air. We were evidently, as the Swedes said, leaving Stockholm just as it began to be pleasant and lively.
The steamer left the Riddarholm pier at midnight, and took her way westward up the Malar Lake to Sodertelje. The boats which ply on the Gotha canal are small, but neat and comfortable. The price of a passage to Gottenburg, a distance of 370 miles, is about $8.50. This, however, does not include meals, which are furnished at a fixed price, amounting to $6 more. The time occupied by the voyage varies from two and a half to four days. In the night we passed through the lock at Sodertelje, where St. Olaf, when a heathen Viking, cut a channel for his ships into the long Baltic estuary which here closely approaches the lake, and in the morning found ourselves running down the eastern shore of Sweden, under the shelter of its fringe of jagged rocky islets. Towards noon we left the Baltic, and steamed up the long, narrow Bay of Soderkoping, passing, on the way, the magnificent ruins of Stegeborg Castle, the first mediaeval relic I had seen in Sweden. Its square massive walls, and tall round tower of grey stone, differed in no respect from those of contemporary ruins in Germany.
Before reaching Soderkoping, we entered the canal, a very complete and substantial work of the kind, about eighty feet in breadth, but much more crooked than would seem to be actually necessary. For this reason the boats make but moderate speed, averaging not more than six or seven miles an hour, exclusive of the detention at the locks. The country is undulating, and neither rich nor populous before reaching the beautiful Roxen Lake, beyond which we entered upon a charming district. Here the canal rises, by eleven successive locks, to the rich uplands separating the Roxen from the Wetter, a gently rolling plain, chequered, so far as the eye could reach, with green squares of springing wheat and the dark mould of the newly ploughed barley fields. While the boat was passing the locks, we walked forward to a curious old church, called Vreta Kloster. The building dates from the year 1128, and contains the tombs of three Swedish kings, together with that of the Count Douglas, who fled hither from Scotland in the time of Cromwell. The Douglas estate is in this neighbourhood, and is, I believe, still in the possession of the family. The church must at one time have presented a fine, venerable appearance: but all its dark rich colouring and gilding are now buried under a thick coat of white-wash.
We had already a prophecy of the long summer days of the North, in the perpetual twilight which lingered in the sky, moving around from sunset to sunrise. During the second night we crossed the Wetter Lake, which I did not see; for when I came on deck we were already on the Viken, the most beautiful sheet of water between Stockholm and Gottenburg. Its irregular shores, covered with forests of fir and birch, thrust out long narrow headlands which divide it into deep bays, studded with wild wooded islands. But the scenery was still that of winter, except in the absence of ice and snow. We had not made much southing, but we expected to find the western side of Sweden much warmer than the eastern. The highest part of the canal, more than 300 feet above the sea, was now passed, however, and as we descended the long barren hills towards the Wener Lake I found a few early wild flowers in the woods. In the afternoon we came upon the Wener, the third lake in Europe, being one hundred miles in extent by about fifty in breadth. To the west, it spread away to a level line against the sky; but, as I looked southward, I perceived two opposite promontories, with scattered islands between, dividing the body of water into almost equal portions. The scenery of the Wener has great resemblance to that of the northern portion of Lake Michigan. Further down on the eastern shore, the hill of Kinnekulle, the highest land in Southern Sweden, rises to the height of nearly a thousand feet above the water, with a graceful and very gradual sweep; but otherwise the scenery is rather tame, and, I suspect, depends for most of its beauty upon the summer foliage.
There were two or three intelligent and agreeable passengers on board, who showed a more than usual knowledge of America and her institutions. The captain, however, as we walked the deck together, betrayed the same general impression which prevails throughout the Continent (Germany in particular), that we are a thoroughly material people, having little taste for or appreciation of anything which is not practical and distinctly utilitarian. Nothing can be further from the truth; yet I have the greatest difficulty in making people comprehend that a true feeling for science, art, and literature can co-exist with our great practical genius. There is more intellectual activity in the Free States than in any other part of the world, a more general cultivation, and, taking the collective population, I venture to say, a more enlightened taste. Nowhere are greater sums spent for books and works of art, or for the promotion of scientific objects. Yet this cry of "Materialism" has become the cant and slang of European talk concerning America, and is obtruded so frequently and so offensively that I have sometimes been inclined to doubt whether the good breeding of Continental society has not been too highly rated.
While on the steamer, I heard an interesting story of a Swedish nobleman, who is at present attempting a practical protest against the absurd and fossilised ideas by which his class is governed. The nobility of Sweden are as proud as they are poor, and, as the father's title is inherited by each of his sons, the country is overrun with Counts and Barons, who, repudiating any means of support that is not somehow connected with the service of the government, live in a continual state of debt and dilapidation. Count R——, however, has sense enough to know that honest labour is always honourable, and has brought up his eldest son to earn his living by the work of his own hands. For the past three years, the latter has been in the United States, working as a day-labourer on farms and on Western railroads. His experiences, I learn, have not been agreeable, but he is a young man of too much spirit and courage to give up the attempt, and has hitherto refused to listen to the entreaties of his family, that he shall come home and take charge of one of his father's estates. The second son is now a clerk in a mercantile house in Gottenburg, while the Count has given his daughter in marriage to a radical and untitled editor, whose acquaintance I was afterwards so fortunate as to make, and who confirmed the entire truth of the story.
We were to pass the locks at Trollhatta in the middle of the night, but I determined to visit the celebrated falls of the Gotha River, even at such a time, and gave orders that we should be called. The stupid boy, however, woke up the wrong passenger, and the last locks were reached before the mistake was discovered. By sunrise we had reached Lilla Edet, on the Gotha River, where the buds were swelling on the early trees, and the grass, in sunny places, showed a little sprouting greenness. We shot rapidly down the swift brown stream, between brown, bald, stony hills, whose forests have all been stripped off to feed the hostile camp-fires of past centuries. Bits of bottom land, held in the curves of the river, looked rich and promising, and where the hills fell back a little, there were groves and country-houses—but the scenery, in general, was bleak and unfriendly, until we drew near Gottenburg. Two round, detached forts, built according to Vauban's ideas (which the Swedes say he stole from Sweden, where they were already in practice) announced our approach, and before noon we were alongside the pier. Here, to my great surprise, a Custom-house officer appeared and asked us to open our trunks. "But we came by the canal from Stockholm!" "That makes no difference," he replied; "your luggage must be examined." I then appealed to the captain, who stated that, in consequence of the steamer's being obliged to enter the Baltic waters for two or three hours between Sodertelje and Soderkoping, the law took it for granted that we might have boarded some foreign vessel during that time and procured contraband goods. In other words, though sailing in a narrow sound, between the Swedish islands and the Swedish coast, we had virtually been in a foreign country! It would scarcely be believed that this sagacious law is of quite recent enactment.
We remained until the next morning in Gottenburg. This is, in every respect, a more energetic and wide-awake place than Stockholm. It has not the same unrivalled beauty of position, but is more liberally laid out and kept in better order. Although the population is only about 40,000, its commerce is much greater than that of the capital, and so are, proportionately, its wealth and public spirit. The Magister Hedlund, a very intelligent and accomplished gentleman, to whom I had a letter from Mugge, the novelist, took me up the valley a distance of five or six miles, to a very picturesque village among the hills, which is fast growing into a manufacturing town. Large cotton, woollen and paper mills bestride a strong stream, which has such a fall that it leaps from one mill-wheel to another for the distance of nearly half a mile. On our return, we visited a number of wells hollowed in the rocky strata of the hills, to which the country people have given the name of "The Giant's Pots." A clergyman of the neighbourhood, even, has written a pamphlet to prove that they were the work of the antediluvian giants, who excavated them for the purpose of mixing dough for their loaves of bread and batter for their puddings. They are simply those holes which a pebble grinds in a softer rock, under the rotary action of a current of water, but on an immense scale, some of them being ten feet in diameter, by fifteen or eighteen in depth. At Herr Hedlund's house, I met a number of gentlemen, whose courtesy and intelligence gave me a very favourable impression of the society of the place.
The next morning, at five o'clock, the steamer Viken, from Christiania, arrived, and we took passage for Copenhagen. After issuing from the Skargaard, or rocky archipelago which protects the approach to Gottenburg from the sea, we made a direct course to Elsinore, down the Swedish coast, but too distant to observe more than its general outline. This part of Sweden, however—the province of Halland—is very rough and stony, and not until after passing the Sound does one see the fertile hills and vales of Scania. The Cattegat was as smooth as an inland sea, and our voyage could not have been pleasanter. In the afternoon Zealand rose blue from the wave, and the increase in the number of small sailing craft denoted our approach to the Sound. The opposite shores drew nearer to each other, and finally the spires of Helsingborg, on the Swedish shore, and the square mass of Kronborg Castle, under the guns of which the Sound dues have been so long demanded, appeared in sight. In spite of its bare, wintry aspect, the panorama was charming. The picturesque Gothic buttresses and gables of Kronborg rose above the zigzag of its turfed outworks; beyond were the houses and gardens of Helsingor (Elsinore)—while on the glassy breast of the Sound a fleet of merchant vessels lay at anchor, and beyond, the fields and towns of Sweden gleamed in the light of the setting sun. Yet here, again, I must find fault with Campbell, splendid lyrist as he is. We should have been sailing
"By thy wild and stormy steep, Elsinore!"
only that the level shore, with its fair gardens and groves wouldn't admit the possibility of such a thing. The music of the line remains the same, but you must not read it on the spot.
There was a beautiful American clipper at anchor off the Castle. "There," said a Danish passenger to me, "is one of the ships which have taken from us the sovereignty of the Sound." "I am very glad of it," I replied; "and I can only wonder why the maritime nations of Europe have so long submitted to such an imposition." "I am glad, also," said he, "that the question has at last been settled, and our privilege given up—and I believe we are all, even the Government itself, entirely satisfied with the arrangement." I heard the same opinion afterwards expressed in Copenhagen, and felt gratified, as an American, to hear the result attributed to the initiative taken by our Government; but I also remembered the Camden and Amboy Railroad Company, and could not help wishing that the same principle might be applied at home. We have a Denmark, lying between New-York and Philadelphia, and I have often paid sand dues for crossing her territory.