From this corridor we went into the chapel, whose Gothic windows, filled with rich, old painted glass, cast a many-colored light over the oak-carved walls and altar-piece. The ceiling is of fine, old oak, wrought with the arms of the family. The window over the altar is the gift of the Earl of Essex. This room is devoted to the daily religious worship of the family. It has been the custom of the present earl in former years to conduct the devotions of the family here himself.
About this time my head and eyes came to that point which Solomon intimates to be not commonly arrived at by mortals—when the eye is satisfied with seeing. I remember a confused ramble through apartment after apartment, but not a single thing in them, except two pictures of Salvator Rosa's, which I thought extremely ugly, and was told, as people always are when they make such declarations, that the difficulty was entirely in myself, and that if I would study them two or three months in faith, I should perceive something very astonishing. This may be, but it holds equally good of the coals of an evening fire, or the sparks on a chimney back; in either of which, by resolute looking, and some imagination, one can see any thing he chooses. I utterly distrust this process, by which old black pictures are looked into shape; but then I have nothing to lose, being in the court of the Gentiles in these matters, and obstinately determined not to believe in any real presence in art which I cannot perceive by my senses.
After having examined all the upper stories, we went down into the vaults underneath—vaults once grim and hoary, terrible to captives and feudal enemies, now devoted to no purpose more grim than that of coal cellars and wine vaults. In Oliver's time, a regiment was quartered there: they are extensive enough, apparently, for an army.
The kitchen and its adjuncts are of magnificent dimensions, and indicate an amplitude in the way of provision for good cheer worthy an ancient house; and what struck me as a still better feature was a library of sound, sensible, historical, and religious works for the servants.
We went into the beer vaults, where a man drew beer into a long black jack, such as Scott describes. It is a tankard, made of black leather, I should think half a yard deep. He drew the beer from a large hogshead, and offered us some in a glass. It looked very clear, but, on tasting, I found it so exceedingly bitter that it struck me there would be small virtue for me in abstinence.
In passing up to go out of the house, we met in the entry two pleasant-looking young women, dressed in white muslin. As they passed us, a door opened where a table was handsomely set out, at which quite a number of well-dressed people were seating themselves. I withdrew my eyes immediately, fearing lest I had violated some privacy. Our conductor said to us, "That is the upper servants' dining room."
Once in the yard again, we went to see some of the older parts of the building. The oldest of these, Caesar's Tower, which is said to go back to the time of the Romans, is not now shown to visitors. Beneath it is a dark, damp dungeon, where prisoners used to be confined, the walls of which are traced all over with inscriptions and rude drawings.
Then you are conducted to Guy's Tower, named, I suppose, after the hero of the green dragon and dun cow. Here are five tiers of guard rooms, and by the ascent of a hundred and thirty-three steps you reach the battlements, where you gain a view of the whole court and grounds, as well as of the beautiful surrounding landscape.
In coming down from this tower, we somehow or other got upon the ramparts, which connect it with the great gate. We walked on the wall four abreast, and played that we were knights and ladies of the olden time, walking on the ramparts. And I picked a bough from an old pine tree that grew over our heads; it much resembled our American yellow pitch pine.
Then we went down and crossed the grounds to the greenhouse, to see the famous Warwick vase. The greenhouse is built with a Gothic stone front, situated on a fine point in the landscape. And there, on a pedestal, surrounded by all manner of flowering shrubs, stands this celebrated antique. It is of white marble, and was found at the bottom of a lake near Adrian's villa, in Italy. They say that it holds a hundred and thirty-six gallons; constructed, I suppose, in the roistering old drinking times of the Roman emperors, when men seem to have discovered that the grand object for which they were sent into existence was to perform the functions of wine skins. It is beautifully sculptured with grape leaves, and the skin and claws of the panther—these latter certainly not an inappropriate emblem of the god of wine, beautiful, but dangerous.
Well, now it was all done. Merodach Baladan had not a more perfect expose of the riches of Hezekiah than we had of the glories of Warwick. One always likes to see the most perfect thing of its kind; and probably this is the most perfect specimen of the feudal ages yet remaining in England.
As I stood with Joseph Sturge under the old cedars of Lebanon, and watched the multitude of tourists, and parties of pleasure, who were thronging the walks, I said to him, "After all, this establishment amounts to a public museum and pleasure grounds for the use of the people." He assented. "And," said I, "you English people like these things; you like these old magnificent seats, kept up by old families." "That is what I tell them," said Joseph Sturge. "I tell them there is no danger in enlarging the suffrage, for the people would not break up these old establishments if they could." On that point, of course, I had no means of forming an opinion.
One cannot view an institution so unlike any thing we have in our own country without having many reflections excited, for one of these estates may justly be called an institution; it includes within itself all the influence on a community of a great model farm, of model housekeeping, of a general museum of historic remains, and of a gallery of fine arts.
It is a fact that all these establishments through England are, at certain fixed hours, thrown open for the inspection of whoever may choose to visit them, with no other expense than the gratuity which custom requires to be given to the servant who shows them. I noticed, as we passed from one part of the ground to another, that our guides changed—one part apparently being the perquisite of one servant, and one of another. Many of the servants who showed them appeared to be superannuated men, who probably had this post as one of the dignities and perquisites of their old age.
The influence of these estates on the community cannot but be in many respects beneficial, and should go some way to qualify the prejudice with which republicans are apt to contemplate any thing aristocratic; for although the legal title to these things inheres in but one man, yet in a very important sense they belong to the whole community, indeed, to universal humanity. It may be very undesirable and unwise to wish to imitate these institutions in America, and yet it may be illiberal to undervalue them as they stand in England. A man would not build a house, in this nineteenth century, on the pattern of a feudal castle; and yet where the feudal castle is built, surely its antique grace might plead somewhat in its favor, and it may be better to accommodate it to modern uses, than to level it, and erect a modern mansion in its place.
Nor, since the world is wide, and now being rapidly united by steam into one country, does the objection to these things, on account of the room they take up, seem so great as formerly. In the million of square miles of the globe there is room enough for all sorts of things.
With such reflections the lover of the picturesque may comfort himself, hoping that he is not sinning against the useful in his admiration of the beautiful.
One great achievement of the millennium, I trust, will be in uniting these two elements, which have ever been contending. There was great significance in the old Greek fable which represented Venus as the divinely-appointed helpmeet of Vulcan, and yet always quarrelling with him.
We can scarce look at the struggling, earth-bound condition of useful labor through the world without joining in the beautiful aspiration of our American poet,—
"Surely, the wiser time shall come When this fine overplus of might, No longer sullen, slow, and dumb, Shall leap to music and to light.
In that new childhood of the world Life of itself shall dance and play, Fresh blood through Time's shrunk veins be hurled, And labor meet delight half way."[M]
In the new state of society which we are trying to found in America, it must be our effort to hasten the consummation. These great estates of old countries may keep it for their share of the matter to work out perfect models, while we will seize the ideas thus elaborated, and make them the property of the million.
As we were going out, we stopped a little while at the porter's lodge to look at some relics.
Now, I dare say that you have been thinking, all the while, that these stories about the wonderful Guy are a sheer fabrication, or, to use a convenient modern term, a myth. Know, then, that the identical armor belonging to him is still preserved here; to wit, the sword, about seven feet long, a shield, helmet, breastplate, and tilting pole, together with his porridge pot, which holds one hundred and twenty gallons, and a large fork, as they call it, about three feet long; I am inclined to think this must have been his toothpick! His sword weighs twenty pounds.
There is, moreover, a rib of the mastodon cow which he killed, hung up for the terror of all refractory beasts of that name in modern days.
Furthermore, know, then, that there are authentic documents in the Ashmolean Museum, at Oxford, showing that the family run back to within four years after the birth of Christ, so that there is abundance of time for them to have done a little of almost every thing. It appears that they have been always addicted to exploits, since we read of one of them, soon after the Christian era, encountering a giant, who ran upon him with a tree which he had snapped off for the purpose, for it seems giants were not nice in the choice of weapons; but the chronicler says, "The Lord had grace with him, and overcame the giant," and in commemoration of this event the family introduced into their arms the ragged staff.
It is recorded of another of the race, that he was one of seven children born at a birth, and that all the rest of his brothers and sisters were, by enchantment, turned into swans with gold collars. This remarkable case occurred in the time of the grandfather of Sir Guy, and of course, if we believe this, we shall find no difficulty in the case of the cow, or any thing else.
There is a very scarce book in the possession of a gentleman of Warwick, written by one Dr. John Kay, or caius, in which he gives an account of the rare and peculiar animals of England in 1552. In this he mentioned seeing the bones of the head and the vertebrae of the neck of an enormous animal at Warwick Castle. He states that the shoulder blade was hung up by chains from the north gate of Coventry, and that a rib of the same animal was hanging up in the chapel of Guy, Earl of Warwick, and that the people fancied it to be the rib of a cow which haunted a ditch near Coventry, and did injury to many persons; and he goes on to imagine that this may be the bone of a bonasus or a urus. He says, "It is probable many animals of this kind formerly lived in our England, being of old an island full of woods and forests, because even in our boyhood the horns of these animals were in common use at the table." The story of Sir Guy is furthermore quite romantic, and contains some circumstances very instructive to all ladies. For the chronicler asserts, "that Dame Felye, daughter and heire to Erle Rohand, for her beauty called Fely le Belle, or Felys the Fayre, by true enheritance, was Countesse of Warwyke, and lady and wyfe to the most victoriouse Knight, Sir Guy, to whom in his woing tyme she made greate straungeres, and caused him, for her sake, to put himself in meny greate distresses, dangers, and perills; but when they were wedded, and b'en but a little season together, he departed from her, to her greate hevynes, and never was conversant with her after, to her understandinge." That this may not appear to be the result of any revengeful spirit on the part of Sir Guy, the chronicler goes on further to state his motives—that, after his marriage, considering what he had done for a woman's sake, he thought to spend the other part of his life for God's sake, and so departed from his lady in pilgrim weeds, which raiment he kept to his life's end. After wandering about a good many years he settled in a hermitage, in a place not far from the castle, called Guy's Cliff, and when his lady distributed food to beggars at the castle gate, was in the habit of coming among them to receive alms, without making himself known to her. It states, moreover, that two days before his death an angel informed him of the time of his departure, and that his lady would die a fortnight after him, which happening accordingly, they were both buried in the grave together. A romantic cavern, at the place called Guy's Cliff, is shown as the dwelling of the recluse. The story is a curious relic of the religious ideas of the times.
On our way from the castle we passed by Guy's Cliff, which is at present the seat of the Hon. C.B. Percy. The establishment looked beautifully from the road, as we saw it up a long avenue of trees; it is one of the places travellers generally examine, but as we were bound for Kenilworth we were content to take it on trust. It is but a short drive from there to Kenilworth. We got there about the middle of the afternoon. Kenilworth has been quite as extensive as Warwick, though now entirely gone to ruins. I believe Oliver Cromwell's army have the credit of finally dismantling it. Cromwell seems literally to have left his mark on his generation, for I never saw a ruin in England when I did not hear that he had something to do with it. Every broken arch and ruined battlement seemed always to find a sufficient account of itself by simply enunciating the word Cromwell. And when we see how much the Puritans arrayed against themselves all the aesthetic principles of our nature, we can somewhat pardon those who did not look deeper than the surface, for the prejudice with which they regarded the whole movement; a movement, however, of which we, and all which is most precious to us, are the lineal descendants and heirs.
We wandered over the ruins, which are very extensive, and which Scott, with his usual vivacity and accuracy, has restored and repeopled. We climbed up into Amy Robsart's chamber; we scrambled into one of the arched windows of what was formerly the great dining hall, where Elizabeth feasted in the midst of her lords and ladies, and where every stone had rung to the sound of merriment and revelry. The windows are broken out; it is roofless and floorless, waving and rustling with pendent ivy, and vocal with the song of hundreds of little birds.
We wandered from room to room, looking up and seeing in the walls the desolate fireplaces, tier over tier, the places where the beams of the floors had gone into the walls, and still the birds continued their singing every where.
Nothing affected me more than this ceaseless singing and rejoicing of birds in these old gray ruins. They seemed so perfectly joyous and happy amid the desolations, so airy and fanciful in their bursts of song, so ignorant and careless of the deep meaning of the gray desolation around them, that I could not but be moved. It was nothing to them how these stately, sculptured walls became lonely and ruinous, and all the weight of a thousand thoughts and questionings which arise to us is never even dreamed by them. They sow not, neither do they reap, but their heavenly Father feeds them; and so the wilderness and the desolate place is glad in them, and they are glad in the wilderness and desolate place.
It was a beautiful conception, this making of birds. Shelley calls them "imbodied joys;" and Christ says, that amid the vaster ruins of man's desolation, ruins more dreadfully suggestive than those of sculptured frieze and architrave, we can yet live a bird's life of unanxious joy; or, as Martin Luther beautifully paraphrases it, "We can be like a bird, that sits singing on his twig and lets God think for him."
The deep consciousness that we are ourselves ruined, and that this world is a desolation more awful, and of more sublime material, and wrought from stuff of higher temper than ever was sculptured in hall or cathedral, this it must be that touches such deep springs of sympathy in the presence of ruins. We, too, are desolate, shattered, and scathed; there are traceries and columns of celestial workmanship; there are heaven-aspiring arches, splendid colonnades and halls, but fragmentary all. Yet above us bends an all-pitying Heaven, and spiritual voices and callings in our hearts, like these little singing birds, speak of a time when almighty power shall take pleasure in these stones, and favor the dust thereof.
We sat on the top of the strong tower, and looked off into the country, and talked a good while. Some of the ivy that mantles this building has a trunk as large as a man's body, and throws out numberless strong arms, which, interweaving, embrace and interlace half-falling towers, and hold them up in a living, growing mass of green.
The walls of one of the oldest towers are sixteen feet thick. The lake, which Scott speaks of, is dried up and grown over with rushes. The former moat presents only a grassy hollow. What was formerly a gate house is still inhabited by the family who have the care of the building. The land around the gate house is choicely and carefully laid out, and has high, clipped hedges of a species of variegated holly.
Thus much of old castles and ivy. Farewell to Kenilworth.
MY DEAR H.:—
After leaving Kenilworth we drove to Coventry, where we took the cars again. This whole ride from Stratford to Warwick, and on to Coventry, answers more to my ideas of old England than any thing I have seen; it is considered one of the most beautiful parts of the kingdom. It has quaint old houses, and a certain air of rural, picturesque quiet, which is very charming.
Coventry is old and queer, with narrow streets and curious houses, famed for the ancient legend of Godiva, one of those beautiful myths that grow, like the mistletoe, on the bare branches of history, and which, if they never were true in the letter, have been a thousand times true in the spirit.
The evening came on raw and chilly, so that we rejoiced to find ourselves once more in the curtained parlor by the bright, sociable fire.
As we were drinking tea Elihu Burritt came in. It was the first time I had ever seen him, though I had heard a great deal of him from our friends in Edinburgh. He is a man in middle life, tall and slender, with fair complexion, blue eyes, an air of delicacy and refinement, and manners of great gentleness. My ideas of the "Learned Blacksmith" had been of something altogether more ponderous and peremptory. Elihu has been, for some years, operating in England and on the continent in a movement which many, in our half-Christianized times, regard with as much incredulity as the grim, old, warlike barons did the suspicious imbecilities of reading and writing. The sword now, as then, seems so much more direct a way to terminate controversies, that many Christian men, even, cannot conceive how the world is to get along without it.
Burritt's mode of operation has been by the silent organization of circles of ladies in all the different towns of the United Kingdom, who raise a certain sum for the diffusion of the principles of peace on earth and good will to men. Articles, setting forth the evils of war, moral, political, and social, being prepared, these circles pay for their insertion in all the principal newspapers of the continent. They have secured to themselves in this way a continual utterance in France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany; so that from week to week, and month to month, they can insert articles upon these subjects. Many times the editors insert the articles as editorial, which still further favors their design. In addition to this, the ladies of these circles in England correspond with the ladies of similar circles existing in other countries; and in this way there is a mutual kindliness of feeling established through these countries.
When recently war was threatening between England and France, through the influence of these societies conciliatory addresses were sent from many of the principal towns of England to many of the principal towns of France; and the effect of these measures in allaying irritation and agitation was very perceptible.
Furthermore, these societies are preparing numerous little books for children, in which the principles of peace, kindness, and mutual forbearance are constantly set forth, and the evil and unchristian nature of the mere collision of brute force exemplified in a thousand ways. These tracts also are reprinted in the other modern languages of Europe, and are becoming a part of family literature.
The object had in view by those in this movement is, the general disbandment of standing armies and warlike establishments, and the arrangement, in their place, of some settled system of national arbitration. They suggest the organization of some tribunal of international law, which shall correspond to the position of the Supreme Court of the United States with reference to the several states. The fact that the several states of our Union, though each a distinct sovereignty, yet agree in this arrangement, is held up as an instance of its practicability. These ideas are not to be considered entirely chimerical, if we reflect that commerce and trade are as essentially opposed to war as is Christianity. War is the death of commerce, manufactures, agriculture, and the fine arts. Its evil results are always certain and definite, its good results scattered and accidental. The whole current of modern society is as much against war as against slavery; and the time must certainly come when some more rational and humane mode of resolving national difficulties will prevail.
When we ask these reformers how people are to be freed from the yoke of despotism without war, they answer, "By the diffusion of ideas among the masses—by teaching the bayonets to think." They say, "If we convince every individual soldier of a despot's army that war is ruinous, immoral, and unchristian, we take the instrument out of the tyrant's hand. If each individual man would refuse to rob and murder for the Emperor of Austria, and the Emperor of Russia, where would be their power to hold Hungary? What gave power to the masses in the French revolution, but that the army, pervaded by new ideas, refused any longer to keep the people down?"
These views are daily gaining strength in England. They are supported by the whole body of the Quakers, who maintain them with that degree of inflexible perseverance and never-dying activity which have rendered the benevolent actions of that body so efficient. The object that they are aiming at is one most certain to be accomplished, infallible as the prediction that swords are to be beaten into ploughshares, and spears into pruning-hooks, and that nations shall learn war no more.
This movement, small and despised in its origin, has gained strength from year to year, and now has an effect on the public opinion of England which is quite perceptible.
We spent the evening in talking over these things, and also various topics relating to the antislavery movement. Mr. Sturge was very confident that something more was to be done than had ever been done yet, by combinations for the encouragement of free, in the place of slave-grown, produce; a question which has, ever since the days of Clarkson, more or less deeply occupied the minds of abolitionists in England.
I should say that Mr. Sturge in his family has for many years conscientiously forborne the use of any article produced by slave labor. I could scarcely believe it possible that there could be such an abundance and variety of all that is comfortable and desirable in the various departments of household living within these limits. Mr. Sturge presents the subject with very great force, the more so from the consistency of his example.
From what I have since observed, as well as from what they said, I should imagine that the Quakers generally pursue this course of entire separation from all connection with slavery, even in the disuse of its products. The subject of the disuse of slave-grown produce has obtained currency in the same sphere in which Elihu Burritt operates, and has excited the attention of the Olive Leaf Circles. Its prospects are not so weak as on first view might be imagined, if we consider that Great Britain has large tracts of cotton-growing land at her disposal in India. It has been calculated that, were suitable railroads and arrangements for transportation provided for India, cotton could be raised in that empire sufficient for the whole wants of England, at a rate much cheaper than it can be imported from America. Not only so, but they could then afford to furnish cotton cheaper at Lowell than the same article could be procured from the Southern States.
It is consolatory to know that a set of men have undertaken this work whose perseverance in any thing once begun has never been daunted. Slave labor is becoming every year more expensive in America. The wide market which has been opened for it has raised it to such an extravagant price as makes the stocking of a plantation almost ruinous. If England enters the race with free labor, which has none of these expenses, and none of the risk, she will be sure to succeed. All the forces of nature go with free labor; and all the forces of nature resist slave labor. The stars in their courses fight against it; and it cannot but be that ere long some way will be found to bring these two forces to a decisive issue.
Mr. Sturge seemed exceedingly anxious that the American states should adopt the theory of immediate, and not gradual, emancipation. I told him the great difficulty was to persuade them to think of any emancipation at all; that the present disposition was to treat slavery as the pillar and ground of the truth, the ark of religion, the summary of morals, and the only true millennial form of modern society.
He gave me, however, a little account of their antislavery struggles in England, and said, what was well worthy of note, that they made no apparent progress in affecting public opinion until they firmly advocated the right of every innocent being to immediate and complete freedom, without any conditions. He said that a woman is fairly entitled to the credit of this suggestion. Elizabeth Heyrick of Leicester, a member of the society of Friends, published a pamphlet entitled Immediate, not Gradual Emancipation. This little pamphlet contains much good sense; and, being put forth at a time when men were really anxious to know the truth, produced a powerful impression.
She remarked, very sensibly, that the difficulty had arisen from indistinct ideas in respect to what is implied in emancipation. She went on to show that emancipation did not imply freedom from government and restraint; that it properly brought a slave under the control of the law, instead of that of an individual; and that it was possible so to apply law as perfectly to control the emancipated. This is an idea which seems simple enough when pointed out; but men often stumble a long while before they discover what is most obvious.
The next day was Sunday; and, in order to preserve our incognito, and secure an uninterrupted rest, free from conversation and excitement, we were obliged to deprive ourselves of the pleasure of hearing our friend Rev. John Angell James, which we had much desired to do.
It was a warm, pleasant day, and we spent much of our time in a beautiful arbor constructed in a retired place in the garden, where the trees and shrubbery were so arranged as to make a most charming retreat.
The grounds of Mr. Sturge are very near to those of his brother—only a narrow road interposing between them. They have contrived to make them one by building under this road a subterranean passage, so that the two families can pass and repass into each other's grounds in perfect privacy.
These English gardens delight me much; they unite variety, quaintness, and an imitation of the wildness of nature with the utmost care and cultivation. I was particularly pleased with the rockwork, which at times formed the walls of certain walks, the hollows and interstices of which were filled with every variety of creeping plants. Mr. Sturge told me that the substance of which these rockeries are made is sold expressly for the purpose.
On one side of the grounds was an old-fashioned cottage, which one of my friends informed me Mr. Sturge formerly kept fitted up as a water cure hospital, for those whose means did not allow them to go to larger establishments. The plan was afterwards abandoned. One must see that such an enterprise would have many practical difficulties.
At noon we dined in the house of the other brother, Mr. Edmund Sturge. Here I noticed a full-length engraving of Joseph Sturge. He is represented as standing with his hand placed protectingly on the head of a black child.
We enjoyed our quiet season with these two families exceedingly. We seemed to feel ourselves in an atmosphere where all was peace and good will to man. The little children, after dinner, took us through the walks, to show us their beautiful rabbits and other pets. Every thing seemed in order, peaceable and quiet. Towards evening we went back through the arched passage to the other house again. My Sunday here has always seemed to me a pleasant kind of pastoral, much like the communion of Christian and Faithful with the shepherds on the Delectable Mountains.
What is remarkable of all these Friends is, that, although they have been called, in the prosecution of philanthropic enterprises, to encounter so much opposition, and see so much of the unfavorable side of human nature, they are so habitually free from any tinge of uncharitableness or evil speaking in their statements with regard to the character and motives of others. There is also an habitual avoidance of all exaggerated forms of statement, a sobriety of diction, which, united with great affectionateness of manner, inspires the warmest confidence.
C. had been, with Mr. Sturge, during the afternoon, to a meeting of the Friends, and heard a discourse from Sibyl Jones, one of the most popular of their female preachers. Sibyl is a native of the town of Brunswick, in the State of Maine. She and her husband, being both preachers, have travelled extensively in the prosecution of various philanthropic and religious enterprises.
In the evening Mr. Sturge said that she had expressed a desire to see me. Accordingly I went with him to call upon her, and found her in the family of two aged Friends, surrounded by a circle of the same denomination. She is a woman of great delicacy of appearance, betokening very frail health. I am told that she is most of her time in a state of extreme suffering from neuralgic complaints. There was a mingled expression of enthusiasm and tenderness in her face which was very interesting. She had had, according to the language of her sect, a concern upon her mind for me.
To my mind there is something peculiarly interesting about that primitive simplicity and frankness with which the members of this body express themselves. She desired to caution me against the temptations of too much flattery and applause, and against the worldliness which might beset me in London. Her manner of addressing me was like one who is commissioned with a message which must be spoken with plainness and sincerity. After this the whole circle kneeled, and she offered prayer. I was somewhat painfully impressed with her evident fragility of body, compared with the enthusiastic workings of her mind.
In the course of the conversation she inquired if I was going to Ireland. I told her, yes, that was my intention. She begged that I would visit the western coast, adding, with great feeling, "It was the miseries which I saw there which have brought my health to the state it is." She had travelled extensively in the Southern States, and had, in private conversation, been able very fully to bear her witness against slavery, and had never been heard with unkindness.
The whole incident afforded me matter for reflection. The calling of women to distinct religious vocations, it appears to me, was a part of primitive Christianity; has been one of the most efficient elements of power in the Romish church; obtained among the Methodists in England; and has, in all these cases, been productive of great good. The deaconesses whom the apostle mentions with honor in his epistle, Madame Guyon in the Romish church, Mrs. Fletcher, Elizabeth Fry, are instances which show how much may be done for mankind by women who feel themselves impelled to a special religious vocation.
The Bible, which always favors liberal development, countenances this idea, by the instances of Deborah, Anna the prophetess, and by allusions in the New Testament, which plainly show that the prophetic gift descended upon women. St. Peter, quoting from the prophetic writings, says, "Upon your sons and upon your daughters I will pour out my spirit, and they shall prophesy." And St. Paul alludes to women praying and prophesying in the public assemblies of the Christians, and only enjoins that it should be done with becoming attention to the established usages of female delicacy. The example of the Quakers is a sufficient proof that acting upon this idea does not produce discord and domestic disorder. No class of people are more remarkable for quietness and propriety of deportment, and for household order and domestic excellence. By the admission of this liberty, the world is now and then gifted with a woman like Elizabeth Fry, while the family state loses none of its security and sacredness. No one in our day can charge the ladies of the Quaker sect with boldness or indecorum; and they have demonstrated that even public teaching, when performed under the influence of an overpowering devotional spirit, does not interfere with feminine propriety and modesty.
The fact is, that the number of women to whom this vocation is given will always be comparatively few: they are, and generally will be, exceptions; and the majority of the religious world, ancient and modern, has decided that these exceptions are to be treated with reverence.
The next morning, as we were sitting down to breakfast, our friends of the other house sent in to me a plate of the largest, finest strawberries I have ever seen, which, considering that it was only the latter part of April, seemed to me quite an astonishing luxury.
On the morning before we left we had agreed to meet a circle of friends from Birmingham, consisting of the Abolition Society there, which is of long standing, extending back in its memories to the very commencement of the agitation under Clarkson and Wilberforce. It was a pleasant morning, the 1st of May. The windows of the parlor were opened to the ground; and the company invited filled not only the room, but stood in a crowd on the grass around the window. Among the peaceable company present was an admiral in the navy, a fine, cheerful old gentleman, who entered with hearty interest into the scene.
The lady secretary of the society read a neatly-written address, full of kind feeling and Christian sentiment. Joseph Sturge made a few sensible and practical remarks on the present aspects of the antislavery cause in the world, and the most practical mode of assisting it among English Christians. He dwelt particularly on the encouragement of free labor. The Rev. John Angell James followed with some extremely kind and interesting remarks, and Mr. S. replied. As we were intending to return to this city to make a longer visit, we felt that this interview was but a glimpse of friends whom we hoped to know more perfectly hereafter.
A throng of friends accompanied us to the depot. We had the pleasure of the company of Elihu Burritt, and enjoyed a delightful run to London, where we arrived towards evening.
At the station house in London, we found Rev. Messrs. Binney and Sherman waiting for us with carriages. C. went with Mr. Sherman, and Mr. S. and I soon found ourselves in a charming retreat called Rose Cottage, in Walworth, about which I will tell you more anon. Mrs. B. received us with every attention which the most thoughtful hospitality could suggest.
S. and W., who had gone on before us, and taken lodgings very near, were there waiting to receive us. One of the first things S. said to me, after we got into our room, was, "O, H——, we are so glad you have come, for we are all going to the lord mayor's dinner to night, and you are invited."
"What!" said I, "the lord mayor of London, that I used to read about in Whittington and his Cat?" And immediately there came to my ears the sound of the old chime, which made so powerful an impression on my childish memory, wherein all the bells of London were represented as tolling.
"Turn again, Whittington, Thrice lord mayor of London."
It is curious what an influence these old rhymes have on our associations.
S. went on to tell me that the party was the annual dinner given to the judges of England by the lord mayor, and that there we should see the whole English bar, and hosts of distingues besides. So, though I was tired, I hurried to dress in all the glee of meeting an adventure, as Mr. and Mrs. B. and the rest of the party were ready. Crack went the whip, round went the wheels, and away we drove.
We alighted at the Mansion House, and entered a large illuminated hall, supported by pillars. Chandeliers were glittering, servants with powdered heads and gold lace coats were hurrying to and fro in every direction, receiving company and announcing names. Do you want to know how announcing is done? Well, suppose a staircase, a hall, and two or three corridors, intervening between you and the drawing room. At all convenient distances on this route are stationed these grave, powdered-headed gentlemen, with their embroidered coats. You walk up to the first one, and tell him confidentially that you are Miss Smith. He calls to the man on the first landing, "Miss Smith." The man on the landing says to the man in the corridor, "Miss Smith." The man in the corridor shouts to the man at the drawing room door, "Miss Smith." And thus, following the sound of your name, you hear it for the last time shouted aloud, just before you enter the room.
We found a considerable throng, and I was glad to accept a seat which was offered me in the agreeable vicinity of the lady mayoress, so that I might see what would be interesting to me of the ceremonial.
The titles in law here, as in every thing else, are manifold; and the powdered-headed gentleman at the door pronounced them with an evident relish, which was joyous to hear—Mr. Attorney, Mr. Solicitor, and Mr. Sergeant; Lord Chief Baron, Lord Chief Justice, and Lord this, and Lord that, and Lord the other, more than I could possibly remember, as in they came dressed in black, with smallclothes and silk stockings, with swords by their sides, and little cocked hats under their arms, bowing gracefully before the lady mayoress.
I saw no big wigs, but some wore the hair tied behind with a small black silk bag attached to it. Some of the principal men were dressed in black velvet, which became them finely. Some had broad shirt frills of point or Mechlin lace, with wide ruffles of the same round their wrists.
Poor C., barbarian that he was, and utterly unaware of the priceless gentility of the thing, said to me, sotto voce, "How can men wear such dirty stuff? Why don't they wash it?" I expounded to him what an ignorant sinner he was, and that the dirt of ages was one of the surest indications of value. Wash point lace! it would be as bad as cleaning up the antiquary's study.
The ladies were in full dress, which here in England means always a dress which exposes the neck and shoulders. This requirement seems to be universal, since ladies of all ages conform to it. It may, perhaps, account for this custom, to say that the bust of an English lady is seldom otherwise than fine, and develops a full outline at what we should call quite an advanced period of life.
A very dignified gentleman, dressed in black velvet, with a fine head, made his way through the throng, and sat down by me, introducing himself as Lord Chief Baron Pollock. He told me he had just been reading the legal part of the Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, and remarked especially on the opinion of Judge Ruffin, in the case of State v. Mann, as having made a deep impression on his mind. Of the character of the decision, considered as a legal and literary document, he spoke in terms of high admiration; said that nothing had ever given him so clear a view of the essential nature of slavery. We found that this document had produced the same impression on the minds of several others present. Mr. S. said that one or two distinguished legal gentlemen mentioned it to him in similar terms. The talent and force displayed in it, as well as the high spirit and scorn of dissimulation, appear to have created a strong interest in its author. It always seemed to me that there was a certain severe strength and grandeur about it which approached to the heroic. One or two said that they were glad such a man had retired from the practice of such a system of law.
But there was scarce a moment for conversation amid the whirl and eddy of so many presentations. Before the company had all assembled, the room was a perfect jam of legal and literary notabilities. The dinner was announced between nine and ten o'clock. We were conducted into a splendid hall, where the tables were laid. Four long tables were set parallel with the length of the hall, and one on a raised platform across the upper end. In the midst of this sat the lord mayor and lady mayoress, on their right hand the judges, on their left the American minister, with other distinguished guests. I sat by a most agreeable and interesting young lady, who seemed to take pleasure in enlightening me on all those matters about which a stranger would naturally be inquisitive.
Directly opposite me was Mr. Dickens, whom I now beheld for the first time, and was surprised to see looking so young. Mr. Justice Talfourd, known as the author of Ion, was also there with his lady. She had a beautiful antique cast of head.
The lord mayor was simply dressed in black, without any other adornment than a massive gold chain.
I asked the lady if he had not robes of state. She replied, yes; but they were very heavy and cumbersome, and that he never wore them when he could, with any propriety, avoid it. It seems to me that this matter of outward parade and state is gradually losing its hold even here in England. As society becomes enlightened, men care less and less for mere shows, and are apt to neglect those outward forms which have neither beauty nor convenience on their side, such as judges' wigs and lord mayors' robes.
As a general thing the company were more plainly dressed than I had expected. I am really glad that there is a movement being made to carry the doctrine of plain dress into our diplomatic representation. Even older nations are becoming tired of mere shows; and, certainly, the representatives of a republic ought not to begin to put on the finery which monarchies are beginning to cast off.
The present lord mayor is a member of the House of Commons—a most liberal-minded man; very simple, but pleasing in his appearance and address; one who seems to think more of essentials than of show.
He is a dissenter, being a member of Rev. Mr. Binney's church, a man warmly interested in the promotion of Sabbath schools, and every worthy and benevolent object.
The ceremonies of the dinner were long and weary, and, I thought, seemed to be more fully entered into by a flourishing official, who stood at the mayor's back, than by any other person present.
The business of toast-drinking is reduced to the nicest system. A regular official, called a toast master, stood behind the lord mayor with a paper, from which he read the toasts in their order. Every one, according to his several rank, pretensions, and station, must be toasted in his gradation; and every person toasted must have his name announced by the official,—the larger dignitaries being proposed alone in their glory, while the smaller fry are read out by the dozen,—and to each toast somebody must get up and make a speech.
First, after the usual loyal toasts, the lord mayor proposed the health of the American minister, expressing himself in the warmest terms of friendship towards our country; to which Mr. Ingersoll responded very handsomely. Among the speakers I was particularly pleased with Lord Chief Baron Pollock, who, in the absence of Lord Chief Justice Campbell, was toasted as the highest representative of the legal profession. He spoke with great dignity, simplicity, and courtesy, taking occasion to pay very flattering compliments to the American legal profession, speaking particularly of Judge Story. The compliment gave me great pleasure, because it seemed a just and noble-minded appreciation, and not a mere civil fiction. We are always better pleased with appreciation than flattery, though perhaps he strained a point when he said, "Our brethren on the other side of the Atlantic, with whom we are now exchanging legal authorities, I fear largely surpass us in the production of philosophic and comprehensive forms."
Speaking of the two countries he said, "God forbid that, with a common language, with common laws which we are materially improving for the benefit of mankind, with one common literature, with one common religion, and above all with one common love of liberty, God forbid that any feeling should arise between the two countries but the desire to carry through the world these advantages."
Mr. Justice Talfourd proposed the literature of our two countries, under the head of "Anglo-Saxon Literature." He made allusion to the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin and Mr. Dickens, speaking of both as having employed fiction as a means of awakening the attention of the respective countries to the condition of the oppressed and suffering classes. Mr. Talfourd appears to be in the prime of life, of a robust and somewhat florid habit. He is universally beloved for his nobleness of soul and generous interest in all that tends to promote the welfare of humanity, no less than for his classical and scholarly attainments.
Mr. Dickens replied to this toast in a graceful and playful strain. In the former part of the evening, in reply to a toast on the chancery department, Vice-Chancellor Wood, who spoke in the absence of the lord chancellor, made a sort of defence of the Court of Chancery, not distinctly alluding to Bleak House, but evidently not without reference to it. The amount of what he said was, that the court had received a great many more hard opinions than it merited; that they had been parsimoniously obliged to perform a great amount of business by a very inadequate number of judges; but that more recently the number of judges had been increased to seven, and there was reason to hope that all business brought before it would now be performed without unnecessary delay.
In the conclusion of Mr. Dickens's speech he alluded playfully to this item of intelligence; said he was exceedingly happy to hear it, as he trusted now that a suit, in which he was greatly interested, would speedily come to an end. I heard a little by conversation between Mr. Dickens and a gentleman of the bar, who sat opposite me, in which the latter seemed to be reiterating the same assertions, and I understood him to say, that a case not extraordinarily complicated might be got through with in three months. Mr. Dickens said he was very happy to hear it; but I fancied there was a little shade of incredulity in his manner; however, the incident showed one thing, that is, that the chancery were not insensible to the representations of Dickens; but the whole tone of the thing was quite good-natured and agreeable. In this respect, I must say I think the English are quite remarkable. Every thing here meets the very freest handling; nothing is too sacred to be publicly shown up; but those who are exhibited appear to have too much good sense to recognize the force of the picture by getting angry. Mr. Dickens has gone on unmercifully exposing all sorts of weak places in the English fabric, public and private, yet nobody cries out upon him as the slanderer of his country. He serves up Lord Dedlocks to his heart's content, yet none of the nobility make wry faces about it; nobody is in a hurry to proclaim that he has recognized the picture, by getting into a passion at it. The contrast between the people of England and America, in this respect, is rather unfavorable to us, because they are by profession conservative, and we by profession radical.
For us to be annoyed when any of our institutions are commented upon, is in the highest degree absurd; it would do well enough for Naples, but it does not do for America.
There were some curious old customs observed at this dinner which interested me as peculiar. About the middle of the feast, the official who performed all the announcing made the declaration that the lord mayor and lady mayoress would pledge the guests in a loving cup. They then rose, and the official presented them with a massive gold cup, full of wine, in which they pledged the guests. It then passed down the table, and the guests rose, two and two, each tasting and presenting to the other. My fair informant told me that this was a custom which had come down from the most ancient time.
The banquet was enlivened at intervals by songs from professional singers, hired for the occasion. After the banquet was over, massive gold basins, filled with rose water, slid along down the table, into which the guests dipped their napkins—an improvement, I suppose, on the doctrine of finger glasses, or perhaps the primeval form of the custom.
We rose from table between eleven and twelve o'clock—that is, we ladies—and went into the drawing room, where I was presented to Mrs. Dickens and several other ladies. Mrs. Dickens is a good specimen of a truly English woman; tall, large, and well developed, with fine, healthy color, and an air of frankness, cheerfulness, and reliability. A friend whispered to me that she was as observing, and fond of humor, as her husband.
After a while the gentlemen came back to the drawing room, and I had a few moments of very pleasant, friendly conversation with Mr. Dickens. They are both people that one could not know a little of without desiring to know more.
I had some conversation with the lady mayoress. She said she had been invited to meet me at Stafford House on Saturday, but should be unable to attend, as she had called a meeting on the same day of the city ladies, for considering the condition of milliners and dressmakers, and to form a society for their relief to act in conjunction with that of the west end.
After a little we began to talk of separating; the lord mayor to take his seat in the House of Commons, and the rest of the party to any other engagement that might be upon their list.
"Come, let us go to the House of Commons," said one of my friends, "and make a night of it." "With all my heart," replied I, "if I only had another body to go into to-morrow."
What a convenience in sight-seeing it would be if one could have a relay of bodies, as of clothes, and go from one into the other. But we, not used to the London style of turning night into day, are full weary already; so, good night.
ROSE COTTAGE, WALWORTH, LONDON, May 2.
This morning Mrs. Follen called, and we had quite a long chat together. We are separated by the whole city. She lives at West End, while I am down here in Walworth, which is one of the postscripts of London; for London has as many postscripts as a lady's letter—little suburban villages which have been overtaken by the growth, of the city, and embraced in its arms. I like them a great deal better than the city, for my part.
Here now, for instance, at Walworth, I can look out at a window and see a nice green meadow with sheep and lambs feeding in it, which is some relief in this smutty old place. London is as smutty as Pittsburg or Wheeling. It takes a good hour's steady riding to get from here to West End; so that my American friends, of the newspapers, who are afraid I shall be corrupted by aristocratic associations, will see that I am at safe distance.
This evening we are appointed to dine with the Earl of Carlisle. There is to be no company but his own family circle, for he, with great consideration, said in his note that he thought a little quiet would be the best thing he could offer. Lord Carlisle is a great friend to America; and so is his sister, the Duchess of Sutherland. He is the only English traveller who ever wrote notes on our country in a real spirit of appreciation. While the Halls, and Trollopes, and all the rest could see nothing but our breaking eggs on the wrong end, or such matters, he discerned and interpreted those points wherein lies the real strength of our growing country. His notes on America were not very extended, being only sketches delivered as a lyceum lecture some years after his return. It was the spirit and quality, rather than quantity, of the thing that was noticeable.
I observe that American newspapers are sneering about his preface to Uncle Tom's Cabin; but they ought at least to remember that his sentiments with regard to slavery are no sudden freak. In the first place, he comes of a family that has always been on the side of liberal and progressive principles. He himself has been a leader of reforms on the popular side. It was a temporary defeat, when run as an anti-corn-law candidate, which gave him leisure to travel in America. Afterwards he had the satisfaction to be triumphantly returned for that district, and to see the measure he had advocated fully successful.
While Lord Carlisle was in America he never disguised those antislavery sentiments which formed a part of his political and religious creed as an Englishman, and as the heir of a house always true to progress. Many cultivated English people have shrunk from acknowledging abolitionists in Boston, where the ostracism of fashion and wealth has been enforced against them. Lord Carlisle, though moving in the highest circle, honestly and openly expressed his respect for them on all occasions. He attended the Boston antislavery fair, which at that time was quite a decided step. Nor did he even in any part of our country disguise his convictions. There is, therefore, propriety and consistency in the course he has taken now. It would seem that a warm interest in questions of a public nature has always distinguished the ladies of this family. The Duchess of Sutherland's mother is daughter of the celebrated Duchess of Devonshire, who, in her day, employed on the liberal side in politics all the power of genius, wit, beauty, and rank. It was to the electioneering talents of herself and her sister, the Lady Duncannon, that Fox, at one crisis, owed his election. We Americans should remember that it was this party who advocated our cause during our revolutionary struggle. Fox and his associates pleaded for us with much the same arguments, and with the same earnestness and warmth, that American abolitionists now plead for the slaves. They stood against all the power of the king and cabinet, as the abolitionists in America in 1850 stood against president and cabinet.
The Duchess of Devonshire was a woman of real noble impulses and generous emotions, and had a true sympathy for what is free and heroic. Coleridge has some fine lines addressed to her,—called forth by a sonnet which she composed, while in Switzerland, on William Tell's Chapel,—which begin,—
"O lady, nursed in pomp and pleasure, Where learn'dst thou that heroic measure?"
The Duchess of Sutherland, in our times, has been known to be no less warmly interested on the liberal side. So great was her influence held to be, that upon a certain occasion when a tory cabinet was to be formed, a distinguished minister is reported to have said to the queen that he could not hope to succeed in his administration while such a decided influence as that of the Duchess of Sutherland stood at the head of her majesty's household. The queen's spirited refusal to surrender her favorite attendant attracted, at the time, universal admiration.
Like her brother Lord Carlisle, the Duchess of Sutherland has always professed those sentiments with regard to slavery which are the glory of the English nation, and which are held with more particular zeal by those families who are favorable to the progress of liberal ideas.
At about seven o'clock we took our carriage to go to the Earl of Carlisle's, the dinner hour being here somewhere between eight and nine. As we rode on through the usual steady drizzling rain, from street to street and square to square, crossing Waterloo Bridge, with its avenue of lamps faintly visible in the seethy mist, plunging through the heart of the city, we began to realize something of the immense extent of London.
Altogether the most striking objects that you pass, as you ride in the evening thus, are the gin shops, flaming and flaring from the most conspicuous positions, with plate-glass windows and dazzling lights, thronged with men, and women, and children, drinking destruction. Mothers go there with babies in their arms, and take what turns the mother's milk to poison. Husbands go there, and spend the money that their children want for bread, and multitudes of boys and girls of the age of my own. In Paris and other European cities, at least the great fisher of souls baits with something attractive, but in these gin shops men bite at the bare, barbed hook. There are no garlands, no dancing, no music, no theatricals, no pretence of social exhilaration, nothing but hogsheads of spirits, and people going in to drink. The number of them that I passed seemed to me absolutely appalling.
After long driving we found ourselves coming into the precincts of the West End, and began to feel an indefinite sense that we were approaching something very grand, though I cannot say that we saw much but heavy, smoky-walled buildings, washed by the rain. At length we stopped in Grosvenor Place, and alighted.
We were shown into an anteroom adjoining the entrance hall, and from that into an adjacent apartment, where we met Lord Carlisle. The room had a pleasant, social air, warmed and enlivened by the blaze of a coal fire and wax candles.
We had never, any of us, met Lord Carlisle before; but the considerateness and cordiality of our reception obviated whatever embarrassment there might have been in this circumstance. In a few moments after we were all seated the servant announced the Duchess of Sutherland, and Lord Carlisle presented me. She is tall and stately, with a decided fulness of outline, and a most noble bearing. Her fair complexion, blond hair, and full lips speak of Saxon blood. In her early youth she might have been a Rowena. I thought of the lines of Wordsworth:—
"A perfect woman, nobly planned, To warn, to comfort, to command."
Her manners have a peculiar warmth and cordiality. One sees people now and then who seem to radiate kindness and vitality, and to have a faculty of inspiring perfect confidence in a moment. There are no airs of grandeur, no patronizing ways; but a genuine sincerity and kindliness that seem to come from a deep fountain within.
The engraving by Winterhalter, which has been somewhat familiar in America, is as just a representation of her air and bearing as could be given.
After this we were presented to the various members of the Howard family, which is a very numerous one. Among them were Lady Dover, Lady Lascelles, and Lady Labouchere, sisters of the duchess. The Earl of Burlington, who is the heir of the Duke of Devonshire, was also present. The Duke of Devonshire is the uncle of Lord Carlisle.
The only person present not of the family connection was my quondam correspondent in America, Arthur Helps. Somehow or other I had formed the impression from his writings that he was a venerable sage of very advanced years, who contemplated life as an aged hermit, from the door of his cell. Conceive my surprise to find a genial young gentleman of about twenty-five, who looked as if he might enjoy a joke as well as another man.
At dinner I found myself between him and Lord Carlisle, and perceiving, perhaps, that the nature of my reflections was of rather an amusing order, he asked me confidentially if I did not like fun, to which I assented with fervor. I like that little homely word fun, though I understand the dictionary says what it represents is vulgar; but I think it has a good, hearty, Saxon sound, and I like Saxon, better than Latin or French either.
When the servant offered me wine Lord Carlisle asked me if our party were all teetotallers, and I said yes; that in America all clergymen were teetotallers, of course.
After the ladies left the table the conversation turned on the Maine law, which seems to be considered over here as a phenomenon, in legislation, and many of the gentlemen, present inquired about it with great curiosity.
When we went into the drawing room I was presented to the venerable Countess of Carlisle, the earl's mother; a lady universally beloved and revered, not less for superior traits of mind than for great loveliness and benevolence of character. She received us with the utmost kindness; kindness evidently genuine and real.
The walls of the drawing room were beautifully adorned with works of art by the best masters. There was a Rembrandt hanging over the fireplace, which showed finely by the evening light. It was simply the portrait of a man with a broad, Flemish hat. There were one or two pictures, also, by Cuyp. I should think he must have studied in America, so perfectly does he represent the golden, hazy atmosphere of our Indian summer.
One of the ladies showed me a snuff box on which was a picture of Lady Carlisle's mother, the celebrated Duchess of Devonshire, taken when she was quite a little girl; a round, happy face, showing great vivacity and genius. On another box was an exquisitely beautiful miniature of a relative of the family.
After the gentlemen rejoined us came in the Duke and Duchess of Argyle, and Lord and Lady Blantyre. These ladies are the daughters of the Duchess of Sutherland. The Duchess of Argyle is of a slight and fairy-like figure, with flaxen hair and blue eyes, answering well enough to the description of Annot Lyle, in the Legend of Montrose. Lady Blantyre was somewhat taller, of fuller figure, with very brilliant bloom. Lord Blantyre is of the Stuart blood, a tall and slender young man, with very graceful manners.
As to the Duke of Argyle, we found that the picture drawn of him by his countrymen in Scotland was every way correct. Though slight of figure, with fair complexion and blue eyes, his whole appearance is indicative of energy and vivacity. His talents and efficiency have made him a member of the British cabinet at a much earlier age than is usual; and he has distinguished himself not only in political life, but as a writer, having given to the world a work on Presbyterianism, embracing an analysis of the ecclesiastical history of Scotland since the reformation, which is spoken of as written with great ability, in a most candid and liberal spirit.
The company soon formed themselves into little groups in different parts of the room. The Duchess of Sutherland, Lord Carlisle, and the Duke and Duchess of Argyle formed a circle, and turned the conversation upon American topics. The Duke of Argyle made many inquiries about our distinguished men; particularly of Emerson, Longfellow, and Hawthorne; also of Prescott, who appears to be a general favorite here. I felt at the moment that we never value our literary men so much as when placed in a circle of intelligent foreigners; it is particularly so with Americans, because we have nothing but our men and women to glory in—no court, no nobles, no castles, no cathedrals; except we produce distinguished specimens of humanity, we are nothing.
The quietness of this evening circle, the charm of its kind hospitality, the evident air of sincerity and good will which pervaded every thing, made the evening pass most delightfully to me. I had never felt myself more at home even among the Quakers. Such a visit is a true rest and refreshment, a thousand times better than the most brilliant and glittering entertainment.
At eleven o'clock, however, the carriage called, for our evening was drawing to its close; that of our friends, I suppose, was but just commencing, as London's liveliest hours are by gaslight, but we cannot learn the art of turning night into day.
MY DEAR S.:—
This morning I felt too tired to go out any where; but Mr. and Mrs. Binney persuaded me to go just a little while in to the meeting of the Bible Society, for you must know that this is anniversary week, and so, besides the usual rush, and roar, and whirl of London, there is the confluence of all the religious forces in Exeter Hall. I told Mrs. B. that I was worn out, and did not think I could sit through a single speech; but she tempted me by a promise that I should withdraw at any moment. We had a nice little snug gallery near one of the doors, where I could see all over the house, and make a quick retreat in case of need.
In one point English ladies certainly do carry practical industry farther than I ever saw it in America. Every body knows that an anniversary meeting is something of a siege, and I observed many good ladies below had made regular provision therefor, by bringing knitting work, sewing, crochet, or embroidery. I thought it was an improvement, and mean to recommend it when I get home. I am sure many of our Marthas in America will be very grateful for the custom.
The Earl of Shaftesbury was in the chair, and I saw him now for the first time. He is quite a tall man, of slender figure, with a long and narrow face, dark hazel eyes, and very thick, auburn hair. His bearing was dignified and appropriate to his position. People here are somewhat amused by the vivacity with which American papers are exhorting Lord Shaftesbury to look into the factory system, and to explore the collieries, and in general to take care of the suffering lower classes, as if he had been doing any thing else for these twenty years past. To people who know how he has worked against wind and tide, in the face of opposition and obloquy, and how all the dreadful statistics that they quote against him were brought out expressly by inquiries set on foot and prosecuted by him, and how these same statistics have been by him reiterated in the ears of successive houses of Parliament till all these abuses have been reformed, as far as the most stringent and minute legislation can reform, them,—it is quite amusing to hear him exhorted to consider the situation of the working classes. One reason for this, perhaps, is that provoking facility in changing names which is incident to the English peerage. During the time that most of the researches and speeches on the factory system and collieries were made, the Earl of Shaftesbury was in the House of Commons, with the title of Lord Ashley, and it was not till the death of his father that he entered the House of Peers as Lord Shaftesbury. The contrast which a very staid religious paper in America has drawn between Lord Ashley and Lord Shaftesbury does not strike people over here as remarkably apposite.
In the course of the speeches on this occasion, frequent and feeling allusions were made to the condition of three millions of people in America who are prevented by legislative enactments from reading for themselves the word of life. I know it is not pleasant to our ministers upon the stage to hear such things; but is the whole moral sense of the world to hush its voice, the whole missionary spirit of Christianity to be restrained, because it is disagreeable for us to be reminded of our national sins? At least, let the moral atmosphere of the world be kept pure, though it should be too stimulating for our diseased lungs. If oral instruction will do for three million slaves in America, it will do equally well in Austria, Italy, and Spain, and the powers that be, there, are just of the opinion that they are in America—that it is dangerous to have the people read the Bible for themselves. Thoughts of this kind were very ably set forth in some of the speeches. On the stage I noticed Rev. Samuel R. Ward, from Toronto in Canada, a full blooded African of fine personal presence. He was received and treated with much cordiality by the ministerial brethren who surrounded him. I was sorry that I could not stay through the speeches, for they were quite interesting. C. thought they were the best he ever heard at an anniversary. I was obliged to leave after a little. Mr. Sherman very kindly came for us in his carriage, and took us a little ride into the country.
Mrs. B. says that to-morrow morning we shall go out to see the Dulwich Gallery, a fine collection of paintings by the old masters. Now, I confess unto you that I have great suspicions of these old masters. Why, I wish to know, should none but old masters be thought any thing of? Is not nature ever springing, ever new? Is it not fair to conclude that all the mechanical assistants of painting are improved with the advance of society, as much as of all arts? May not the magical tints, which are said to be a secret with the old masters, be the effect of time in part? or may not modern artists have their secrets, as well, for future ages to study and admire? Then, besides, how are we to know that our admiration of old masters is genuine, since we can bring our taste to any thing, if we only know we must, and try long enough? People never like olives the first time they eat them. In fact, I must confess, I have some partialities towards young masters, and a sort of suspicion that we are passing over better paintings at our side, to get at those which, though the best of their day, are not so good as the best of ours. I certainly do not worship the old English poets. With the exception of Milton and Shakspeare, there is more poetry in the works of the writers of the last fifty years than in all the rest together. Well, these are my surmises for the present; but one thing I am determined—as my admiration is nothing to any body but myself, I will keep some likes and dislikes of my own, and will not get up any raptures that do not arise of themselves. I am entirely willing to be conquered by any picture that has the power. I will be a non-resistant, but that is all.
May 5. Well, we saw the Dulwich Gallery; five rooms filled with old masters, Murillos, Claudes, Rubens, Salvator Rosas, Titians, Cuyps, Vandykes, and all the rest of them; probably not the best specimens of any one of them, but good enough to begin with. C. and I took different courses. I said to him, "Now choose nine pictures simply by your eye, and see how far its untaught guidance will bring you within the canons of criticism." When he had gone through all the rooms and marked his pictures, we found he had selected two by Rubens, two by Vandyke, one by Salvator Rosa, three by Murillo, and one by Titian. Pretty successful that, was it not, for a first essay? We then took the catalogue, and selected all the pictures of each artist one after another, in order to get an idea of the style of each. I had a great curiosity to see Claude Lorraine's, remembering the poetical things that had been said and sung of him. I thought I would see if I could distinguish them by my eye without looking at the catalogue I found I could do so. I knew them by a certain misty quality in the atmosphere. I was disappointed in them, very much. Certainly, they were good paintings; I had nothing to object to them, but I profanely thought I had seen pictures by modern landscape painters as far excelling them as a brilliant morning excels a cool, gray day. Very likely the fault was all in me, but I could not help it; so I tried the Murillos. There was a Virgin and Child, with clouds around them. The virgin was a very pretty girl, such as you may see by the dozen in any boarding school, and the child was a pretty child. Call it the young mother and son, and it is a very pretty picture; but call it Mary and the infant Jesus, and it is an utter failure. Not such was the Jewish princess, the inspired poetess and priestess, the chosen of God among all women.
It seems to me that painting is poetry expressing itself by lines and colors instead of words; therefore there are two things to be considered in every picture: first, the quality of the idea expressed, and second, the quality of the language in which it is expressed. Now, with regard to the first, I hold that every person of cultivated taste is as good a judge of painting as of poetry. The second, which relates to the mode of expressing the conception, including drawing and coloring, with all their secrets, requires more study, and here our untaught perceptions must sometimes yield to the judgment of artists. My first question, then, when I look at the work of an artist, is, What sort of a mind has this man? What has he to say? And then I consider, How does he say it?
Now, with regard to Murillo, it appeared to me that he was a man of rather a mediocre mind, with nothing very high or deep to say, but that he was gifted with an exquisite faculty of expressing what he did say; and his paintings seem to me to bear an analogy to Pope's poetry, wherein the power of expression is wrought to the highest point, but without freshness or ideality in the conception. As Pope could reproduce in most exquisite wording the fervent ideas of Eloisa, without the power to originate such, so Murillo reproduced the current and floating religious ideas of his times, with most exquisite perfection of art and color, but without ideality or vitality. The pictures of his which please me most are his beggar boys and flower girls, where he abandons the region of ideality, and simply reproduces nature. His art and coloring give an exquisite grace to such sketches.
As to Vandyke, though evidently a fine painter, he is one whose mind does not move me. He adds nothing to my stock of thoughts—awakens no emotion. I know it is a fine picture, just as I have sometimes been conscious in church that I was hearing a fine sermon, which somehow had not the slightest effect upon me.
Rubens, on the contrary, whose pictures I detested with all the energy of my soul, I knew and felt all the time, by the very pain he gave me, to be a real living artist. There was a Venus and Cupid there, as fat and as coarse as they could be, but so freely drawn, and so masterly in their expression and handling, that one must feel that they were by an artist, who could just as easily have painted them any other way if it had suited his sovereign pleasure, and therefore we are the more vexed with him. When your taste is crossed by a clever person, it always vexes you more than when it is done by a stupid one, because it is done with such power that there is less hope for you.
There were a number of pictures of Cuyp there, which satisfied my thirst for coloring, and appeared to me as I expected the Claudes would have done. Generally speaking, his objects are few in number and commonplace in their character—a bit of land and water, a few cattle and figures, in no way remarkable; but then he floods the whole with that dreamy, misty sunlight, such as fills the arches of our forests in the days of autumn. As I looked at them I fancied I could hear nuts dropping from the trees among the dry leaves, and see the goldenrods and purple asters, and hear the click of the squirrel as he whips up the tree to his nest. For this one attribute of golden, dreamy haziness, I like Cuyp. His power in shedding it over very simple objects reminds me of some of the short poems of Longfellow, when things in themselves most prosaic are flooded with a kind of poetic light from the inner soul. These are merely first ideas and impressions. Of course I do not make up my mind about any artist from what I have seen here. We must not expect a painter to put his talent into every picture, more than a poet into every verse that he writes. Like other men, he is sometimes brilliant and inspired, and at others dull and heavy. In general, however, I have this to say, that there is some kind of fascination about these old masters which I feel very sensibly. But yet, I am sorry to add that there is very little of what I consider the highest mission of art in the specimens I have thus far seen; nothing which speaks to the deepest and the highest; which would inspire a generous ardor, or a solemn religious trust. Vainly I seek for something divine, and ask of art to bring me nearer to the source of all beauty and perfection. I find wealth of coloring, freedom of design, and capability of expression wasting themselves merely in portraying trivial sensualities and commonplace ideas. So much for the first essay.
In the evening we went to dine with our old friends of the Dingle, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Cropper, who are now spending a little time in London. We were delighted to meet them once more, and to hear from our Liverpool friends. Mrs. Cropper's father, Lord Denman, has returned to England, though with no sensible improvement in his health.
At dinner we were introduced to Lord and Lady Hatherton. Lord Hatherton is a member of the whig party, and has been chief secretary for Ireland. Lady Hatherton is a person of great cultivation and intelligence, warmly interested in all the progressive movements of the day; and I gained much information in her society. There were also present Sir Charles and Lady Trevelyan; the former holds some appointment in the navy. Lady Trevelyan is a sister of Macaulay.
In the evening quite a circle came in; among others, Lady Emma Campbell, sister of the Duke of Argyle; the daughters of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who very kindly invited me to visit them, at Lambeth; and Mr. Arthur Helps, besides many others whose names I need not mention.
People here continually apologize for the weather, which, to say the least, has been rather ungracious since we have been here; as if one ever expected to find any thing but smoke, and darkness, and fog in London. The authentic air with which they lament the existence of these things at present would almost persuade one that in general London was a very clear, bright place. I, however, assured them that, having heard from my childhood of the smoke of London, its dimness and darkness, I found things much better than I had expected.
They talk here of spirit rappings and table turnings, I find, as in America. Many rumors are afloat which seem to have no other effect than merely to enliven the chitchat of an evening circle. I passed a very pleasant evening, and left about ten o'clock. The gentleman who was handing me down stairs said, "I suppose you are going to one or two other places to-night." The idea struck me as so preposterous that I could not help an exclamation of surprise.
May 6. A good many calls this morning. Among others came Miss Greenfield, the (so called) Black Swan. She appears to be a gentle, amiable, and interesting young person. She was born the slave of a kind mistress, who gave her every thing but education, and, dying, left her free with a little property. The property she lost by some legal quibble, but had, like others of her race, a passion for music, and could sing and play by ear. A young lady, discovering her taste, gave her a few lessons. She has a most astonishing voice. C. sat down to the piano and played, while she sung. Her voice runs through a compass of three octaves and a fourth. This is four notes more than Malibran's. She sings a most magnificent tenor, with such a breadth and volume of sound that, with your back turned, you could not imagine it to be a woman. While she was there, Mrs. S.C. Hall, of the Irish Sketches, was announced. She is a tall, well-proportioned woman, with a fine color, dark-brown hair, and a cheerful, cordial manner. She brought with her her only daughter, a young girl about fifteen. I told her of Miss Greenfield, and, she took great interest in her, and requested her to sing something for her. C. played the accompaniment, and she sung Old Folks at Home, first in a soprano voice, and then in a tenor or baritone. Mrs. Hall was amazed and delighted, and entered at once into her cause. She said that she would call with me and present her to Sir George Smart, who is at the head of the queen's musical establishment, and, of course, the acknowledged leader of London musical judgment.
Mrs. Hall very kindly told me that she had called to invite me to seek a retreat with her in her charming little country house near London. I do not mean that she called it a charming little retreat, but that every one who speaks of it gives it that character. She told me that I should there have positive and perfect quiet; and what could attract me more than that? She said, moreover, that there they had a great many nightingales. Ah, this "bower of roses by Bendemeer's stream," could I only go there! but I am tied to London by a hundred engagements. I cannot do it. Nevertheless, I have promised that I will go and spend some time yet, when Mr. S. leaves London.
In the course of the day I had a note from Mrs. Hall, saying that, as Sir George Smart was about leaving town, she had not waited for me, but had taken Miss Greenfield to him herself. She writes that he was really astonished and charmed at the wonderful weight, compass, and power of her voice. He was also as well pleased with the mind in her singing, and her quickness in doing and catching all that he told her. Should she have a public opportunity to perform, he offered to hear her rehearse beforehand. Mrs. Hall says this is a great deal for him, whose hours are all marked with gold.
In the evening the house was opened in a general way for callers, who were coming and going all the evening. I think there must have been over two hundred people—among them Martin Farquhar Tupper, a little man, with fresh, rosy complexion, and cheery, joyous manners; and Mary Howitt, just such a cheerful, sensible, fireside companion as we find her in her books,—winning love and trust the very first few moments of the interview. The general topic of remark on meeting me seems to be, that I am not so bad looking as they were afraid I was; and I do assure you that, when I have seen the things that are put up in the shop windows here with my name under them, I have been in wondering admiration at the boundless loving-kindness of my English and Scottish friends, in keeping up such a warm heart for such a Gorgon. I should think that the Sphinx in the London Museum might have sat for most of them. I am going to make a collection of these portraits to bring home to you. There is a great variety of them, and they will be useful, like the Irishman's guideboard, which showed where the road did not go.
Before the evening was through I was talked out and worn out—there was hardly a chip of me left. To-morrow at eleven o'clock comes the meeting at Stafford House. What it will amount to I do not know; but I take no thought for the morrow.
MY DEAR C.:—
In fulfilment of my agreement, I will tell you, as nearly as I can remember, all the details of the meeting at Stafford House.
At about eleven o'clock we drove under the arched carriage way of a mansion, externally, not very showy in appearance. It stands on the borders of St. James's Park, opposite to Buckingham Palace, with a street on the north side, and beautiful gardens on the south, while the park is extended on the west.
We were received at the door by two stately Highlanders in full costume; and what seemed to me an innumerable multitude of servants in livery, with powdered hair, repeated our names through the long corridors, from one to another.
I have only a confused idea of passing from passage to passage, and from hall to hall, till finally we were introduced into a large drawing room. No person was present, and I was at full leisure to survey an apartment whose arrangements more perfectly suited my eye and taste than any I had ever seen before. There was not any particular splendor of furniture, or dazzling display of upholstery, but an artistic, poetic air, resulting from the arrangement of colors, and the disposition of the works of virtu with which the room abounded. The great fault in many splendid rooms, is, that they are arranged without any eye to unity of impression. The things in them may be all fine in their way, but there is no harmony of result.
People do not often consider that there may be a general sentiment to be expressed in the arrangement of a room, as well as in the composition of a picture. It is this leading idea which corresponds to what painters call the ground tone, or harmonizing tint, of a picture. The presence of this often renders a very simple room extremely fascinating, and the absence of it makes the most splendid combinations of furniture powerless to please.
The walls were covered with green damask, laid on flat, and confined in its place by narrow gilt bands, which bordered it around the margin. The chairs, ottomans, and sofas were of white woodwork, varnished and gilded, covered with the same.
The carpet was of a green ground, bedropped with a small yellow leaf; and in each window a circular, standing basket contained a whole bank of primroses, growing as if in their native soil, their pale yellow blossoms and green leaves harmonizing admirably with the general tone of coloring.
Through the fall of the lace curtains I could see out into the beautiful grounds, whose clumps of blossoming white lilacs, and velvet grass, seemed so in harmony with the green interior of the room, that one would think they had been arranged as a continuation of the idea.
One of the first individual objects which attracted my attention was, over the mantel-piece, a large, splendid picture by Landseer, which I have often seen engraved. It represents the two eldest children of the Duchess of Sutherland, the Marquis of Stafford, and Lady Blantyre, at that time Lady Levison Gower, in their childhood. She is represented as feeding a fawn; a little poodle dog is holding up a rose to her; and her brother is lying on the ground, playing with an old staghound.
I had been familiar with Landseer's engravings, but this was the first of his paintings I had ever seen, and I was struck with the rich and harmonious quality of the coloring. There was also a full-length marble statue of the Marquis of Stafford, taken, I should think, at about seventeen years of age, in full Highland costume.
When the duchess appeared, I thought she looked handsomer by daylight than in the evening. She was dressed in white muslin, with a drab velvet basque slashed with satin of the same color. Her hair was confined by a gold and diamond net on the back part of her head.
She received us with the same warm and simple kindness which she had shown before. We were presented to the Duke of Sutherland. He is a tall, slender man, with rather a thin face, light brown hair, and a mild blue eye, with an air of gentleness and dignity. The delicacy of his health prevents him from moving in general society, or entering into public life. He spends much of his time in reading, and devising and executing schemes of practical benevolence for the welfare of his numerous dependants.
I sought a little private conversation with the duchess in her boudoir, in which I frankly confessed a little anxiety respecting the arrangements of the day: having lived all my life in such a shady and sequestered way, and being entirely ignorant of life as it exists in the sphere in which she moves, such apprehensions were rather natural.
She begged that I would make myself entirely easy, and consider myself as among my own friends; that she had invited a few friends to lunch, and that afterwards others would call; that there would be a short address from the ladies of England read by Lord Shaftesbury, which would require no answer.
I could not but be grateful for the consideration thus evinced. The matter being thus adjusted, we came back to the drawing room, when the party began to assemble.
The only difference, I may say, by the by, in the gathering of such a company and one with us, is in the announcing of names at the door; a, custom which I think a good one, saving a vast deal of the breath we always expend in company, by asking "Who is that? and that?" Then, too, people can fall into conversation without a formal presentation, the presumption being that nobody is invited with whom, it is not proper that you should converse. The functionary who performed the announcing was a fine, stalwart man, in full Highland costume, the duke being the head of a Highland clan.
Among the first that entered were the members of the family, the Duke and Duchess of Argyle, Lord and Lady Blantyre, the Marquis and Marchioness of Stafford, and Lady Emma Campbell. Then followed Lord Shaftesbury with his beautiful lady, and her father and mother, Lord and Lady Palmerston. Lord Palmerston is of middle height, with a keen, dark eye, and black hair streaked with gray. There is something peculiarly alert and vivacious about all his movements; in short his appearance perfectly answers to what we know of him from his public life. One has a strange mythological feeling about the existence of people of whom one hears for many years without ever seeing them. While talking with Lord Palmerston I could but remember how often I had heard father and Mr. S. exulting over his foreign despatches by our home fireside.