Our favorite resort is by the old red smoke pipe of the steamer, which rises warm and luminous as a sort of tower of defence. The wind must blow an uncommon variety of ways at once when you cannot find a sheltered side, as well as a place to warm your feet. In fact, the old smoke pipe is the domestic hearth of the ship; there, with the double convenience of warmth and fresh air, you can sit by the railing, and, looking down, command the prospect of the cook's offices, the cow house, pantries, &c.
Our cook has specially interested me—a tall, slender, melancholy man, with a watery-blue eye, a patient, dejected visage, like an individual weary of the storms and commotions of life, and thoroughly impressed with the vanity of human wishes. I sit there hour after hour watching him, and it is evident that he performs all his duties in this frame of sad composure. Now I see him resignedly stuffing a turkey, anon compounding a sauce, or mournfully making little ripples in the crust of a tart; but all is done under an evident sense that it is of no use trying.
Many complaints have been made of our coffee since we have been on board, which, to say the truth, has been as unsettled as most of the social questions of our day, and, perhaps, for that reason quite as generally unpalatable; but since I have seen our cook, I am quite persuaded that the coffee, like other works of great artists, has borrowed the hues of its maker's mind. I think I hear him soliloquize over it—"To what purpose is coffee?—of what avail tea?—thick or clear?—all is passing away—a little egg, or fish skin, more or less, what are they?" and so we get melancholy coffee and tea, owing to our philosophic cook.
After dinner I watch him as he washes dishes: he hangs up a whole row of tin; the ship gives a lurch, and knocks them all down. He looks as if it was just what he expected. "Such is life!" he says, as he pursues a frisky tin pan in one direction, and arrests the gambols of the ladle in another; while the wicked sea, meanwhile, with another lurch, is upsetting all his dishwater. I can see how these daily trials, this performing of most delicate and complicated gastronomic operations in the midst of such unsteady, unsettled circumstances, have gradually given this poor soul a despair of living, and brought him into this state of philosophic melancholy. Just as Xantippe made a sage of Socrates, this whisky, frisky, stormy ship life has made a sage of our cook. Meanwhile, not to do him injustice, let it be recorded, that in all dishes which require grave conviction and steady perseverance, rather than hope and inspiration, he is eminently successful. Our table excels in viands of a reflective and solemn character; mighty rounds of beef, vast saddles of mutton, and the whole tribe of meats in general, come on in a superior style. English plum pudding, a weighty and serious performance, is exhibited in first-rate order. The jellies want lightness,—but that is to be expected.
I admire the thorough order and system with which every thing is done on these ships. One day, when the servants came round, as they do at a certain time after dinner, and screwed up the shelf of decanters and bottles out of our reach, a German gentleman remarked, "Ah, that's always the way on English ships; every thing done at such a time, without saying 'by your leave,' If it had been on an American ship now, he would have said, 'Gentlemen, are you ready to have this shelf raised?'"
No doubt this remark is true and extends to a good many other things; but in a ship in the middle of the ocean, when the least confusion or irregularity in certain cases might be destruction to all on board, it does inspire confidence to see that there is even in the minutest things a strong and steady system, that goes on without saying "by your leave." Even the rigidness with which lights are all extinguished at twelve o'clock, though it is very hard in some cases, still gives you confidence in the watchfulness and care with which all on board is conducted.
On Sunday there was a service. We went into the cabin, and saw prayer books arranged at regular intervals, and soon a procession of the sailors neatly dressed filed in and took their places, together with such passengers as felt disposed, and the order of morning prayer was read. The sailors all looked serious and attentive. I could not but think that this feature of the management of her majesty's ships was a good one, and worthy of imitation. To be sure, one can say it is only a form. Granted; but is not a serious, respectful form of religion better than nothing? Besides, I am not willing to think that these intelligent-looking sailors could listen to all those devout sentiments expressed in the prayers, and the holy truths embodied in the passages of Scripture, and not gain something from it. It is bad to have only the form of religion, but not so bad as to have neither the form nor the fact.
When the ship has been out about eight days, an evident bettering of spirits and condition obtains among the passengers. Many of the sick ones take heart, and appear again among the walks and ways of men; the ladies assemble in little knots, and talk of getting on shore. The more knowing ones, who have travelled before, embrace this opportunity to show their knowledge of life by telling the new hands all sorts of hobgoblin stories about the custom house officers and the difficulties of getting landed in England. It is a curious fact, that old travellers generally seem to take this particular delight in striking consternation into younger ones.
"You'll have all your daguerreotypes taken away," says one lady, who, in right of having crossed the ocean nine times, is entitled to speak ex cathedra on the subject.
"All our daguerreotypes!" shriek four or five at once. "Pray tell, what for?"
"They will do it," says the knowing lady, with an awful nod; "unless you hide them, and all your books, they'll burn up—"
"Burn our books!" exclaim the circle. "O, dreadful! What do they do that for?"
"They're very particular always to burn up all your books. I knew a lady who had a dozen burned," says the wise one.
"Dear me! will they take our dresses?" says a young lady, with increasing alarm.
"No, but they'll pull every thing out, and tumble them well over, I can tell you."
An old lady, who has been very sick all the way, is revived by this appalling intelligence.
"I hope they won't tumble over my caps!" she exclaims.
"Yes, they will have every thing out on deck," says the lady, delighted with the increasing sensation. "I tell you you don't know these custom house officers."
"It's too bad!" "It's dreadful!" "How horrid!" exclaim all.
"I shall put my best things in my pocket," exclaims one. "They don't search our pockets, do they?"
"Well, no, not here; but I tell you they'll search your pockets at Antwerp and Brussels," says the lady.
Somebody catches the sound, and flies off into the state rooms with the intelligence that "the custom house officers are so dreadful—they rip open your trunks, pull out all your things, burn your books, take away your daguerreotypes, and even search your pockets;" and a row of groans is heard ascending from the row of state rooms, as all begin to revolve what they have in their trunks, and what they are to do in this emergency.
"Pray tell me," said I to a gentlemanly man, who had crossed four or five times, "is there really so much annoyance at the custom house?"
"Annoyance, ma'am? No, not the slightest."
"But do they really turn out the contents of the trunks, and take away people's daguerreotypes, and burn their books?"
"Nothing of the kind, ma'am. I apprehend no difficulty. I never had any. There are a few articles on which duty is charged. I have a case of cigars, for instance; I shall show them to the custom house officer, and pay the duty. If a person seems disposed to be fair, there is no difficulty. The examination of ladies' trunks is merely nominal; nothing is deranged."
So it proved. We arrived on Sunday morning; the custom house officers, very gentlemanly men, came on board; our luggage was all set out, and passed through a rapid examination, which in many cases amounted only to opening the trunk and shutting it, and all was over. The whole ceremony did not occupy two hours.
So ends this letter. You shall hear further how we landed at some future time.
It was on Sunday morning that we first came in sight of land. The day was one of a thousand—clear, calm, and bright. It is one of those strange, throbbing feelings, that come only once in a while in life; this waking up to find an ocean crossed and long-lost land restored again in another hemisphere; something like what we should suppose might be the thrill of awakening from life to immortality, and all the wonders of the world unknown. That low, green line of land in the horizon is Ireland; and we, with water smooth as a lake and sails furled, are running within a mile of the shore. Every body on deck, full of spirits and expectation, busy as can be looking through spyglasses, and exclaiming at every object on shore,—
"Look! there's Skibareen, where the worst of the famine was," says one.
"Look! that's a ruined Martello tower," says another.
We new voyagers, who had never seen any ruin more imposing than that of a cow house, and, of course, were ravenous for old towers, were now quite wide awake, but were disappointed to learn that these were only custom house rendezvous. Here is the county of Cork. Some one calls out,—
"There is O'Connell's house;" and a warm dispute ensues whether a large mansion, with a stone chapel by it, answers to that name. At all events the region looks desolate enough, and they say the natives of it are almost savages. A passenger remarks, that "O'Connell never really did any thing for the Irish, but lived on his capacity for exciting their enthusiasm." Thereupon another expresses great contempt for the Irish who could be so taken in. Nevertheless, the capability of a disinterested enthusiasm is, on the whole, a nobler property of a human being than a shrewd self-interest. I like the Irish all the better for it.
Now we pass Kinsale lighthouse; there is the spot where the Albion was wrecked. It is a bare, frowning cliff, with walls of rock rising perpendicularly out of the sea. Now, to be sure, the sea smiles and sparkles around the base of it, as gently as if it never could storm; yet under other skies, and with a fierce south-east wind, how the waves would pour in here! Woe then to the distressed and rudderless vessel that drifts towards those fatal rocks! This gives the outmost and boldest view of the point.
The Albion struck just round the left of the point, where the rock rises perpendicularly out of the sea. I well remember, when a child, of the newspapers being filled with the dreadful story of the wreck of the ship Albion—how for hours, rudderless and helpless, they saw themselves driving with inevitable certainty against these pitiless rocks; and how, in the last struggle, one human being after another was dashed against them in helpless agony.
What an infinite deal of misery results from man's helplessness and ignorance and nature's inflexibility in this one matter of crossing the ocean! What agonies of prayer there were during all the long hours that this ship was driving straight on to these fatal rocks, all to no purpose! It struck and crushed just the same. Surely, without the revelation of God in Jesus, who could believe in the divine goodness? I do not wonder the old Greeks so often spoke of their gods as cruel, and believed the universe was governed by a remorseless and inexorable fate. Who would come to any other conclusion, except from the pages of the Bible?
But we have sailed far past Kinsale point. Now blue and shadowy loom up the distant form of the Youghal Mountains, (pronounced Yoole.) The surface of the water is alive with fishing boats, spreading their white wings and skimming about like so many moth millers.
About nine o'clock we were crossing the sand bar, which lies at the mouth of the Mersey River, running up towards Liverpool. Our signal pennants are fluttering at the mast head, pilot full of energy on one wheel house, and a man casting the lead on the other.
"By the mark, five," says the man. The pilot, with all his energy, is telegraphing to the steersman. This is a very close and complicated piece of navigation, I should think, this running up the Mersey, for every moment we are passing some kind of a signal token, which warns off from some shoal. Here is a bell buoy, where the waves keep the bell always tolling; here, a buoyant lighthouse; and "See there, those shoals, how pokerish they look!" says one of the passengers, pointing to the foam on our starboard bow. All is bustle, animation, exultation. Now float out the American stars and stripes on our bow.
Before us lies the great city of Liverpool. No old Cathedral, no castles, a real New Yorkish place.
"There, that's the fort," cries one. Bang, bang, go the two guns from our forward gangway.
"I wonder if they will fire from the fort," says another.
"How green that grass looks!" says a third; "and what pretty cottages!"
"All modern, though," says somebody, in tones of disappointment. Now we are passing the Victoria Dock. Bang, bang, again. We are in a forest of ships of all nations; their masts bristling like the tall pines in Maine; their many colored flags streaming like the forest leaves in autumn.
"Hark," says one; "there's, a chime of bells from the city; how sweet! I had quite forgotten it was Sunday."
Here we cast anchor, and the small steam tender conies puffing alongside. Now for the custom house officers. State rooms, holds, and cabins must all give up their trunks; a general muster among the baggage, and passenger after passenger comes forward as their names are called, much as follows: "Snooks." "Here, sir." "Any thing contraband here, Mr. Snooks? Any cigars, tobacco, &c.?" "Nothing, sir."
A little unlocking, a little fumbling. "Shut up; all right; ticket here." And a little man pastes on each article a slip of paper, with the royal arms of England and the magical letters V.R., to remind all men that they have come into a country where a lady reigns, and of course must behave themselves as prettily as they can.
We were inquiring of some friends for the most convenient hotel, when we found the son of Mr. Cropper, of Dingle Bank, waiting in the cabin, to take us with him to their hospitable abode. In a few moments after the baggage had been examined, we all bade adieu to the old ship, and went on board the little steam tender, which carries passengers up to the city.
This Mersey River would be a very beautiful one, if it were not so dingy and muddy. As we are sailing up in the tender towards Liverpool, I deplore the circumstance feelingly. "What does make this river so muddy?"
"O," says a bystander, "don't you know that
'The quality of mercy is not strained'?"
And now we are fairly alongside the shore, and we are soon going to set our foot on the land of Old England.
Say what we will, an American, particularly a New Englander, can never approach the old country without a kind of thrill and pulsation of kindred. Its history for two centuries was our history. Its literature, laws, and language are our literature, laws, and language. Spenser, Shakspeare, Bacon, Milton, were a glorious inheritance, which we share in common. Our very life-blood is English life-blood. It is Anglo-Saxon vigor that is spreading our country from Atlantic to Pacific, and leading on a new era in the world's development. America is a tall, sightly young shoot, that has grown from the old royal oak of England; divided from its parent root, it has shot up in new, rich soil, and under genial, brilliant skies, and therefore takes on a new type of growth and foliage, but the sap in it is the same.
I had an early opportunity of making acquaintance with my English brethren; for, much to my astonishment, I found quite a crowd on the wharf, and we walked up to our carriage through a long lane of people, bowing, and looking very glad to see us. When I came to get into the hack it was surrounded by more faces than I could count. They stood very quietly, and looked very kindly, though evidently very much determined to look. Something prevented the hack from moving on; so the interview was prolonged for some time. I therefore took occasion to remark the very fair, pure complexions, the clear eyes, and the general air of health and vigor, which seem to characterize our brethren and sisters of the island. There seemed to be no occasion to ask them, how they did, as they were evidently quite well. Indeed, this air of health is one of the most striking things when one lands in England.
They were not burly, red-faced, and stout, as I had sometimes conceived of the English people, but just full enough to suggest the idea of vigor and health. The presence of so many healthy, rosy people looking at me, all reduced as I was, first by land and then by sea sickness, made me feel myself more withered and forlorn than ever. But there was an earnestness and a depth of kind feeling in some of the faces, which I shall long remember. It seemed as if I had not only touched the English shore, but felt the English heart.
Our carriage at last drove on, taking us through Liverpool, and a mile or two out, and at length wound its way along the gravel paths of a beautiful little retreat, on the banks of the Mersey, called the "Dingle." It opened to my eyes like a paradise, all wearied as I was with the tossing of the sea. I have since become familiar with these beautiful little spots, which are so common in England; but now all was entirely new to me.
We rode by shining clumps of the Portugal laurel, a beautiful evergreen, much resembling our mountain rhododendron; then there was the prickly, polished, dark-green holly, which I had never seen before, but which is, certainly, one of the most perfect of shrubs. The turf was of that soft, dazzling green, and had that peculiar velvet-like smoothness, which seem characteristic of England. We stopped at last before the door of a cottage, whose porch was overgrown with ivy. From that moment I ceased to feel myself a stranger in England. I cannot tell you how delightful to me, dizzy and weary as I was, was the first sight of the chamber of reception which had been prepared for us. No item of cozy comfort that one could desire was omitted. The sofa and easy chair wheeled up before a cheerful coal fire, a bright little teakettle steaming in front of the grate, a table with a beautiful vase of flowers, books, and writing apparatus, and kind friends with words full of affectionate cheer,—all these made me feel at home in a moment.
The hospitality of England has become famous in the world, and, I think, with reason. I doubt not there is just as much hospitable feeling in other countries; but in England the matter of coziness and home comfort has been so studied, and matured, and reduced to system, that they really have it in their power to effect more, towards making their guests comfortable, than perhaps any other people.
After a short season allotted to changing our ship garments and for rest, we found ourselves seated at the dinner table. While dining, the sister-in-law of our friends came in from the next door, to exchange a word or two of welcome, and invite us to breakfast with them the following morning.
Between all the excitements of landing, and meeting so many new faces, and the remains of the dizzy motion of the ship, which still haunted me, I found it impossible to close my eyes to sleep that first night till the dim gray of dawn. I got up as soon as it was light, and looked out of the window; and as my eyes fell on the luxuriant, ivy-covered porch, the clumps of shining, dark-green holly bushes, I said to myself, "Ah, really, this is England!"
I never saw any plant that struck me as more beautiful than this holly. It is a dense shrub growing from six to eight feet high, with a thickly varnished leaf of green. The outline of the leaf is something like this. I do not believe it can ever come to a state of perfect development under the fierce alternations of heat and cold which obtain in our New England climate, though it grows in the Southern States. It is one of the symbolical shrubs of England, probably because its bright green in winter makes it so splendid a Christmas decoration. A little bird sat twittering on one of the sprays. He had a bright red breast, and seemed evidently to consider himself of good blood and family, with the best reason, as I afterwards learned, since he was no other than the identical robin redbreast renowned in song and story; undoubtedly a lineal descendant of that very cock robin whose death and burial form so vivid a portion of our childish literature.
I must tell you, then, as one of the first remarks on matters and things here in England, that "robin redbreast" is not at all the fellow we in America take him to be. The character who flourishes under that name among us is quite a different bird; he is twice as large, and has altogether a different air, and as he sits up with military erectness on a rail fence or stump, shows not even a family likeness to his diminutive English namesake. Well, of course, robin over here will claim to have the real family estate and title, since he lives in a country where such matters are understood and looked into. Our robin is probably some fourth cousin, who, like others, has struck out a new course for himself in America, and thrives upon it.
We hurried to dress, remembering our engagements to breakfast this morning with a brother of our host, whose cottage stands on the same ground, within a few steps of our own. I had not the slightest idea of what the English mean by a breakfast, and therefore went in all innocence, supposing that I should see nobody but the family circle of my acquaintances. Quite to my astonishment, I found a party of between thirty and forty people. Ladies sitting with their bonnets on, as in a morning call. It was impossible, however, to feel more than a momentary embarrassment in the friendly warmth and cordiality of the circle by whom we were surrounded.
The English are called cold and stiff in their manners; I had always heard they were so, but I certainly saw nothing of it here. A circle of family relatives could not have received us with more warmth and kindness. The remark which I made mentally, as my eye passed around the circle, was—Why, these people are just like home; they look like us, and the tone of sentiment and feeling is precisely such as I have been accustomed to; I mean with the exception of the antislavery question.
That question has, from the very first, been, in England, a deeply religious movement. It was conceived and carried on by men of devotional habits, in the same spirit in which the work of foreign missions was undertaken in our own country; by just such earnest, self-denying, devout men as Samuel J. Mills and Jeremiah Evarts.
It was encountered by the same contempt and opposition, in the outset, from men of merely worldly habits and principles; and to this day it retains that hold on the devotional mind of the English nation that the foreign mission cause does in America.
Liverpool was at first to the antislavery cause nearly what New York has been with us. Its commercial interests were largely implicated in the slave trade, and the virulence of opposition towards the first movers of the antislavery reform in Liverpool was about as great as it is now against abolitionists in Charleston.
When Clarkson first came here to prosecute his inquiries into the subject, a mob collected around him, and endeavored to throw him off the dock into the water; he was rescued by a gentleman, some of whose descendants I met on this occasion.
The father of our host, Mr. Cropper, was one of the first and most efficient supporters of the cause in Liverpool; and the whole circle was composed of those who had taken a deep interest in that struggle. The wife of our host was the daughter of the celebrated Lord Chief Justice Denman, a man who, for many years, stood unrivalled, at the head of the legal mind in England, and who, with a generous ardor seldom equalled, devoted all his energies to this sacred cause.
When the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin turned the attention of the British public to the existing horrors of slavery in America, some palliations of the system appeared in English papers. Lord Denman, though then in delicate health and advanced years, wrote a series of letters upon the subject—an exertion which entirely prostrated his before feeble health. In one of the addresses made at table, a very feeling allusion was made to Lord Denman's labors, and also to those of the honored father of the two Messrs. Cropper.
As breakfast parties are things which we do not have in America, perhaps mother would like to know just how they are managed. The hour is generally somewhere between nine and twelve, and the whole idea and spirit of the thing is that of an informal and social gathering. Ladies keep their bonnets on, and are not dressed in full toilet. On this occasion we sat and chatted together socially till the whole party was assembled in the drawing room, and then breakfast was announced. Each gentleman had a lady assigned him, and we walked into the dining room, where stood the tables tastefully adorned with flowers, and spread with an abundant cold collation, while tea and coffee were passed round by servants. In each plate was a card, containing the name of the person for whom it was designed. I took my place by the side of the Rev. Dr. McNiel, one of the most celebrated clergymen of the established church in Liverpool.
The conversation was flowing, free, and friendly. The old reminiscences of the antislavery conflict in England were touchingly recalled, and the warmest sympathy was expressed for those in America who are carrying on the same cause.
In one thing I was most agreeably disappointed. I had been told that the Christians of England were intolerant and unreasonable in their opinions on this subject; that they could not be made to understand the peculiar difficulties which beset it in America, and that they therefore made no distinction and no allowance in their censures. All this I found, so far as this circle were concerned, to be strikingly untrue. They appeared to be peculiarly affectionate in their feelings as regarded our country; to have the highest appreciation of, and the deepest sympathy with, our religious community, and to be extremely desirous to assist us in our difficulties. I also found them remarkably well informed upon the subject. They keep their eyes upon our papers, our public documents and speeches in Congress, and are as well advised in regard to the progress of the moral conflict as our Foreign Missionary Society is with the state of affairs in Hindostan and Burmah.
Several present spoke of the part which England originally had in planting slavery in America, as placing English Christians under a solemn responsibility to bring every possible moral influence to bear for its extinction. Nevertheless, they seem to be the farthest possible from an unkind or denunciatory spirit, even towards those most deeply implicated. The remarks made by Dr. McNiel to me were a fair sample of the spirit and attitude of all present.
"I have been trying, Mrs. S.," he said, "to bring my mind into the attitude of those Christians at the south who defend the institution of slavery. There are real Christians there who do this—are there not?"
I replied, that undoubtedly there were some most amiable and Christian people who defend slavery on principle, just as there had been some to defend every form of despotism.
"Do give me some idea of the views they take; it is something to me so inconceivable. I am utterly at a loss how it can be made in any way plausible."
I then stated that the most plausible view, and that which seemed to have the most force with good men, was one which represented the institution of slavery as a sort of wardship or guardian relation, by which an inferior race were brought under the watch and care of a superior race to be instructed in Christianity.
He then inquired if there was any system of religious instruction actually pursued.
In reply to this, I gave him some sketch of the operations for the religious instruction of the negroes, which had been carried on by the Presbyterian and other denominations. I remarked that many good people who do not take very extended views, fixing their attention chiefly on the efforts which they are making for the religious instruction of slaves, are blind to the sin and injustice of allowing their legal position to remain what it is.
"But how do they shut their eyes to the various cruelties of the system,—the separation of families—the domestic slave trade?"
I replied, "In part, by not inquiring into them. The best kind of people are, in general, those who know least of the cruelties of the system; they never witness them. As in the city of London or Liverpool there may be an amount of crime and suffering which many residents may live years without seeing or knowing, so it is in the slave states."
Every person present appeared to be in that softened and charitable frame of mind which disposed them to make every allowance for the situation of Christians so peculiarly tempted, while, at the same time, there was the most earnest concern, in view of the dishonor brought upon Christianity by the defence of such a system.
One other thing I noticed, which was an agreeable disappointment to me. I had been told that there was no social intercourse between the established church and dissenters. In this party, however, were people of many different denominations. Our host belongs to the established church; his brother, with whom we are visiting, is a Baptist, and their father was a Friend; and there appeared to be the utmost social cordiality. Whether I shall find this uniformly the case will appear in time.
After the breakfast party was over, I found at the door an array of children of the poor, belonging to a school kept under the superintendence of Mrs. E. Cropper, and called, as is customary here, a ragged school. The children, however, were any thing but ragged, being tidily dressed, remarkably clean, with glowing cheeks and bright eyes. I must say, so far as I have seen them, English children have a much healthier appearance than those of America. By the side of their bright bloom ours look pale and faded.
Another school of the same kind is kept in this neighborhood, under the auspices of Sir George Stephen, a conspicuous advocate of the antislavery cause.
I thought the fair patroness of this school seemed not a little delighted with the appearance of her proteges, as they sung, with great enthusiasm, Jane Taylor's hymn, commencing,—
"I thank the goodness and the grace That on my birth have smiled, And made me in these Christian days A happy English child."
All the little rogues were quite familiar with Topsy and Eva, and au fait in the fortunes of Uncle Tom; so that, being introduced as the maternal relative of these characters, I seemed to find favor in their eyes. And when one of the speakers congratulated them that they were born in a land where no child could be bought or sold, they responded with enthusiastic cheers—cheers which made me feel rather sad; but still I could not quarrel with English people for taking all the pride and all the comfort which this inspiriting truth can convey.
They had a hard enough struggle in rooting up the old weed of slavery, to justify them in rejoicing in their freedom. Well, the day will come in America, as I trust, when as much can be said for us.
After the children were gone came a succession of calls; some from very aged people, the veterans of the old antislavery cause. I was astonished and overwhelmed by the fervor of feeling some of them manifested; there seemed to be something almost prophetic in the enthusiasm with which they expressed their hope of our final success in America. This excitement, though very pleasant, was wearisome, and I was glad of an opportunity after dinner to rest myself, by rambling uninterrupted, with my friends, through the beautiful grounds of the Dingle.
Two nice little boys were my squires on this occasion, one of whom, a sturdy little fellow, on being asked his name, gave it to me in full as Joseph Babington Macaulay, and I learned that his mother, by a former marriage, had been the wife of Macaulay's brother. Uncle Tom Macaulay, I found, was a favorite character with the young people. Master Harry conducted me through the walks to the conservatories, all brilliant with azaleas and all sorts of flowers, and then through a long walk on the banks of the Mersey.
Here the wild flowers attracted my attention, as being so different from those of our own country. Their daisy is not our flower, with its wide, plaited ruff and yellow centre. The English daisy is
"The wee modest crimson-tipped flower,"
which Burns celebrates. It is what we raise in greenhouses, and call the mountain daisy. Its effect, growing profusely about fields and grass plats, is very beautiful.
We read much, among the poets, of the primrose,
"Earliest daughter of the Spring."
This flower is one, also, which we cultivate in gardens to some extent. The outline of it is as follows: The hue a delicate straw color; it grows in tufts in shady places, and has a pure, serious look, which reminds one of the line of Shakspeare—
"Pale primroses, which die unmarried."
It has also the faintest and most ethereal perfume,—a perfume that seems to come and go in the air like music; and you perceive it at a little distance from a tuft of them, when you would not if you gathered and smelled them. On the whole, the primrose is a poet's and a painter's flower. An artist's eye would notice an exquisite harmony between the yellow-green hue of its leaves and the tint of its blossoms. I do not wonder that it has been so great a favorite among the poets. It is just such a flower as Mozart and Raphael would have loved.
Then there is the bluebell, a bulb, which also grows in deep shades. It is a little purple bell, with a narrow green leaf, like a ribbon. We often read in English stories, of the gorse and furze; these are two names for the same plant, a low bush, with strong, prickly leaves, growing much like a juniper. The contrast of its very brilliant yellow, pea-shaped blossoms, with the dark green of its leaves, is very beautiful. It grows here in hedges and on commons, and is thought rather a plebeian affair. I think it would make quite an addition to our garden shrubbery. Possibly it might make as much sensation with us as our mullein does in foreign greenhouses.
After rambling a while, we came to a beautiful summer house, placed in a retired spot, so as to command a view of the Mersey River. I think they told me that it was Lord Denman's favorite seat. There we sat down, and in common with the young gentlemen and ladies of the family, had quite a pleasant talk together. Among other things we talked about the question which is now agitating the public mind a good deal,—Whether it is expedient to open the Crystal Palace to the people on Sunday. They said that this course was much urged by some philanthropists, on the ground that it was the only day when the working classes could find any leisure to visit it, and that it seemed hard to shut them out entirely from all the opportunities and advantages which they might thus derive; that to exclude the laborer from recreation on the Sabbath, was the same as saying that he should never have any recreation. I asked, why the philanthropists could not urge employers to give their workmen a part of Saturday for this purpose; as it seemed to me unchristian to drive trade so that the laboring man had no time but Sunday for intellectual and social recreation. We rather came to the conclusion that this was the right course; whether the people of England will, is quite another matter.
The grounds of the Dingle embrace three cottages; those of the two Messrs. Cropper, and that of a son, who is married to a daughter of Dr. Arnold. I rather think this way of relatives living together is more common here in England than it is in America; and there is more idea of home permanence connected with the family dwelling-place than with us, where the country is so wide, and causes of change and removal so frequent. A man builds a house in England with the expectation of living in it and leaving it to his children; while we shed our houses in America as easily as a snail does his shell. We live a while in Boston, and then a while in New York, and then, perhaps, turn up at Cincinnati. Scarcely any body with us is living where they expect to live and die. The man that dies in the house he was born in is a wonder. There is something pleasant in the permanence and repose of the English family estate, which we, in America, know very little of. All which is apropos to our having finished our walk, and got back to the ivy-covered porch again.
The next day at breakfast, it was arranged that we should take a drive out to Speke Hall, an old mansion, which is considered a fine specimen of ancient house architecture. So the carriage was at the door. It was a cool, breezy, April morning, but there was an abundance of wrappers and carriage blankets provided to keep us comfortable. I must say, by the by, that English housekeepers are bountiful in their provision for carriage comfort. Every household has a store of warm, loose over garments, which are offered, if needed, to the guests; and each carriage is provided with one or two blankets, manufactured and sold expressly for this use, to envelope one's feet and limbs; besides all which, should the weather be cold, comes out a long stone reservoir, made flat on both sides, and filled with hot water, for foot stools. This is an improvement on the primitive simplicity of hot bricks, and even on the tin foot stove, which has nourished in New England.
Being thus provided with all things necessary for comfort, we rattled merrily away, and I, remembering that I was in England, kept my eyes wide open to see what I could see. The hedges of the fields were just budding, and the green showed itself on them, like a thin gauze veil. These hedges are not all so well kept and trimmed as I expected to find them. Some, it is true, are cut very carefully; these are generally hedges to ornamental grounds; but many of those which separate the fields straggle and sprawl, and have some high bushes and some low ones, and, in short, are no more like a hedge than many rows of bushes that we have at home. But such as they are, they are the only dividing lines of the fields, and it is certainly a more picturesque mode of division than our stone or worm fences. Outside of every hedge, towards the street, there is generally a ditch, and at the bottom of the hedge is the favorite nestling-place for all sorts of wild flowers. I remember reading in stories about children trying to crawl through a gap in the hedge to get at flowers, and tumbling into a ditch on the other side, and I now saw exactly how they could do it.
As we drive we pass by many beautiful establishments, about of the quality of our handsomest country houses, but whose grounds are kept with a precision and exactness rarely to be seen among us. We cannot get the gardeners who are qualified to do it; and if we could, the painstaking, slow way of proceeding, and the habit of creeping thoroughness, which are necessary to accomplish such results, die out in America. Nevertheless, such grounds are exceedingly beautiful to look upon, and I was much obliged to the owners of these places for keeping their gates hospitably open, as seems to be the custom here.
After a drive of seven or eight miles, we alighted in front of Speke Hall. This house is a specimen of the old fortified houses of England, and was once fitted up with a moat and drawbridge, all in approved feudal style. It was built somewhere about the year 1500. The sometime moat was now full of smooth, green grass, and the drawbridge no longer remains.
This was the first really old thing that we had seen since our arrival in England. We came up first to a low, arched, stone door, and knocked with a great old-fashioned knocker; this brought no answer but a treble and bass duet from a couple of dogs inside; so we opened the door, and saw a square court, paved with round stones, and a dark, solitary yew tree in the centre. Here in England, I think, they have vegetable creations made on purpose to go with old, dusky buildings; and this yew tree is one of them. It has altogether a most goblin-like, bewitched air, with its dusky black leaves and ragged branches, throwing themselves straight out with odd twists and angular lines, and might put one in mind of an old raven with some of his feathers pulled out, or a black cat with her hair stroked the wrong way, or any other strange, uncanny thing. Besides this they live almost forever; for when they have grown so old that any respectable tree ought to be thinking of dying, they only take another twist, and so live on another hundred years. I saw some in England seven hundred years old, and they had grown queerer every century. It is a species of evergreen, and its leaf resembles our hemlock, only it is longer. This sprig gives you some idea of its general form. It is always planted about churches and graveyards; a kind of dismal emblem of immortality. This sepulchral old tree and the bass and treble dogs were the only occupants of the court. One of these, a great surly mastiff, barked out of his kennel on one side, and the other, a little wiry terrier, out of his on the opposite side, and both strained on their chains, as if they would enjoy making even more decided demonstrations if they could.
There was an aged, mossy fountain for holy water by the side of the wall, in which some weeds were growing. A door in the house was soon opened by a decent-looking serving woman, to whom we communicated our desire to see the hall.
We were shown into a large dining hall with a stone floor, wainscoted with carved oak, almost as black as ebony. There were some pious sentences and moral reflections inscribed in old English text, carved over the doors, and like a cornice round the ceiling, which was also of carved oak. Their general drift was, to say that life is short, and to call for watchfulness and prayer. The fireplace of the hall yawned like a great cavern, and nothing else, one would think, than a cart load of western sycamores could have supplied an appropriate fire. A great two-handed sword of some ancestor hung over the fireplace. On taking it down it reached to C——'s shoulder, who, you know, is six feet high.
We went into a sort of sitting room, and looked out through a window, latticed with little diamond panes, upon a garden wildly beautiful. The lattice was all wreathed round with jessamines. The furniture of this room was modern, and it seemed the more unique from its contrast with the old architecture.
We went up stairs to see the chambers, and passed through a long, narrow, black oak corridor, whose slippery boards had the authentic ghostly squeak to them. There was a chamber, hung with old, faded tapestry of Scripture subjects. In this chamber there was behind the tapestry a door, which, being opened, displayed a staircase, that led delightfully off to nobody knows where. The furniture was black oak, carved, in the most elaborate manner, with cherubs' heads and other good and solemn subjects, calculated to produce a ghostly state of mind. And, to crown all, we heard that there was a haunted chamber, which was not to be opened, where a white lady appeared and walked at all approved hours.
Now, only think what a foundation for a story is here. If our Hawthorne could conjure up such a thing as the Seven Gables in one of our prosaic country towns, what would he have done if he had lived here? Now he is obliged to get his ghostly images by looking through smoked glass at our square, cold realities; but one such old place as this is a standing romance. Perhaps it may add to the effect to say, that the owner of the house is a bachelor, who lives there very retired, and employs himself much in reading.
The housekeeper, who showed us about, indulged us with a view of the kitchen, whose snowy, sanded floor and resplendent polished copper and tin, were sights for a housekeeper to take away in her heart of hearts. The good woman produced her copy of Uncle Tom, and begged the favor of my autograph, which I gave, thinking it quite a happy thing to be able to do a favor at so cheap a rate.
After going over the house we wandered through the grounds, which are laid out with the same picturesque mixture of the past and present. There was a fine grove, under whose shadows we walked, picking primroses, and otherwise enacting the poetic, till it was time to go. As we passed out, we were again saluted with a feu de joie by the two fidelities at the door, which we took in very good part, since it is always respectable to be thorough in whatever you are set to do.
Coming home we met with an accident to the carriage which obliged us to get out and walk some distance. I was glad enough of it, because it gave me a better opportunity for seeing the country. We stopped at a cottage to get some rope, and a young woman came out with that beautiful, clear complexion which I so much admire here in England; literally her cheeks were like damask roses.
I told Isa I wanted to see as much of the interior of the cottages as I could; and so, as we were walking onward toward home, we managed to call once or twice, on the excuse of asking the way and distance. The exterior was very neat, being built of brick or stone, and each had attached to it a little flower garden. Isa said that the cottagers often offered them a slice of bread or tumbler of milk.
They have a way here of building the cottages two or three in a block together, which struck me as different from our New England manner, where, in the country, every house stands detached.
In the evening I went into Liverpool, to attend a party of friends of the antislavery cause. In the course of the evening, Mr. Stowe was requested to make some remarks. Among other things he spoke upon the support the free part of the world give to slavery, by the purchase of the produce of slave labor; and, in particular, on the great quantity of slave-grown cotton purchased by England; suggesting it as a subject for inquiry, whether this cannot be avoided.
One or two gentlemen, who are largely concerned in the manufacture and importation of cotton, spoke to him on the subject afterwards, and said it was a thing which ought to be very seriously considered. It is probable that the cotton trade of Great Britain is the great essential item which supports slavery, and such considerations ought not, therefore, to be without their results.
When I was going away, the lady of the house said that the servants were anxious to see me; so I came into the dressing room to give them, an opportunity.
While at Mr. C.'s, also, I had once or twice been called out to see servants, who had come in to visit those of the family. All of them had read Uncle Tom's Cabin, and were full of sympathy. Generally speaking, the servants seem to me quite a superior class to what are employed in that capacity with us. They look very intelligent, are dressed with great neatness, and though their manners are very much more deferential than those of servants in our country, it appears to be a difference arising quite as much from self-respect and a sense of propriety as from servility. Every body's manners are more deferential in England than in America.
The next day was appointed to leave Liverpool. It had been arranged that, before leaving, we should meet the ladies of the Negroes' Friend Society, an association formed at the time of the original antislavery agitation in England. We went in the carriage with our friends Mr. and Mrs. E. Cropper. On the way they were conversing upon the labors of Mrs. Chisholm, the celebrated female philanthropist, whose efforts for the benefit of emigrants are awakening a very general interest among all classes in England. They said there had been hesitation on the part of some good people, in regard to cooeperating with her, because she is a Roman Catholic.
It was agreed among us, that the great humanities of the present day are a proper ground on which all sects can unite, and that if any feared the extension of wrong sentiments, they had only to supply emigrant ships more abundantly with the Bible. Mr. C. said that this is a movement exciting very extensive interest, and that they hoped Mrs. Chisholm would visit Liverpool before long.
The meeting was a very interesting one. The style of feeling expressed in all the remarks was tempered by a deep and earnest remembrance of the share which England originally had in planting the evil of slavery in the civilized world, and her consequent obligation, as a Christian nation, now not to cease her efforts until the evil is extirpated, not merely from her own soil, but from all lands.
The feeling towards America was respectful and friendly, and the utmost sympathy was expressed with her in the difficulties with which she is environed by this evil. The tone of the meeting was deeply earnest and religious. They presented us with a sum to be appropriated for the benefit of the slave, in any way we might think proper.
A great number of friends accompanied us to the cars, and a beautiful bouquet of flowers was sent, with a very affecting message from, a sick gentleman, who, from the retirement of his chamber, felt a desire to testify his sympathy.
Now, if all this enthusiasm for freedom and humanity, in the person of the American slave, is to be set down as good for nothing in England, because there are evils there in society which require redress, what then shall we say of ourselves? Have we not been enthusiastic for freedom in the person of the Greek, the Hungarian, and the Pole, while protecting a much worse despotism than any from which they suffer? Do we not consider it our duty to print and distribute the Bible in all foreign lands, when there are three millions of people among whom we dare not distribute it at home, and whom it is a penal offence even to teach to read it? Do we not send remonstrances to Tuscany, about the Madiai, when women are imprisoned in Virginia for teaching slaves to read? Is all this hypocritical, insincere, and impertinent in us? Are we never to send another missionary, or make another appeal for foreign lands, till we have abolished slavery at home? For my part, I think that imperfect and inconsistent outbursts of generosity and feeling are a great deal better than none. No nation, no individual is wholly consistent and Christian; but let us not in ourselves or in other nations repudiate the truest and most beautiful developments of humanity, because we have not yet attained perfection. All experience has proved that the sublime spirit of foreign missions always is suggestive of home philanthropies, and that those whose heart has been enlarged by the love of all mankind are always those who are most efficient in their own particular sphere.
GLASGOW, April 16, 1853.
DEAR AUNT E.:—
You shall have my earliest Scotch letter; for I am sure nobody can sympathize in the emotions of the first approach to Scotland as you can. A country dear to us by the memory of the dead and of the living; a country whose history and literature, interesting enough of itself, has become to us still more so, because the reading and learning of it formed part of our communion for many a social hour, with friends long parted from earth.
The views of Scotland, which lay on my mother's table, even while I was a little child, and in poring over which I spent so many happy, dreamy hours,—the Scotch ballads, which were the delight of our evening fireside, and which seemed almost to melt the soul out of me, before I was old enough to understand their words,—the songs of Burns, which had been a household treasure among us,—the enchantments of Scott,—all these dimly returned upon me. It was the result of them all which I felt in nerve and brain.
And, by the by, that puts me in mind of one thing; and that is, how much of our pleasure in literature results from its reflection on us from, other minds. As we advance in life, the literature which has charmed us in the circle of our friends becomes endeared to us from the reflected remembrance of them, of their individualities, their opinions, and their sympathies, so that our memory of it is a many-colored cord, drawn from many minds.
So in coming near to Scotland, I seemed to feel not only my own individuality, but all that my friends would have felt, had they been with me. For sometimes we seem to be encompassed, as by a cloud, with a sense of the sympathy of the absent and the dead.
We left Liverpool with hearts a little tremulous and excited by the vibration of an atmosphere of universal sympathy and kindness. We found ourselves, at length, shut from the warm adieus of our friends, in a snug compartment of the railroad car. The English cars are models of comfort and good keeping. There are six seats in a compartment, luxuriously cushioned and nicely carpeted, and six was exactly the number of our party. Nevertheless, so obstinate is custom that we averred at first that we preferred our American cars, deficient as they are in many points of neatness and luxury, because they are so much more social.
"Dear me," said Mr. S., "six Yankees shut up in a car together! Not one Englishman to tell us any thing about the country! Just like the six old ladies that made their living by taking tea at each other's houses."
But that is the way here in England: every arrangement in travelling is designed to maintain that privacy and reserve which is the dearest and most sacred part of an Englishman's nature. Things are so arranged here that, if a man pleases, he can travel all through England with his family, and keep the circle an unbroken unit, having just as little communication with any thing outside of it as in his own house.
From one of these sheltered apartments in a railroad car, he can pass to preengaged parlors and chambers in the hotel, with his own separate table, and all his domestic manners and peculiarities unbroken. In fact, it is a little compact home travelling about.
Now, all this is very charming to people who know already as much about a country as they want to know; but it follows from it that a stranger might travel all through England, from one end to the other and not be on conversing terms with a person in it. He may be at the same hotel, in the same train with people able to give him all imaginable information, yet never touch them at any practicable point of communion. This is more especially the case if his party, as ours was, is just large enough to fill the whole apartment.
As to the comforts of the cars, it is to be said, that for the same price you can get far more comfortable riding in America. Their first class cars are beyond all praise, but also beyond all price; their second class are comfortless, cushionless, and uninviting. Agreeably with our theory of democratic equality, we have a general car, not so complete as the one, nor so bare as the other, where all ride together; and if the traveller in thus riding sees things that occasionally annoy him, when he remembers that the whole population, from the highest to the lowest, are accommodated here together, he will certainly see hopeful indications in the general comfort, order, and respectability which prevail; all which we talked over most patriotically together, while we were lamenting that there was not a seventh to our party, to instruct us in the localities.
Every thing upon the railroad proceeds with systematic accuracy. There is no chance for the most careless person to commit a blunder, or make a mistake. At the proper time the conductor marches every body into their places and locks them in, gives the word, "All right," and away we go. Somebody has remarked, very characteristically, that the starting word of the English is "all right," and that of the Americans "go ahead."
Away we go through Lancashire, wide awake, looking out on all sides for any signs of antiquity. In being thus whirled through English scenery, I became conscious of a new understanding of the spirit and phraseology of English poetry. There are many phrases and expressions with which we have been familiar from childhood, and which, we suppose, in a kind of indefinite way, we understand, which, after all, when we come on English ground, start into a new significance: take, for instance, these lines from L'Allegro:—
"Sometimes walking, not unseen, By hedge-row elms on hillocks green.
* * * * *
Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures, While the landscape round it measures; Russet lawns and fallows gray, Where the nibbling flocks do stray; Mountains, on whose barren breast The laboring clouds do often rest; Meadows trim with daisies pied, Shallow brooks and livers wide: Towers and battlements it sees Bosom'd high in tufted trees."
Now, these hedge-row elms. I had never even asked myself what they were till I saw them; but you know, as I said in a former letter, the hedges are not all of them carefully cut; in fact many of them are only irregular rows of bushes, where, although the hawthorn is the staple element, yet firs, and brambles, and many other interlopers put in their claim, and they all grow up together in a kind of straggling unity; and in the hedges trees are often set out, particularly elms, and have a very pleasing effect.
Then, too, the trees have more of that rounding outline which is expressed by the word "bosomed." But here we are, right under the walls of Lancaster, and Mr. S. wakes me up by quoting, "Old John o' Gaunt, time-honored Lancaster."
"Time-honored," said I; "it looks as fresh as if it had been built yesterday: you do not mean to say that is the real old castle?"
"To be sure, it is the very old castle built in the reign of Edward III., by John of Gaunt."
It stands on the summit of a hill, seated regally like a queen upon a throne, and every part of it looks as fresh, and sharp, and clear, as if it were the work of modern times. It is used now for a county jail. We have but a moment to stop or admire—the merciless steam car drives on. We have a little talk about the feudal times, and the old past days; when again the cry goes up,—
"O, there's something! What's that?"
"O, that is Carlisle."
"Carlisle!" said I; "what, the Carlisle of Scott's ballad?"
"Why, don't you remember, in the Lay of the Last Minstrel, the song of Albert Graeme, which has something about Carlisle's wall in every verse?
'It was an English, laydie bright When sun shines fair on Carlisle wall, And she would marry a Scottish knight, For love will still be lord of all.'
I used to read this when I was a child, and wonder what 'Carlisle wall' was."
Carlisle is one of the most ancient cities in England, dating quite back to the time of the Romans. Wonderful! How these Romans left their mark every where!
Carlisle has also its ancient castle, the lofty, massive tower of which forms a striking feature of the town.
This castle was built by William Rufus. David, King of Scots, and Robert Bruce both tried their hands upon it, in the good old times, when England and Scotland were a mutual robbery association. Then the castle of the town was its great feature; castles were every thing in those days. Now the castle has gone to decay, and stands only for a curiosity, and the cotton factory has come up in its place. This place is famous for cottons and ginghams, and moreover for a celebrated biscuit bakery. So goes the world,—the lively vigorous shoots of the present springing out of the old, mouldering trunk of the past.
Mr. S. was in an ecstasy about an old church, a splendid Gothic, in which Paley preached. He was archdeacon of Carlisle. We stopped here for a little while to take dinner. In a large, handsome room tables were set out, and we sat down to a regular meal.
One sees nothing of a town from a railroad station, since it seems to be an invariable rule, not only here, but all over Europe, to locate them so that you can see nothing from them.
By the by, I forgot to say, among the historical recollections of this place, that it was the first stopping-place of Queen Mary, after her fatal flight into England. The rooms which she occupied are still shown in the castle, and there are interesting letters and documents extant from lords whom Elizabeth sent here to visit her, in which they record her beauty, her heroic sentiments, and even her dress; so strong was the fascination in which she held all who approached her. Carlisle is the scene of the denouement of Guy Mannering, and it is from this town that Lord Carlisle gets his title.
And now keep up a bright lookout for ruins and old houses. Mr. S., whose eyes are always in every place, allowed none of us to slumber, but looking out, first on his own side and then on ours, called our attention to every visible thing. If he had been appointed on a mission of inquiry he could not have been more zealous and faithful, and I began to think that our desire for an English cicerone was quite superfluous.
And now we pass Gretna Green, famous in story—that momentous place which marks the commencement of Scotland. It is a little straggling village, and there is a roadside inn, which has been the scene of innumerable Gretna Green marriages.
Owing to the fact that the Scottish law of marriage is far more liberal in its construction than the English, this place has been the refuge of distressed lovers from time immemorial; and although the practice of escaping here is universally condemned as very naughty and improper, yet, like every other impropriety, it is kept in countenance by very respectable people. Two lord chancellors have had the amiable weakness to fall into this snare, and one lord chancellor's son; so says the guide book, which is our Koran for the time being. It says, moreover, that it would be easy to add a lengthened list of distingues married at Gretna Green; but these lord chancellors (Erskine and Eldon) are quoted as being the most melancholy monuments. What shall meaner mortals do, when law itself, in all her majesty, wig, gown, and all, goes by the board?
Well, we are in Scotland at last, and now our pulse rises as the sun declines in the west. We catch glimpses of the Solway Frith, and talk about Redgauntlet.
One says, "Do you remember the scene on the sea shore, with which it opens, describing the rising of the tide?"
And says another, "Don't you remember those lines in the Young Lochinvar song?—
'Love swells like the Solway, but ebbs like its tide.'"
I wonder how many authors it will take to enchant our country from Maine to New Orleans, as every foot of ground is enchanted here in Scotland.
The sun went down, and night drew on; still we were in Scotland. Scotch ballads, Scotch tunes, and Scotch literature were in the ascendant. We sang "Auld Lang Syne," "Scots wha ha'," and "Bonnie Doon," and then, changing the key, sang Dundee, Elgin, and Martyrs.
"Take care," said Mr. S.; "don't get too much excited."
"Ah," said I, "this is a thing that comes only once in a lifetime; do let us have the comfort of it. We shall never come into Scotland for the first time again."
"Ah," said another, "how I wish Walter Scott was alive!"
While we were thus at the fusion point of enthusiasm, the cars stopped at Lockerby, where the real Old Mortality is buried. All was dim and dark outside, but we soon became conscious that there was quite a number collected, peering into the window, and, with a strange kind of thrill, I heard my name inquired for in the Scottish accent. I went to the window; there were men, women, and children there, and hand after hand was presented, with the words, "Ye're welcome to Scotland!"
Then they inquired for, and shook hands with, all the party, having in some mysterious manner got the knowledge of who they were, even down to little G——, whom they took to be my son. Was it not pleasant, when I had a heart so warm for this old country? I shall never forget the thrill of those words, "Ye're welcome to Scotland," nor the "Gude night."
After that we found similar welcomes in many succeeding stopping-places; and though I did wave a towel out of the window, instead of a pocket handkerchief, and commit other awkwardnesses, from not knowing how to play my part, yet I fancied, after all, that Scotland and we were coming on well together. Who the good souls were that were thus watching for us through the night, I am sure I do not know; but that they were of the "one blood," which unites all the families of the earth, I felt.
As we came towards Glasgow, we saw, upon a high hill, what we supposed to be a castle on fire—great volumes of smoke rolling up, and fire looking out of arched windows.
"Dear me, what a conflagration!" we all exclaimed. We had not gone very far before we saw another, and then, on the opposite side of the car, another still.
"Why, it seems to me the country is all on fire."
"I should think," said Mr. S., "if it was in old times, that there had been a raid from the Highlands, and set all the houses on fire."
"Or they might be beacons," suggested C.
To this some one answered out of the Lay of the Last Minstrel,—
"Sweet Teviot, by thy silver tide The glaring bale-fires blaze no more."
As we drew near to Glasgow these illuminations increased, till the whole air was red with the glare of them.
"What can they be?"
"Dear me," said Mr. S., in a tone of sudden recollection, "it's the iron works! Don't you know Glasgow is celebrated for its iron works?"
So, after all, in these peaceful fires of the iron works, we got an idea how the country might have looked in the old picturesque times, when the Highlanders came down and set the Lowlands on fire; such scenes as are commemorated in the words of Roderick Dhu's song:—
"Proudly our pibroch, has thrilled in Glen Fruin, And Banmachar's groans to our slogan replied; Glen Luss and Ross Dhu, they are smoking in ruins, And the best of Loch Lomond lies dead on her side."
To be sure the fires of iron founderies are much less picturesque than the old beacons, and the clink of hammers than the clash of claymores; but the most devout worshipper of the middle ages would hardly wish to change them.
Dimly, by the flickering light of these furnaces, we see the approach to the old city of Glasgow. There, we are arrived! Friends are waiting in the station house. Earnest, eager, friendly faces, ever so many. Warm greetings, kindly words. A crowd parting in the middle, through which we were conducted into a carriage, and loud cheers of welcome, sent a throb, as the voice of living Scotland.
I looked out of the carriage, as we drove on, and saw, by the light of a lantern, Argyle Street. It was past twelve o'clock when I found myself in a warm, cozy parlor, with friends, whom I have ever since been glad to remember. In a little time we were all safely housed in our hospitable apartments, and sleep fell on me for the first time in Scotland.
DEAR AUNT E.:—
The next morning I awoke worn and weary, and scarce could the charms of the social Scotch breakfast restore me. I say Scotch, for we had many viands peculiarly national. The smoking porridge, or parritch, of oatmeal, which is the great staple dish throughout Scotland. Then there was the bannock, a thin, wafer-like cake of the same material. My friend laughingly said when he passed it, "You are in the 'land o' cakes,' remember." There was also some herring, as nice a Scottish fish as ever wore scales, besides dainties innumerable which were not national.
Our friend and host was Mr. Baillie Paton. I believe that it is to his suggestion in a public meeting, that we owe the invitation which brought us to Scotland.
By the by, I should say that "baillie" seems to correspond to what we call a member of the city council. Mr. Paton told us, that they had expected us earlier, and that the day before quite a party of friends met at his house to see us, among whom was good old Dr. Wardlaw.
After breakfast the calling began. First, a friend of the family, with three beautiful children, the youngest of whom was the bearer of a handsomely bound album, containing a pressed collection of the sea mosses of the Scottish coast, very vivid and beautiful.
If the bloom of English children appeared to me wonderful, I seemed to find the same thing intensified, if possible, in Scotland. The children are brilliant as pomegranate blossoms, and their vivid beauty called forth unceasing admiration. Nor is it merely the children of the rich, or of the higher classes, that are thus gifted. I have seen many a group of ragged urchins in the streets and closes with all the high coloring of Rubens, and all his fulness of outline. Why is it that we admire ragged children on canvas so much more than the same in nature?
All this day is a confused dream to me of a dizzy and overwhelming kind. So many letters that it took C—— from nine in the morning till two in the afternoon to read and answer them in the shortest manner; letters from all classes of people, high and low, rich and poor, in all shades and styles of composition, poetry and prose; some mere outbursts of feeling; some invitations; some advice and suggestions; some requests and inquiries; some presenting books, or flowers, or fruit.
Then came, in their turn, deputations from Paisley, Greenock, Dundee, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Belfast in Ireland; calls of friendship, invitations of all descriptions to go every where, and to see every thing, and to stay in so many places. One kind, venerable minister, with his lovely daughter, offered me a retreat in his quiet manse on the beautiful shores of the Clyde.
For all these kindnesses, what could I give in return? There was scarce time for even a grateful thought on each. People have often said to me that it must have been an exceeding bore. For my part, I could not think of regarding it so. It only oppressed me with an unutterable sadness.
To me there is always something interesting and beautiful about a universal popular excitement of a generous character, let the object of it be what it may. The great desiring heart of man, surging with one strong, sympathetic swell, even though it be to break on the beach of life and fall backwards, leaving the sands as barren as before, has yet a meaning and a power in its restlessness, with which I must deeply sympathize. Nor do I sympathize any the less, when the individual, who calls forth such an outburst, can be seen by the eye of sober sense to be altogether inadequate and disproportioned to it.
I do not regard it as any thing against our American nation, that we are capable, to a very great extent, of these sudden personal enthusiasms, because I think that, with an individual or a community, the capability of being exalted into a temporary enthusiasm of self-forgetfulness, so far from being a fault, has in it a quality of something divine.
Of course, about all such things there is a great deal which a cool critic could make ridiculous, but I hold to my opinion of them nevertheless.
In the afternoon I rode out with the lord provost to see the cathedral. The lord provost answers to the lord mayor in England. His title and office in both countries continue only a year, except in cases of reelection.
As I saw the way to the cathedral blocked up by a throng of people, who had come out to see me, I could not help saying, "What went ye out for to see? a reed shaken with the wind?" In fact, I was so worn out, that I could hardly walk through the building.
It is in this cathedral that part of the scene of Rob Roy is laid. This was my first experience in cathedrals. It was a new thing to me altogether, and as I walked along under the old buttresses and battlements without, and looked into the bewildering labyrinths of architecture within, I saw that, with silence and solitude to help the impression, the old building might become a strong part of one's inner life. A grave yard crowded with flat stones lies all around it. A deep ravine separates it from another cemetery on an opposite eminence, rustling with dark pines. A little brook murmurs with its slender voice between.
On this opposite eminence the statue of John Knox, grim and strong, stands with its arm uplifted, as if shaking his fist at the old cathedral which in life he vainly endeavored to battle down.
Knox was very different from Luther, in that he had no conservative element in him, but warred equally against accessories and essentials.
At the time when the churches of Scotland were being pulled down in a general iconoclastic crusade, the tradesmen of Glasgow stood for the defence of their cathedral, and forced the reformers to content themselves with having the idolatrous images of saints pulled down from their niches and thrown into the brook, while, as Andrew Fairservice hath it, "The auld kirk stood as crouse as a cat when the fleas are caimed aff her, and a' body was alike pleased."
We went all through the cathedral, which is fitted up as a Protestant place of worship, and has a simple and massive grandeur about it. In fact, to quote again from our friend Andrew, we could truly say, "Ah, it's a brave kirk, nane o' yere whig-malceries, and curliewurlies, and opensteek hems about it—a' solid, weel-jointed mason wark, that will stand as lang as the warld, keep hands and gun-powther aff it."
I was disappointed in one thing: the painted glass, if there has ever been any, is almost all gone, and the glare of light through the immense windows is altogether too great, revealing many defects and rudenesses in the architecture, which would have quite another appearance in the colored rays through painted windows—an emblem, perhaps, of the cold, definite, intellectual rationalism, which has taken the place of the many-colored, gorgeous mysticism of former times.
After having been over the church, we requested, out of respect to Baillie Nicol Jarvie's memory, to be driven through the Saut Market. I, however, was so thoroughly tired that I cannot remember any thing about it.
I will say, by the way, that I have found out since, that nothing is so utterly hazardous to a person's strength as looking at cathedrals. The strain upon the head and eyes in looking up through these immense arches, and then the sepulchral chill which abides from generation to generation in them, their great extent, and the variety which tempts you to fatigue which you are not at all aware of, have overcome, as I was told, many before me.
Mr. S. and C——, however, made amends, by their great activity and zeal, for all that I could not do, and I was pleased to understand from them, that part of the old Tolbooth, where Rob Roy and the baillie had their rencontre, was standing safe and sound, with stuff enough in it for half a dozen more stories, if any body could be found to write them. And Mr. S. insisted upon it, that I should not omit to notify you of this circumstance.
Well, in consequence of all this, the next morning I was so ill as to need a physician, unable to see any one that called, or to hear any of the letters. I passed most of the day in bed, but in the evening I had to get up, as I had engaged to drink tea with two thousand people. Our kind friends Dr. and Mrs. Wardlaw came after us, and Mr. S. and I went in the carriage with them.
Dr. Wardlaw is a venerable-looking old man; we both thought we saw a striking resemblance in him to our friend Dr. Woods, of Andover. He is still quite active in body and mind, and officiates to his congregation with great acceptance. I fear, however, that he is in ill health, for I noticed, as we were passing along to church, that he frequently laid his hand upon his heart, and seemed in pain. He said he hoped he should be able to get through the evening, but that when he was not well, excitement was apt to bring on a spasm about the heart; but with it all he seemed so cheerful, lively, and benignant, that I could not but feel my affections drawn towards him. Mrs. Wardlaw is a gentle, motherly woman, and it was a great comfort to have her with me on such an occasion.
Our carriage stopped at last at the place. I have a dim remembrance of a way being made for us through a great crowd all round the house, and of going with Mrs. Wardlaw up into a dressing room, where I met and shook hands with many friendly people. Then we passed into a gallery, where a seat was reserved for our party, directly in front of the audience. Our friend Baillie Paton presided. Mrs. Wardlaw and I sat together, and around us many friends, chiefly ministers of the different churches, the ladies and gentlemen of the Glasgow Antislavery Society, and others.
I told you it was a tea party; but the arrangements were altogether different from any I had ever seen. There were narrow tables stretched up and down the whole extent of the great hall, and every person had an appointed seat. These tables were set out with cups and saucers, cakes, biscuit, &c., and when the proper time came, attendants passed along serving tea. The arrangements were so accurate and methodical that the whole multitude actually took tea together, without the least apparent inconvenience or disturbance.
There was a gentle, subdued murmur of conversation all over the house, the sociable clinking of teacups and teaspoons, while the entertainment was going on. It seemed to me such an odd idea, I could not help wondering what sort of a teapot that must be, in which all this tea for two thousand people was made. Truly, as Hadji Baba says, I think they must have had the "father of all teakettles" to boil it in. I could not help wondering if old mother Scotland had put two thousand teaspoonfuls of tea for the company, and one for the teapot, as is our good Yankee custom.
We had quite a sociable time up in our gallery. Our tea table stretched quite across the gallery, and we drank tea "in sight of all the people." By we, I mean a great number of ministers and their wives, and ladies of the Antislavery Society, besides our party, and the friends whom I have mentioned before. All seemed to be enjoying themselves.
After tea they sang a few verses of the seventy-second psalm in the old Scotch version.
"The people's poor ones he shall judge, The needy's children save; And those shall he in pieces break, Who them oppressed have.
For he the needy shall preserve, When he to him doth call; The poor, also, and him that hath No help of man at all.
Both from deceit and violence Their soul he shall set free; And in his sight right precious And dear their blood shall be.
Now blessed be the Lord, our God, The God of Israel, For he alone doth wondrous works, In glory that excel.
And blessed be his glorious name To all eternity; The whole earth let his glory fill: Amen; so let it be."
When I heard the united sound of all the voices, giving force to these simple and pathetic words, I thought I could see something of the reason why that rude old translation still holds its place in Scotland.
The addresses were, many of them, very beautiful; the more so for the earnest and religious feeling which they manifested. That of Dr. Wardlaw, in particular, was full of comfort and encouragement, and breathed a most candid and catholic spirit. Could our friends in America see with what earnest warmth the religious heart of Scotland beats towards them, they would be willing to suffer a word of admonition from those to whom love gives a right to speak. As Christians, all have a common interest in what honors or dishonors Christianity, and an ocean between us does not make us less one church.
Most of the speeches you will see recorded in the papers. In the course of the evening there was a second service of grapes, oranges, and other fruits, served round in the same quiet manner as the tea. On account of the feeble state of my health, they kindly excused me before the exercises of the evening were over.
The next morning, at ten o'clock, we rode with a party of friends to see some of the notabilia. First, to Bothwell Castle, of old the residence of the Black Douglas. The name had for me the quality of enchantment. I cannot understand nor explain the nature of that sad yearning and longing with which one visits the mouldering remains of a state of society which one's reason wholly disapproves, and which one's calm sense of right would think it the greatest misfortune to have recalled; yet when the carriage turned under the shadow of beautiful ancient oaks, and Mr. S. said, "There, we are in the grounds of the old Black Douglas family!" I felt every nerve shiver. I remembered the dim melodies of the Lady of the Lake. Bothwell's lord was the lord of this castle, whose beautiful ruins here adorn the banks of the Clyde.
Whatever else we have or may have in America, we shall never have the wild, poetic beauty of these ruins. The present noble possessors are fully aware of their worth as objects of taste, and, therefore, with the greatest care are they preserved. Winding walks are cut through the grounds with much ingenuity, and seats or arbors are placed at every desirable and picturesque point of view.
To the thorough-paced tourist, who wants to do the proprieties in the shortest possible time, this arrangement is undoubtedly particularly satisfactory; but to the idealist, who would like to roam, and dream, and feel, and to come unexpectedly on the choicest points of view, it is rather a damper to have all his raptures prearranged and foreordained for him, set down in the guide book and proclaimed by the guide, even though it should be done with the most artistic accuracy.
Nevertheless, when we came to the arbor which commanded the finest view of the old castle, and saw its gray, ivy-clad walls, standing forth on a beautiful point, round which swept the brown, dimpling waves of the Clyde, the indescribable sweetness, sadness, wildness of the whole scene would make its voice heard in our hearts. "Thy servants take pleasure in her dust, and favor the stones thereof," said an old Hebrew poet, who must have felt the inexpressibly sad beauty of a ruin. All the splendid phantasmagoria of chivalry and feudalism, knights, ladies, banners, glittering arms, sweep before us; the cry of the battle, the noise of the captains, and the shouting; and then in contrast this deep stillness, that green, clinging ivy, the gentle, rippling river, those weeping birches, dipping in its soft waters—all these, in their quiet loveliness, speak of something more imperishable than brute force.
The ivy on the walls now displays a trunk in some places as large as a man's body. In the days of old Archibald the Grim, I suppose that ivy was a little, weak twig, which, if he ever noticed, he must have thought the feeblest and slightest of all things; yet Archibald has gone back to dust, and the ivy is still growing on. Such force is there in gentle things.
I have often been dissatisfied with the admiration, which a poetic education has woven into my nature, for chivalry and feudalism; but, on a closer examination, I am convinced that there is a real and proper foundation for it, and that, rightly understood, this poetic admiration is not inconsistent with the spirit of Christ.
For, let us consider what it is we admire in these Douglases, for instance, who, as represented by Scott, are perhaps as good exponents of the idea as any. Was it their hardness, their cruelty, their hastiness to take offence, their fondness for blood and murder? All these, by and of themselves, are simply disgusting. What, then, do we admire? Their courage, their fortitude, their scorn of lying and dissimulation, their high sense of personal honor, which led them to feel themselves the protectors of the weak, and to disdain to take advantage of unequal odds against an enemy. If we read the book of Isaiah, we shall see that some of the most striking representations of God appeal to the very same principles of our nature.
The fact is, there can be no reliable character which has not its basis in these strong qualities. The beautiful must ever rest in the arms of the sublime. The gentle needs the strong to sustain it, as much as the rock flowers need rocks to grow on, or yonder ivy the rugged wall which it embraces. When we are admiring these things, therefore, we are only admiring some sparkles and glimmers of that which is divine, and so coming nearer to Him in whom all fulness dwells.
After admiring at a distance, we strolled through the ruins themselves. Do you remember, in the Lady of the Lake, where the exiled Douglas, recalling to his daughter the images of his former splendor, says,—
"When Blantyre hymned, her holiest lays, And Bothwell's walls flung back the praise"?
These lines came forcibly to my mind, when I saw the mouldering ruins of Blantyre priory rising exactly opposite to the castle, on the other side of the Clyde.
The banks of the River Clyde, where we walked, were thick set with Portuguese laurel, which I have before mentioned as similar to our rhododendron. I here noticed a fact with regard to the ivy which had often puzzled me; and that is, the different shapes of its leaves in the different stages of its growth. The young ivy has this leaf; but when it has become more than a century old every trace and indentation melts away, and it assumes this form, which I found afterwards to be the invariable shape of all the oldest ivy, in all the ruins of Europe which I explored.
This ivy, like the spider, takes hold with her hands in kings' palaces, as every twig is furnished with innumerable little clinging fingers, by which it draws itself close, as it were, to the very heart of the old rough stone.
Its clinging and beautiful tenacity has given rise to an abundance of conceits about fidelity, friendship, and woman's love, which have become commonplace simply from their appropriateness. It might, also, symbolize that higher love, unconquerable and unconquered, which has embraced this ruined world from age to age, silently spreading its green over the rents and fissures of our fallen nature, giving "beauty for ashes, and garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness."
There is a modern mansion, where the present proprietor of the estate lives. It was with an emotion partaking of the sorrowful, that we heard that the Douglas line, as such, was extinct, and that the estate had passed to distant connections. I was told that the present Lord Douglas is a peaceful clergyman, quite a different character from old Archibald the Grim.