Mr. G— invited us to dinner, when I became acquainted with his wife, a very genteel young woman, whose behaviour to the children was such that she might be said to contribute more to their education than any one else. The children drank nothing but water. For every boarder Dr. G— receives yearly no more than thirty pounds sterling, which however, he complained of as being too little. From forty to fifty pounds is the most that is generally paid in these academies.
I told him of our improvements in the manner of education, and also spoke to him of the apparent great worth of character of his usher. He listened very attentively, but seemed to have thought little himself on this subject. Before and after dinner the Lord's Prayer was repeated in French, which is done in several places, as if they were eager not to waste without some improvement, even this opportunity also, to practise the French, and thus at once accomplish two points. I afterwards told him my opinion of this species of prayer, which however, he did not take amiss.
After dinner the boys had leave to play in a very small yard, which in most schools or academies, in the city of London, is the ne plus ultra of their playground in their hours of recreation. But Mr. G— has another garden at the end of the town, where he sometimes takes them to walk.
After dinner Mr. G— himself instructed the children in writing, arithmetic, and French, all which seemed to be well taught here, especially writing, in which the young people in England far surpass, I believe, all others. This may perhaps be owing to their having occasion to learn only one sort of letters. As the midsummer holidays were now approaching (at which time the children in all the academies go home for four weeks), everyone was obliged with the utmost care to copy a written model, in order to show it to their parents, because this article is most particularly examined, as everybody can tell what is or is not good writing. The boys knew all the rules of syntax by heart.
All these academies are in general called boarding-schools. Some few retain the old name of schools only, though it is possible that in real merit they may excel the so much-boasted of academies.
It is in general the clergy, who have small incomes, who set up these schools both in town and country, and grown up people who are foreigners, are also admitted here to learn the English language. Mr. G— charged for board, lodging, and instruction in the English, two guineas a-week. He however, who is desirous of perfecting himself in the English, will do better to go some distance into the country, and board himself with any clergyman who takes scholars, where he will hear nothing but English spoken, and may at every opportunity be taught both by young and old.
There are in England, besides the two universities, but few great schools or colleges. In London, there are only St. Paul's and Westminster schools; the rest are almost all private institutions, in which there reigns a kind of family education, which is certainly the most natural, if properly conducted. Some few grammar schools, or Latin schools, are notwithstanding here and there to be met with, where the master receives a fixed salary, besides the ordinary profits of the school paid by the scholars.
You see in the streets of London, great and little boys running about in long blue coats, which, like robes, reach quite down to the feet, and little white bands, such as the clergy wear. These belong to a charitable institution, or school, which hears the name of the Blue Coat School. The singing of the choristers in the streets, so usual with us, is not at all customary here. Indeed, there is in England, or at least in London, such a constant walking, riding, and driving up and down in the streets, that it would not be very practicable. Parents here in general, nay even those of the lowest classes, seem to be kind and indulgent to their children, and do not, like our common people, break their spirits too much by blows and sharp language. Children should certainly be inured early to set a proper value on themselves; whereas with us, parents of the lower class bring up their children to the same slavery under which they themselves groan.
Notwithstanding the constant new appetites and calls of fashion, they here remain faithful to nature—till a certain age. What a contrast, when I figure to myself our petted, pale-faced Berlin boys, at six years old, with a large bag, and all the parade of grown-up persons, nay even with laced coats; and here, on the contrary see nothing but fine, ruddy, slim, active boys, with their bosoms open, and their hair cut on their forehead, whilst behind it flows naturally in ringlets. It is something uncommon here to meet a young man, and more especially a boy, with a pale or sallow face, with deformed features, or disproportioned limbs. With us, alas! it is not to be concealed, the case is very much otherwise; if it were not, handsome people would hardly strike us so very much as they do in this country.
This free, loose, and natural dress is worn till they are eighteen, or even till they are twenty. It is then, indeed, discontinued by the higher ranks, but with the common people it always remains the same. They then begin to have their hair dressed, and curled with irons, to give the head a large bushy appearance, and half their backs are covered with powder. I am obliged to remain still longer under the hands of an English, than I was under a German hair- dresser; and to sweat under his hot irons with which he curls my hair all over, in order that I may appear among Englishmen, somewhat English. I must here observe that the English hair-dressers are also barbers, an office however, which they perform very badly indeed; though I cannot but consider shaving as a far more proper employment for these petit maitres than it is for surgeons, who you know in our country are obliged to shave us. It is incredible how much the English at present Frenchify themselves; the only things yet wanting are bags and swords, with which at least I have seen no one walking publicly, but I am told they are worn at court.
In the morning it is usual to walk out in a sort of negligee or morning dress, your hair not dressed, but merely rolled up in rollers, and in a frock and boots. In Westminster, the morning lasts till four or five o'clock, at which time they dine, and supper and going to bed are regulated accordingly. They generally do not breakfast till ten o'clock. The farther you go from the court into the city, the more regular and domestic the people become; and there they generally dine about three o'clock, i.e. as soon as the business or 'Change is over.
Trimmed suits are not yet worn, and the most usual dress is in summer, a short white waistcoat, black breeches, white silk stockings, and a frock, generally of very dark blue cloth, which looks like black; and the English seem in general to prefer dark colours. If you wish to be full dressed, you wear black. Officers rarely wear their uniforms, but dress like other people, and are to be known to be officers only by a cockade in their hats.
It is a common observation, that the more solicitous any people are about dress, the more effeminate they are. I attribute it entirely to this idle adventitious passion for finery, that these people are become so over and above careful of their persons; they are for ever, and on every occasion, putting one another on their guard against catching cold; "you'll certainly catch cold," they always tell you if you happen to be a little exposed to the draught of the air, or if you be not clad, as they think, sufficiently warm. The general topic of conversation in summer, is on the important objects of whether such and such an acquaintance be in town, or such a one in the country. Far from blaming it, I think it natural and commendable, that nearly one half of the inhabitants of this great city migrate into the country in summer. And into the country, I too, though not a Londoner, hope soon to wander.
Electricity happens at present to be the puppet-show of the English. Whoever at all understands electricity is sure of being noticed and successful. This a certain Mr. Katterfelto experiences, who gives himself out for a Prussian, speaks bad English, and understands beside the usual electrical and philosophical experiments, some legerdemain tricks, with which (at least according to the papers) he sets the whole world in wonder. For in almost every newspaper that appears, there are some verses on the great Katterfelto, which some one or other of his hearers are said to have made extempore. Every sensible person considers Katterfelto as a puppy, an ignoramus, a braggadocio, and an impostor; notwithstanding which he has a number of followers. He has demonstrated to the people, that the influenza is occasioned by a small kind of insect, which poisons the air; and a nostrum, which he pretends to have found out to prevent or destroy it, is eagerly bought of him. A few days ago he put into the papers: "It is true that Mr. Katterfelto has always wished for cold and rainy weather, in order to destroy the pernicious insects in the air; but now, on the contrary, he wishes for nothing more than for fair weather, as his majesty and the whole royal family have determined, the first fine day, to be eye-witnesses of the great wonder, which this learned philosopher will render visible to them." Yet all this while the royal family have not so much as even thought of seeing the wonders of Mr. Katterfelto. This kind of rhodomontade is very finely expressed in English by the word puff, which in its literal sense, signifies a blowing, or violent gust of wind, and in the metaphorical sense, a boasting or bragging.
Of such puffs the English newspapers are daily full, particularly of quack medicines and empirics, by means of which many a one here (and among others a German who goes by the name of the German doctor) are become rich. An advertisement of a lottery in the papers begins with capitals in this manner,—"Ten Thousand Pounds for a Sixpence! Yes, however astonishing it may seem, it is nevertheless undoubtedly true, that for the small stake of sixpence, ten thousand pounds, and other capital prizes, may be won, etc."—But enough for this time of the puffs of the English.
I yesterday dined with the Rev. Mr. Schrader, son-in-law to Professor Foster of Halle. He is chaplain to the German chapel at St. James's; but besides himself he has a colleague or a reader, who is also in orders, but has only fifty pounds yearly salary. Mr. Schrader also instructs the younger princes and princesses of the royal family in their religion. At his house I saw the two chaplains, Mr. Lindeman and Mr. Kritter, who went with the Hanoverian troops to Minorca, and who were returned with the garrison. They were exposed to every danger along with the troops. The German clergy, as well as every other person in any public station immediately under Government, are obliged to pay a considerable tax out of their salaries.
The English clergy (and I fear those still more particularly who live in London) are noticeable, and lamentably conspicuous, by a very free, secular, and irregular way of life. Since my residence in England, one has fought a duel in Hyde Park, and shot has antagonist. He was tried for the offence, and it was evident the judge thought him guilty of murder; but the jury declared him guilty only of manslaughter; and on this verdict he was burnt in the hand, if that may be called burning which is done with a cold iron; this being a privilege which the nobility and clergy enjoy above other murderers.
Yesterday week, after I had preached for Mr. Wendeborne, we passed an English church in which, we understood the sermon was not yet quite finished. On this we went in, and then I heard a young man preaching, with a tolerable good voice, and a proper delivery; but, like the English in general, his manner was unimpassioned, and his tone monotonous. From the church we went to a coffee-house opposite to it, and there we dined. We had not been long there before the same clergyman whom we had just heard preaching, also came in. He called for pen and ink, and hastily wrote down a few pages on a long sheet of paper, which he put into his pocket; I suppose it was some rough sketch or memorandum that occurred to him at that moment, and which he thus reserved for some future sermon. He too ordered some dinner, which he had no sooner ate, than he returned immediately to the same church. We followed him, and he again mounted the pulpit, where he drew from his pocket a written paper, or book of notes, and delivered in all probability those very words which he had just before composed in our presence at the coffee-house.
In these coffee-houses, however, there generally prevails a very decorous stillness and silence. Everyone speaks softly to those only who sit next him. The greater part read the newspapers, and no one ever disturbs another. The room is commonly on the ground floor, and you enter it immediately from the street; the seats are divided by wooden wainscot partitions. Many letters and projects are here written and planned, and many of those that you find in the papers are dated from some of these coffee-houses. There is, therefore, nothing incredible, nor very extraordinary, in a person's composing a sermon here, excepting that one would imagine it might have been done better at home, and certainly should not have thus been put off to the last minute.
Another long walk that I have taken pretty often, is through Hanover Square and Cavendish Square, to Bulstrode Street, near Paddington, where the Danish ambassador lives, and where I have often visited the Danish Charge d'Affaires, M. Schornborn. He is well known in Germany, as having attempted to translate Pindar into German. Besides this, and besides being known to be a man of genius, he is known to be a great proficient in most of the branches of natural philosophy. I have spent many very pleasant hours with him.
Sublime poetry, and in particular odes, are his forte; there are indeed few departments of learning in which he has not extensive knowledge, and he is also well read in the Greek and Roman authors. Everything he studies, he studies merely from the love he bears to the science itself, and by no means for the love of fame.
One could hardly help saying it is a pity that so excellent a man should be so little known, were it not generally the case with men of transcendent merit. But what makes him still more valuable is his pure and open soul, and his amiable unaffected simplicity of character, which has gained him the love and confidence of all who know him. He has heretofore been secretary to the ambassador at Algiers; and even here in London, when he is not occupied by the business arising from his public station, he lives exceedingly retired, and devotes his time almost entirely to the study of the sciences. The more agreeable I find such an acquaintance, the harder it will be for me to lose, as I soon must, his learned, his instructive, and his friendly conversation.
I have seen the large Freemasons' Hall here, at the tavern of the same name. This hall is of an astonishing height and breadth, and to me it looked almost like a church. The orchestra is very much raised, and from that you have a fine view of the whole hall, which makes a majestic appearance. The building is said to have cost an immense sum. But to that the lodges in Germany also contributed. Freemasonry seems to be held in but little estimation in England, perhaps because most of the lodges are now degenerated into mere drinking clubs; though I hope there still are some who assemble for nobler and more essential purposes. The Duke of Cumberland is now grand master.
London, 20th June, 1782.
At length my determination of going into the country takes effect; and I am to set off this very afternoon in a stage; so that I now write to you my last letter from London, I mean till I return from my pilgrimage, for as soon as ever I have got beyond the dangerous neighbourhood of London, I shall certainly no longer suffer myself to be cooped up in a post-coach, but take my staff and pursue my journey on foot. In the meantime, however, I will relate to you what I may either have forgotten to write before, or what I have seen worth notice within these few days last past; among which the foremost is
I must own that on my entrance into this massy building, an uncommon vacancy, which seemed to reign in it, rather damped than raised an impression of anything majestic in me. All around me I could see nothing but immense bare walls and pillars. Above me, at an astonishing height, was the vaulted stone roof; and beneath me a plain, flat even floor, paved with marble. No altar was to be seen, or any other sign that this was a place where mankind assembled to adore the Almighty. For the church itself, or properly that part of it where they perform divine service, seems as it were a piece stuck on or added to the main edifice, and is separated from the large round empty space by an iron gate, or door. Did the great architects who adopted this style of building mean by this to say that such a temple is most proper for the adoration of the Almighty? If this was their aim, I can only say I admire the great temple of nature, the azure vaulted sky, and the green carpet with which the earth is spread. This is truly a large temple; but then there is in it no void, no spot unappropriated, or unfulfilled, but everywhere proofs in abundance of the presence of the Almighty. If, however, mankind, in their honest ambition to worship the great God of nature, in a style not wholly unsuitable to the great object of their reverence, and in their humble efforts at magnificence, aim in some degree to rival the magnificence of nature, particular pains should be taken to hit on something that might atone for the unavoidable loss of the animation and ampleness of nature; something in short that should clearly indicate the true and appropriated design and purpose of such a building. If, on the other hand, I could be contented to consider St. Paul's merely as a work of art, built as if merely to show the amazing extent of human powers, I should certainly gaze at it with admiration and astonishment, but then I wish rather to contemplate it with awe and veneration. But, I perceive, I am wandering out of my way. St. Paul's is here, as it is, a noble pile, and not unworthy of this great nation. And even if I were sure that I could, you would hardly thank me for showing you how it might have been still more worthy of this intelligent people. I make a conscience however of telling you always, with fidelity, what impression everything I see or hear makes on me at the time. For a small sum of money I was conducted all over the church by a man whose office it seemed to be, and he repeated to me, I dare say, exactly his lesson, which no doubt he has perfectly got by rote: of how many feet long and broad it was; how many years it was in building, and in what year built. Much of this rigmarole story, which, like a parrot, he repeated mechanically, I could willingly have dispensed with. In the part that was separated from the rest by the iron gate above mentioned, was what I call the church itself; furnished with benches, pews, pulpit, and an altar; and on each side seats for the choristers, as there are in our cathedrals. This church seemed to have been built purposely in such a way, that the bishop, or dean, or dignitary, who should preach there, might not be obliged to strain his voice too much. I was now conducted to that part which is called the whispering gallery, which is a circumference of prodigious extent, just below the cupola. Here I was directed to place myself in a part of it directly opposite to my conductor, on the other side of the gallery, so that we had the whole breadth of the church between us, and here as I stood, he, knowing his cue no doubt, flung to the door with all his force, which gave a sound that I could compare to nothing less than a peal of thunder. I was next desired to apply my ear to the wall, which, when I did, I heard the words of my conductor: "Can you hear me?" which he softly whispered quite on the other side, as plain and as loud as one commonly speaks to a deaf person. This scheme to condense and invigorate sound at so great a distance is really wonderful. I once noticed some sound of the same sort in the senatorial cellar at Bremen; but neither that, nor I believe any other in the world, can pretend to come in competition with this.
I now ascended several steps to the great gallery, which runs on the outside of the great dome, and here I remained nearly two hours, as I could hardly, in less time, satisfy myself with the prospect of the various interesting objects that lay all round me, and which can no where be better seen, than from hence.
Every view, and every object I studied attentively, by viewing them again and again on every side, for I was anxious to make a lasting impression of it on my imagination.
Below me lay steeples, houses, and palaces in countless numbers; the squares with their grass plots in their middle that lay agreeably dispersed and intermixed, with all the huge clusters of buildings, forming meanwhile a pleasing contrast, and a relief to the jaded eye.
At one end rose the Tower—itself a city—with a wood of masts behind it; and at the other Westminster Abbey with its steeples. There I beheld, clad in smiles, those beautiful green hills that skirt the environs of Paddington and Islington; here, on the opposite bank of the Thames, lay Southwark; the city itself it seems to be impossible for any eye to take in entirely, for with all my pains I found it impossible to ascertain either where it ended, or where the circumjacent villages began; far as the eye could reach, it seemed to be all one continued chain of buildings.
I well remember how large I thought Berlin when first I saw it from the steeple of St. Mary, and from the Temple Yard Hills, but how did it now sink and fall in my imagination, when I compared it with London!
It is, however, idle and vain to attempt giving you in words, any description, however faint and imperfect, of such a prospect as I have just been viewing. He who wishes at one view to see a world in miniature, must come to the dome of St Paul's.
The roof of St. Paul's itself with its two lesser steeples lay below me, and as I fancied, looked something like the background of a small ridge of hills, which you look down upon when you have attained the summit of some huge rock or mountain. I should gladly have remained here sometime longer, but a gust of wind, which in this situation was so powerful that it was hardly possible to withstand it, drove me down.
Notwithstanding that St. Paul's is itself very high, the elevation of the ground on which it stands contributes greatly to its elevation.
The church of St. Peter at Berlin, notwithstanding the total difference between them in the style of building, appears in some respects to have a great resemblance to St. Paul's in London. At least its large high black roof rises above the other surrounding buildings just as St. Paul's does.
What else I saw in this stately cathedral was only a wooden model of this very edifice, which was made before the church was built, and which suggests some not unpleasing reflections when one compares it with the enormous building itself.
The churchyard is enclosed with an iron rail, and it appears a considerable distance if you go all round.
Owing to some cause or other, the site of St. Paul's strikes you as being confined, and it is certain that this beautiful church is on every side closely surrounded by houses.
A marble statue of Queen Anne in an enclosed piece of ground in the west front of the church is something of an ornament to that side.
The size of the bell of St. Paul's is also worthy of notice, as it is reckoned one of those that are deemed the largest in Europe. It takes its place, they say, next to that at Vienna.
Everything that I saw in St. Paul's cost me only a little more than a shilling, which I paid in pence and halfpence, according to a regulated price, fixed for every different curiosity.
On a very gloomy dismal day, just such a one as it ought to be, I went to see Westminster Abbey.
I entered at a small door, which brought me immediately to the poets' corner, where the monuments and busts of the principal poets, artists, generals, and great men, are placed.
Not far from the door, immediately on my entrance, I perceived the statue of Shakespeare, as large as life; with a band, &c., in the dress usual in his time.
A passage out of one of Shakespeare's own plays (the Tempest), in which he describes in the most solemn and affecting manner, the end, or the dissolution of all things, is here, with great propriety, put up as his epitaph; as though none but Shakespeare could do justice to Shakespeare.
Not far from this immortal bard is Rowe's monument, which, as it is intimated in the few lines that are inscribed as his epitaph, he himself had desired to be placed there.
At no great distance I saw the bust of that amiable writer, Goldsmith: to whom, as well as to Butler, whose monument is in a distant part of the abbey, though they had scarcely necessary bread to eat during their life time, handsome monuments are now raised. Here, too you see, almost in a row, the monuments of Milton, Dryden, Gay, and Thomson. The inscription on Gay's tombstone is, if not actually immoral, yet futile and weak; though he is said to have written it himself:
"Life is a jest, and all things shew it, 'I thought so once but now I know it."
Our Handel has also a monument here, where he is represented as large as life.
An actress, Pritchard, and Booth, an actor, have also very distinguished monuments erected here to their memories.
For Newton, as was proper, there is a very costly one. It is above, at the entrance of the choir, and exactly opposite to this, at the end of the church, another is erected, which refers you to the former.
As I passed along the side walls of Westminster Abbey, I hardly saw any thing but marble monuments of great admirals, but which were all too much loaded with finery and ornaments, to make on me at least, the intended impression.
I always returned with most pleasure to the poets' corner, where the most sensible, most able, and most learned men, of the different ages, were re-assembled; and particularly where the elegant simplicity of the monuments made an elevated and affecting impression on the mind, while a perfect recollection of some favourite passage, of a Shakespeare, or Milton, recurred to my idea, and seemed for a moment to re-animate and bring back the spirits of those truly great men.
Of Addison and Pope I have found no monuments here. The vaults where the kings are buried, and some other things worth notice in the abbey, I have not yet seen; but perhaps I may at my return to London from the country.
I have made every necessary preparation for this journey: In the first place, I have an accurate map of England in my pocket; besides an excellent book of the roads, which Mr. Pointer, the English merchant to whom I am recommended, has lent me. The title is "A new and accurate description of all the direct and principal cross roads in Great Britain." This book, I hope, will be of great service to me in my ramblings.
I was for a long time undecided which way I should go, whether to the Isle of Wight, to Portsmouth, or to Derbyshire, which is famous for its natural curiosities, and also for its romantic situation. At length I have determined on Derbyshire.
During my absence I leave my trunk at Mr. Mulhausen's (one of Mr. Pointer's senior partners), that I may not be at the needless expense of paying for my lodging without making use of it. This Mr. Pointer lived long in Germany, and is politely partial to us and our language, and speaks it well. He is a well-bred and singularly obliging man; and one who possesses a vast fund of information, and a good taste. I cannot but feel myself happy in having obtained a recommendation to so accomplished a man. I got it from Messrs. Persent and Dorner, to whom I had the honour to be recommended by Mr. Von Taubenheim, Privy Counsellor at Berlin. These recommendations have been of infinite use to me.
I propose to go to-day as far as Richmond; for which place a stage sets out about two o'clock from some inn, not far from the new church in the Strand. Four guineas, some linen, my English book of the roads, and a map and pocket-book, together with Milton's Paradise Lost, which I must put in my pocket, compose the whole of my equipage; and I hope to walk very lightly with it. But it now strikes half-past one, and of course it is time for me to be at the stage. Farewell! I will write to you again from Richmond.
Richmond, 21st June, 1782.
Yesterday afternoon I had the luxury for the first time of being driven in an English stage. These coaches are, at least in the eyes of a foreigner, quite elegant, lined in the inside; and with two seats large enough to accommodate six persons; but it must be owned, when the carriage is full, the company are rather crowded.
At the White Hart from whence the coach sets out, there was, at first only an elderly lady who got in; but as we drove along, it was soon filled, and mostly by ladies, there being only one more gentleman and myself. The conversation of the ladies among themselves, who appeared to be a little acquainted with each other, seemed to me to be but very insipid and tiresome. All I could do was, I drew out my book of the roads, and marked the way we were going.
Before you well know that you are out of London you are already in Kensington and Hammersmith; because there are all the way houses on both sides, after you are out of the city; just as you may remember the case is with us when you drive from Berlin to Schoneberg; although in point of prospect, houses and streets, the difference, no doubt, is prodigious.
It was a fine day, and there were various delightful prospects on both sides, on which the eye would willingly have dwelt longer, had not our coach rolled on past them, so provokingly quick. It appeared somewhat singular to me, when at a few miles from London, I saw at a distance a beautiful white house; and perceived on the high road, on which we were driving, a direction post, on which were written these words: "that great white house at a distance is a boarding-school!"
The man who was with us in the coach pointed out to us the country seats of the lords and great people by which we passed; and entertained us with all kind of stories of robberies which had been committed on travellers, hereabouts; so that the ladies at last began to be rather afraid; on which he began to stand up for the superior honour of the English robbers, when compared with the French: the former he said robbed only, the latter both robbed and murdered.
Notwithstanding this there are in England another species of villains, who also murder, and that oftentimes for the merest trifle, of which they rob the person murdered. These are called footpads, and are the lowest class of English rogues; amongst whom in general there reigns something like some regard to character.
The highest order of thieves are the pickpockets or cutpurses, whom you find everywhere; and sometimes even in the best companies. They are generally well and handsomely dressed, so that you take them to be persons of rank; as indeed may sometimes be the case: persons who by extravagance and excesses have reduced themselves to want, and find themselves obliged at last to have recourse to pilfering and thieving.
Next to them come the highwaymen, who rob on horseback; and often, they say, even with unloaded pistols, they terrify travellers, in order to put themselves in possession of their purses. Among these persons, however, there are instances of true greatness of soul, there are numberless instances of their returning a part of their booty, where the party robbed has appeared to be particularly distressed; and they are seldom guilty of murder.
Then comes the third and lowest, and worst of all thieves and rogues, the footpads before mentioned; who are on foot, and often murder in the most inhuman manner, for the sake of only a few shillings, any unfortunate people who happen to fall in their way. Of this several mournful instances may be read almost daily in the English papers. Probably they murder, because they cannot like highwaymen, aided by their horses, make a rapid flight: and therefore such pests are frequently pretty easily pursued and taken if the person robbed gives information of his robbery in time.
But to return to our stage, I must observe, that they have here a curious way of riding, not in, but upon a stage-coach. Persons to whom it is not convenient to pay a full price, instead of the inside, sit on the top of the coach, without any seats or even a rail. By what means passengers thus fasten themselves securely on the roof of these vehicles, I know not; but you constantly see numbers seated there, apparently at their ease, and in perfect safety.
This they call riding on the outside; for which they pay only half as much as those pay who are within: we had at present six of these passengers over our heads, who, when we alighted, frequently made such a noise and bustle, as sometimes almost frightened us. He who can properly balance himself, rides not incommodiously on the outside; and in summer time, in fine weather, on account of the prospects, it certainly is more pleasant than it is within: excepting that the company is generally low, and the dust is likewise more troublesome than in the inside, where, at any rate, you may draw up the windows according to your pleasure.
In Kensington, where we stopped, a Jew applied for a place along with us; but as there was no seat vacant in the inside, he would not ride on the outside, which seemed not quite to please my travelling companions. They could not help thinking it somewhat preposterous that a Jew should be ashamed to ride on the outside, or on any side, and in any way; since as they added, he was nothing more than a Jew. This antipathy and prejudice against the Jews, I have noticed to be far more common here, than it is even with us, who certainly are not partial to them.
Of the beautiful country seats and villas which we now passed, I could only through the windows of our coach gain a partial and indistinct prospect, which led me to wish, as I soon most earnestly did, to be released from this movable prison. Towards evening we arrived at Richmond. In London, before I set out, I had paid one shilling; another was now demanded, so that upon the whole, from London to Richmond, the passage in the stage costs just two shillings.
As soon as I had alighted at an inn and had drunk my tea, I went out immediately to see the town and the circumjacent country.
Even this town, though hardly out of sight of London, is more countrified, pleasanter, and more cheerful than London, and the houses do not seem to be so much blackened by smoke. The people also appeared to me here more sociable and more hospitable. I saw several sitting on benches before their doors, to enjoy the cool breeze of the evening. On a large green area in the middle of the town, a number of boys, and even young men, were enjoying themselves, and playing at trap-ball. In the streets there reigned here, compared to London, a pleasing rural tranquillity, and I breathed a purer and fresher air.
I went now out of the town over a bridge, which lies across the Thames, and where you pay a penny as often as you pass over it. The bridge is lofty and built in the form of an arch, and from it you enter immediately into a most charming valley, that winds all along the banks of the Thames.
It was evening. The sun was just shedding her last parting rays on the valley; but such an evening, and such a valley! Oh, it is impossible I should ever forget them. The terrace at Richmond does assuredly afford one of the finest prospects in the world. Whatever is charming in nature, or pleasing in art, is to be seen here. Nothing I had ever seen, or ever can see elsewhere, is to be compared to it. My feelings, during the few short enraptured minutes that I stood there, it is impossible for any pen to describe.
One of my first sensations was chagrin and sorrow for the days and hours I had wasted in London, and I had vented a thousand bitter reproaches on my irresolution, that I had not long ago quitted that huge dungeon to come here and pass my time in paradise.
Yes, my friend, whatever be your ideas of paradise, and how luxuriantly soever it may be depicted to your imagination, I venture to foretell that here you will be sure to find all those ideas realised. In every point of view, Richmond is assuredly one of the first situations in the world. Here it was that Thomson and Pope gleaned from nature all those beautiful passages with which their inimitable writings abound.
Instead of the incessant distressing noise in London, I saw here at a distance, sundry little family parties walking arm in arm along the banks of the Thames. Everything breathed a soft and pleasing calm, which warmed my heart and filed it with some of the most pleasing sensations of which our nature is susceptible.
Beneath I trod on that fresh, even, and soft verdure which is to be seen only in England. On one side of me lay a wood, than which nature cannot produce a finer, and on the other the Thames, with its shelvy bank and charming lawns rising like an amphitheatre, along which, here and there, one espies a picturesque white house, aspiring in majestic simplicity to pierce the dark foliage of the surrounding trees; thus studding, like stars in the galaxy, the rich expanse of this charming vale.
Sweet Richmond! never, no, never, shall I forget that lovely evening, when from thy fairy hills thou didst so hospitably smile on me, a poor lonely, insignificant stranger! As I traversed to and fro thy meads, thy little swelling hills and flowery dells, and above all that queen of all rivers, thy own majestic Thames, I forgot all sublunary cares, and thought only of heaven and heavenly things. Happy, thrice happy am I, I again and again exclaimed, that I am no longer in yon gloomy city, but here in Elysium, in Richmond.
O ye copsy hills, ye green meadows, and ye rich streams in this blessed country, how have ye enchanted me? Still, however, let me recollect and resolve, as I firmly do, that even ye shall not prevent my return to those barren and dusty lands where my, perhaps a less indulgent, destiny has placed me, and where, in the due discharge of all the arduous and important duties of that humble function to which providence has called me, I must and I will faithfully exert my best talents, and in that exertion find pleasure, and I trust, happiness. In every future moment of my life, however, the recollection of this scene, and the feelings it inspired, shall cheer my labours and invigorate my efforts.
These were some of my reflections, my dearest friend, during my solitary walk. Of the evening I passed at Richmond, I speak feebly when I content myself with saying only, it was one of the pleasantest I ever spent in my life.
I now resolved to go to bed early, with a firm purpose of also rising early the next day to revisit this charming walk; for I thought to myself, I have now seen this temple of the modern world imperfectly; I have seen it only by moonlight. How much more charming must it be when glistening with the morning dew! These fond hopes, alas, were all disappointed. In all great schemes of enjoyment, it is, I believe, no bad way always to figure to yourself some possible evil that may arise, and to anticipate a disappointment. If I had done so, I should not perhaps have felt the mortification I then experienced quite so pungent. By some means or other I stayed too long out, and so when I returned to Richmond, I had forgot the name and the sign of the inn where I had before stopped; it cost me no little trouble to find it again.
When at last I got back, I told the people what a sweet walk I had had, and they then spoke much of a prospect from a neighbouring hill, known by the name of Richmond Hill, which was the very same hill from the top of which I had just been gazing at the houses in the vale, the preceding evening. From this same kill, therefore, I resolved the next morning to see the sun rise.
The landlady of this house was a notable one, and talked so much and so loud to her servants, that I could not get to sleep till it was pretty late. However, I was up next morning at three o'clock, and was now particularly sensible of the great inconveniences they sustain in England by their bad custom of rising so late, for as I was the only one in this family who was up, I could not get out of the house. This obliged me to spend three most irksome and heavy hours till six o'clock; however, a servant at length opened the door, and I rushed out to climb Richmond Hill. To my infinite disappointment, within the space of an hour, the sky had become overcast, and it was now so cloudy that I could not even see, nor of course enjoy one half of the delightful prospect that lay before me.
On the top of this hill is an alley of chestnut trees, under which here and there seats are placed. Behind the alley is a row of well- built gentlemen's country seats. One does not wonder to see it thus occupied; besides the pure air, the prospect exceeds everything else of the kind in the world. I never saw a palace which, if I were the owner of it, I would not give for any of the houses I now saw on Richmond Terrace.
The descent of the hill to the Thames is covered with verdure, the Thames at the foot of it forms near a semicircle, in which it seems to embrace woody plains, with meadows and country seats in its bosom. On one side you see the town and its magnificent bridge, and on the other a dark wood.
At a distance you could perceive, peeping out among the meadows and woods, sundry small villages, so that notwithstanding the dulness of the weather, this prospect even now was one of the finest I had ever seen. But what is the reason that yesterday evening my feelings were far more acute and lively, the impressions made on me much stronger, when from the vale I viewed the hill and fancied that there was in it every thing that was delightful, than they are this morning, when from the hill I overlooked the vale and knew pretty exactly what it contained?
I have now finished my breakfast, and once more seize my staff, the only companion I have, and now again set out on this romantic journey on foot. From Windsor you shall hear more of me.
Windsor, 23rd June.
I have already, my dearest friend, now that I write to you from hence, experienced so many inconveniences as a traveller on foot, that I am at some loss to determine whether or no I shall go on with my journey in the same manner.
A traveller on foot in this country seems to be considered as a sort of wild man or out-of-the way being, who is stared at, pitied, suspected, and shunned by everybody that meets him. At least this has hitherto been my case on the road from Richmond to Windsor.
My host at Richmond, yesterday morning, could not sufficiently express his surprise that I intended to venture to walk as far as Oxford, and still farther. He however was so kind as to send his son, a clever little boy, to show me the road leading to Windsor.
At first I walked along a very pleasant footway by the side of the Thames, where close to my right lay the king's garden. On the opposite bank of the Thames was Isleworth, a spot that seemed to be distinguished by some elegant gentlemen's country-seats and gardens. Here I was obliged to ferry the river in order to get into the Oxford Road, which also leads to Windsor.
When I was on the other side of the water, I came to a house and asked a man who was standing at the door if I was on the right road to Oxford. "Yes," said he, "but you want a carriage to carry you thither." When I answered him that I intended walking it, he looked at me significantly, shook his head, and went into the house again.
I was now on the road to Oxford. It is a charming fine broad road, and I met on it carriages without number, which, however, on account of the heat, occasioned a dust that was extremely troublesome and disagreeable. The fine green hedges, which border the roads in England, contribute greatly to render them pleasant. This was the case in the road I now travelled, for when I was tired I sat down in the shade under one of these hedges and read Milton. But this relief was soon rendered disagreeable to me, for those who rode or drove past me, stared at me with astonishment, and made many significant gestures as if they thought my head deranged; so singular must it needs have appeared to them to see a man sitting along the side of a public road and reading. I therefore found myself obliged, when I wished to rest myself and read, to look out for a retired spot in some by-lane or crossroad.
When I again walked, many of the coachmen who drove by called out to me, ever and anon, and asked if I would not ride on the outside; and when, every now and then, a farmer on horseback met me, he said, and seemingly with an air of pity for me, "'Tis warm walking, sir;" and when I passed through a village, every old woman testified her pity by an exclamation of—"Good God!"
As far as Hounslow the way was very pleasant; afterwards I thought it not quite so good. It lay across a common, which was of a considerable extent, and bare and naked, excepting that here and there I saw sheep feeding.
I now began to be very tired, when, to my astonishment, I saw a tree in the middle of the common that stood quite solitary, and spread a shade like an arbour round it. At the bottom, round the trunk, a bench was placed, on which one may sit down. Beneath the shade of this tree I reposed myself a little, read some of Milton, and made a note in my memorandum-book that I would remember this tree, which had so charitably and hospitably received under its shade a weary traveller. This, you see, I have now done.
The short English miles are delightful for walking. You are always pleased to find, every now and then, in how short a time you have walked a mile, though, no doubt, a mile is everywhere a mile, I walk but a moderate pace, and can accomplish four English miles in an hour. It used to take me pretty nearly the same time for one German mile. Now it is a pleasing exchange to find that in two hours I can walk eight miles. And now I fancy I was about seventeen miles from London, when I came to an inn, where, for a little wine and water, I was obliged to pay sixpence. An Englishman who happened to be sitting by the side of the innkeeper found out that I was a German, and, of course, from the country of his queen, in praise of whom he was quite lavish, observing more than once that England never had had such a queen, and would not easily get such another.
It now began to grow hot. On the left hand, almost close to the high road, I met with a singularly clear rivulet. In this I bathed, and was much refreshed, and afterwards, with fresh alacrity, continued my journey.
I had now got over the common, and was once more in a country rich and well cultivated beyond all conception. This continued to be the case as far as Slough, which is twenty miles and a half from London, on the way to Oxford, and from which to the left there is a road leading to Windsor, whose high white castle I have already seen at a distance.
I made no stay here, but went directly to the right, along a very pleasant high road, between meadows and green hedges, towards Windsor, where I arrived about noon.
It strikes a foreigner as something particular and unusual when, on passing through these fine English towns, he observed one of those circumstances by which the towns in Germany are distinguished from the villages—no walls, no gates, no sentries, nor garrisons. No stern examiner comes here to search and inspect us or our baggage; no imperious guard here demands a sight of our passports; perfectly free and unmolested, we here walk through villages and towns as unconcerned as we should through a house of our own.
Just before I got to Windsor I passed Eton College, one of the first public schools in England, and perhaps in the world. I have before observed that there are in England fewer of these great schools than one might expect. It lay on my left; and on the right, directly opposite to it, was an inn, into which I went.
I suppose it was during the hour of recreation, or in playtime, when I got to Eton, for I saw the boys in the yard before the college, which was enclosed by a low wall, in great numbers, walking and running up and down.
Their dress struck me particularly. From the biggest to the least, they all wore black cloaks, or gowns, over coloured clothes, through which there was an aperture for their arms. They also wore besides a square hat or cap, that seemed to be covered with velvet, such as our clergymen in many places wear.
They were differently employed—some talking together, some playing, and some had their books in their hands, and were reading; but I was soon obliged to get out of their sight, they stared at me so as I came along, all over dust, with my stick in my hand.
As I entered the inn, and desired to have something to eat, the countenance of the waiter soon gave me to understand that I should there find no very friendly reception. Whatever I got they seemed to give me with such an air as showed too plainly how little they thought of me, and as if they considered me but as a beggar. I must do them the justice to own, however, that they suffered me to pay like a gentleman. No doubt this was the first time this pert, bepowdered puppy had ever been called on to wait on a poor devil who entered their place on foot. I was tired, and asked for a bedroom where I might sleep. They showed me into one that much resembled a prison for malefactors. I requested that I might have a better room at night; on which, without any apology, they told me that they had no intention of lodging me, as they had no room for such guests, but that I might go back to Slough, where very probably I might get a night's lodging.
With money in my pocket, and a consciousness, moreover, that I was doing nothing that was either imprudent, unworthy, or really mean, I own it mortified and vexed me to find myself obliged to put up with this impudent ill-usage from people who ought to reflect that they are but the servants of the public, and little likely to recommend themselves to the high by being insolent to the low. They made me, however, pay them two shillings for my dinner and coffee, which I had just thrown down, and was preparing to shake off the dust from my shoes, and quit this inhospitable St. Christopher, when the green hills of Windsor smiled so friendly upon me, that they seemed to invite me first to visit them.
And now trudging through the streets of Windsor, I at length mounted a sort of hill; a steep path led me on to its summit, close to the walls of the castle, where I had an uncommonly extensive and fine prospect, which so much raised my heart, that in a moment I forgot not only the insults of waiters and tavern-keepers, but the hardship of my lot in being obliged to travel in a manner that exposed me to the scorn of a people whom I wished to respect. Below me lay the most beautiful landscapes in the world—all the rich scenery that nature, in her best attire, can exhibit. Here were the spots that furnished those delightful themes of which the muse of Denham and Pope made choice. I seemed to view a whole world at once, rich and beautiful beyond conception. At that moment what more could I have wished for?
And the venerable castle, that royal edifice which, in every part of it, has strong traces of antiquity, smiles through its green trees, like the serene countenance of some hoary sage, who, by the vigour of a happy constitution, still retains many of the charms of youth.
Nothing inspired me with more veneration and awe than the fine old building St. George's Church, which, as you come down from the castle, is on your right. At the sight of it past centuries seemed to revive in my imagination.
But I will see no more of those sights which are shown you by one of those venal praters, who ten times a day, parrot-wise, repeat over the same dull lesson they have got by heart. The surly fellow, who for a shilling conducted me round the church, had nearly, with his chattering, destroyed the finest impressions. Henry VIII., Charles I., and Edward IV. are buried here. After all, this church, both within and without, has a most melancholy and dismal appearance.
They were building at what is called the queen's palace, and prodigious quantities of materials are provided for that purpose.
I now went down a gentle declivity into the delightful park at Windsor, at the foot of which it looks so sombrous and gloomy that I could hardly help fancying it was some vast old Gothic temple. This forest certainly, in point of beauty, surpasses everything of the kind you can figure to yourself. To its own charms, when I saw it, there were added a most pleasing and philosophical solitude, the coolness of an evening breeze, all aided by the soft sounds of music, which, at this distance from the castle, from whence it issued, was inexpressibly sweet. It threw me into a sort of enthusiastic and pleasing reverie, which made me ample amends for the fatigues, discourtesies, and continued cross accidents I had encountered in the course of the day.
I now left the forest; the clock struck six, and the workmen were going home from their work.
I have forgot to mention the large round tower of the castle, which is also a very ancient building. The roads that lead to it are all along their sides planted with shrubs; these, being modern and lively, make a pleasing contrast to the fine old mossy walls. On the top of this tower the flag of Great Britain is usually displayed, which, however, as it was now late in the evening, was taken in.
As I came down from the castle I saw the king driving up to it in a very plain, two-wheeled, open carriage. The people here were politer than I used to think they were in London, for I did not see a single person, high or low, who did not pull off their hats as their sovereign passed them.
I was now again in Windsor, and found myself, not far from the castle, opposite to a very capital inn, where I saw many officers and several persons of consequence going in and out. And here at this inn, contrary to all expectation, I was received by the landlord with great civility, and even kindness—very contrary to the haughty and insolent airs which the upstart at the other, and his jackanapes of a waiter, there thought fit to give themselves.
However, it seemed to be my fate to be still a scandal and an eyesore to all the waiters. The maid, by the order of her master, showed me a room where I might adjust my dress a little; but I could hear her mutter and grumble as she went along with me. Having put myself a little to rights, I went down into the coffee-room, which is immediately at the entrance of the house, and told the landlord that I thought I wished to have yet one more walk. On this he obligingly directed me to stroll down a pleasant field behind his house, at the foot of which, he said, I should find the Thames, and a good bathing place.
I followed his advice; and this evening was, if possible, finer than the preceding. Here again, as I had been told I should, I found the Thames with all its gentle windings. Windsor shone nearly as bright over the green vale as those charming houses on Richmond Hill, and the verdure was not less soft and delicate. The field I was in seemed to slope a little towards the Thames. I seated myself near a bush, and there waited the going down of the sun. At a distance I saw a number of people bathing in the Thames. When, after sunset, they were a little dispersed, I drew near the spot I had been directed to; and here, for the first time, I sported in the cool tide of the Thames. The bank was steep, but my landlord had dug some steps that went down into the water, which is extremely convenient for those who cannot swim. Whilst I was there, a couple of smart lively apprentice boys came also from the town, who, with the greatest expedition, threw off their clothes and leathern aprons, and plunged themselves, head foremost, into the water, where they opposed the tide with their sinewy arms till they were tired. They advised me, with much natural civility, to untie my hair, and that then, like them, I might plunge into the stream head foremost.
Refreshed and strengthened by this cool bath, I took a long walk by moonlight on the banks of the Thames. To my left were the towers of Windsor, before me a little village with a steeple, the top of which peeped out among the green trees, at a distance two inviting hills which I was to climb in the morning, and around me the green cornfields. Oh! how indescribably beautiful was this evening and this walk! At a distance among the houses I could easily descry the inn where I lodged, and where I seemed to myself at length to have found a place of refuge and a home; and I thought, if I could but stay there, I should not be very sorry if I were never to find another.
How soon did all these pleasing dreams vanish! On my return the waiters (who, from my appearance, too probably expected but a trifling reward for their attentions to me) received me gruffly, and as if they were sorry to see me again. This was not all; I had the additional mortification to be again roughly accosted by the cross maid who had before shown me to the bed-chamber, and who, dropping a kind of half courtesy, with a suppressed laugh, sneeringly told me I might look out for another lodging, as I could not sleep there, since the room she had by mistake shown me was already engaged. It can hardly be necessary to tell you that I loudly protested against this sudden change. At length the landlord came, and I appealed to him; and he with great courtesy immediately desired another room to be shown me, in which, however, there were two beds, so that I was obliged to admit a companion. Thus was I very near being a second time turned out of an inn.
Directly under my room was the tap-room, from which I could plainly hear too much of the conversation of some low people, who were drinking and singing songs, in which, as far as I could understand them, there were many passages at least as vulgar and nonsensical as ours.
This company, I guessed, consisted chiefly of soldiers and low fellows. I was hardly well lulled to sleep by this hurly-burly, when my chum (probably one of the drinking party below) came stumbling into the room and against my bed. At length, though not without some difficulty, he found his own bed, into which he threw himself just as he was, without staying to pull off either clothes or boots.
This morning I rose very early, as I had proposed, in order to climb the two hills which yesterday presented me with so inviting a prospect, and in particular that one of them on the summit of which a high white house appeared among the dark-green trees; the other was close by.
I found no regular path leading to these hills, and therefore went straight forward, without minding roads, only keeping in view the object of my aim. This certainly created me some trouble. I had sometimes a hedge, and sometimes a hog to walk round; but at length I had attained the foot of the so earnestly wished-for hill with the high white house on its summit, when, just as I was going to ascend it, and was already pleasing myself in the idea with the prospect from the white house, behold I read these words on a board: "Take care! there are steel traps and spring guns here."
All my labour was lost, and I now went round to the other hill; but here were also steel traps and spring gnus, though probably never intended to annoy such a wanderer as myself, who wished only to enjoy the fine morning air from this eminence.
Thus disappointed in my hopes, I returned to Windsor, much in the same temper and manner as I had yesterday morning from Richmond Hill; where my wishes had also been frustrated.
When I got to my inn, I received from the ill-tempered maid, who seemed to have been stationed there on purpose to plague and vex me, the polite welcome, that on no account should I sleep another night there. Luckily, that was not my intention. I now write to you in the coffee room, where two Germans are talking together, who certainly little suspect how well I understand them; if I were to make myself known to them, as a German, most probably, even these fellows would not speak to me, because I travel on foot. I fancy they are Hanoverians! The weather is so fine that, notwithstanding the inconveniences I have hitherto experienced on this account, I think I shall continue my journey in the same manner.
Oxford, June 25.
To what various, singular, and unaccountable fatalities and adventures are not foot-travellers exposed, in this land of carriages and horses! But, I will begin my relation in form and order.
In Windsor, I was obliged to pay for an old fowl I had for supper, for a bedroom which I procured with some difficulty, and not without murmurs, and in which, to complete my misadventures, I was disturbed by a drunken fellow; and for a couple of dishes of tea, nine shillings, of which the fowl alone was charged six shillings.
As I was going away the waiter, who had served me with so very ill a grace, placed himself on the stairs and said, "Pray remember the waiter." I gave him three halfpence, on which he saluted me with the heartiest "G-d d-n you, sir!" I had ever heard. At the door stood the cross maid, who also accosted me with, "Pray remember the chambermaid." "Yes, yes," said I, "I shall long remember your most ill-mannered behaviour and shameful incivility;" and so I gave her nothing. I hope she was stung and nettled at my reproof; however, she strove to stifle her anger by a contemptuous, loud, hoarse laugh. Thus, as I left Windsor, I was literally followed by abuses and curses.
I am very sorry to say that I rejoiced when I once more perceived the towers of Windsor behind me. It is not proper for wanderers to be prowling near the palaces of kings, and so I sat me down, philosophically, in the shade of a green hedge, and again read Milton, no friend of kings, though the first of poets. Whatever I may think of their inns, it is impossible not to admire and be charmed with this country.
I took my way through Slough, by Salthill, to Maidenhead. At Salthill, which can hardly be called even a village, I saw a barber's shop, and so I resolved to get myself both shaved and dressed. For putting my hair a little in order, and shaving me, I was forced to pay him a shilling. Opposite to this shop there stands an elegant house and a neat garden.
Between Salthill and Maidenhead, I met with the first very remarkable and alarming adventure that has occurred during my pilgrimage.
Hitherto I had scarcely met a single foot passenger, whilst coaches without number every moment rolled past me, for there are few roads, even in England, more crowded than this western road, which leads to Bath and Bristol as well as to Oxford. I now also began to meet numbers of people on horseback, which is by no means an usual method of travelling.
The road now led me along a low sunken piece of ground between high trees, so that I could not see far before me, when a fellow in a brown frock and round hat, with a stick in his hand a great deal stronger than mine, came up to me. His countenance immediately struck me as having in it something suspicious. He however passed me; but, before I was aware, he turned back and asked me for a halfpenny to buy, as he said, some bread, as he had eaten nothing that day. I felt in my pocket, and found that I had no halfpence: no, nor even a sixpence; in short, nothing but shillings. I told him the circumstance, which I hoped would excuse me; on which he said, with an air and manner the drift of which I could not understand, "God bless my soul!" This drew my attention still closer to the huge brawny fist, which grasped his stick, and that closer attention determined me immediately to put my hand in my pocket and give him a shilling. Meanwhile a coach came up. The fellow thanked me and went on. Had the coach come a moment sooner, I should not easily have given him the shilling, which, God knows, I could not well spare. Whether this was a footpad or not, I will not pretend to say, but he had every appearance of it.
I now came to Maidenhead bridge, which is five-and-twenty English miles from London.
The English milestones give me much pleasure, and they certainly are a great convenience to travellers. They have often seemed to ease me of half the distance of a journey merely by telling me how far I had already gone, and by assuring me that I was on the right road. For, besides the distance from London, every milestone informs you that to the next place is so many miles, and where there are cross- roads there are direction-posts, so that it is hardly possible to lose one's-self in walking. I must confess that all this journey has seemed but as it were one continued walk for pleasure.
From Maidenhead bridge there is a delightful prospect towards a hill, which extends itself along the right bank of the Thames, and on the top of it there are two beautiful country seats, all surrounded with meadows and parks. The first is called Taplow, and belongs to the Earl of Inchiquin; and a little farther Cliefden, which also belongs to him.
These villas seem all to be surrounded with green meadows, lying along thick woods, and, altogether, are most charming.
From this bridge it is not far to Maidenhead, near which, on the left, is another prospect of a beautiful seat, belonging to Pennyston Powney, Esq.
All this knowledge I have gained chiefly from my English guide; which I have constantly in my hand; and in which everything most worthy of notice in every mile is marked. These notices I get confirmed or refuted by the people at whose houses I stop; who wonder how I, who am a foreigner, have come to be so well acquainted with their country.
Maidenhead is a place of little note; for some mulled ale, which I desired them to make me, I was obliged to pay ninepence. I fancy they did not take me to be either a great, or a very rich man, for I heard them say, as I passed on, "A stout fellow!" This, though perhaps not untrue, did not seem to sound in my ears as very respectful.
At the end of the village was a shoemaker's shop, just as at the end of Salthill there was a barber's shop.
From hence I went to Henley, which is eleven miles from Maidenhead, and thirty-six from London.
Having walked pretty fast for six English miles together, and being now only five miles from Henley, I came to a rising ground where there just happened to be a milestone, near which I sat down, to enjoy one of the most delightful prospects, the contemplation of which I recommend to everyone who may ever happen to come to this spot. Close before me rose a soft hill, full of green cornfields, fenced with quick-hedges, and the top of it was encircled with a wood.
At some little distance, in a large semicircle, one green hill rose after another, all around me, gently raising themselves aloft from the banks of the Thames, and on which woods, meadows, arable lands, and villages were interspersed in the greatest and most beautiful variety; whilst at their foot the Thames meandered, in most picturesque windings, among villages, gentlemen's seats, and green vales.
The banks of the Thames are everywhere beautiful, everywhere charming; how delighted was I with the sight of it when, having lost it for a short time, I suddenly and unexpectedly saw it again with all its beautiful banks. In the vale below, flocks were feeding; and from the hills I heard the sweet chimes of distant bells.
The circumstance that renders these English prospects so enchantingly beautiful, is a concurrence and union of the tout ensemble. Everything coincides and conspires to render them fine, moving pictures. It is impossible to name, or find a spot, on which the eye would not delight to dwell. Any of the least beautiful of any of these views that I have seen in England would, anywhere in Germany, be deemed a paradise.
Reinforced, as it were, by this gratifying prospect, to support fresh fatigues, I now walked a quick pace, both up and down the hills, the five remaining miles to Henley, where I arrived about four in the afternoon.
To the left, just before I got to Henley, on this side of the Thames, I saw on a hill a fine park and a magnificent country seat, at present occupied by General Conway.
Just before my entrance into Henley, I walked a little directly on the banks of the Thames; and sat myself down in the high grass, whilst opposite to me, on the other side, lay the park on the hill. As I was a little tired, I fell asleep, and when I awoke the last rays of the setting sun just shone upon me.
Invigorated by this sweet, though short, slumber, I walked on and entered the town. Its appearance, however, indicated that it was too fine a place for me, and so I determined to stop at an inn on the road-side, such a one as the Vicar of Wakefield well calls, "the resort of indigence and frugality."
The worst of it was, no one, even in these places of refuge, would take me in. Yet, on this road, I met two farmers, the first of whom I asked whether he thought I could get a night's lodging at a house which I saw at a distance, by the road side. "Yes, sir, I daresay you may," he replied. But he was mistaken: when I came there, I was accosted with that same harsh salutation, which though, alas, no longer quite new to me, was still unpleasing to my ears; "We have got no beds; you can't stay here to-night." It was the same at the other inn on the road; I was therefore obliged to determine to walk on as far as Nettlebed, which was five miles farther, where I arrived rather late in the evening, when it was indeed quite dark.
Everything seemed to be all alive in this little village; there was a party of militia soldiers who were dancing, singing, and making merry. Immediately on my entrance into the village, the first house that I saw, lying on my left, was an inn, from which, as usual in England, a large beam extended across the street to the opposite house, from which hung dangling an astonishing large sign, with the name of the proprietor.
"May I stay here to-night?" I asked with eagerness. "Why, yes, you may;" an answer which, however cold and surly, made me exceedingly happy.
They showed me into the kitchen, and set me down to sup at the same table with some soldiers and the servants. I now, for the first time, found myself in one of those kitchens which I had so often read of in Fielding's fine novels; and which certainly give one, on the whole, a very accurate idea of English manners.
The chimney in this kitchen, where they were roasting and boiling, seemed to be taken off from the rest of the room and enclosed by a wooden partition; the rest of the apartment was made use of as a sitting and eating-room. All round on the sides were shelves with pewter dishes and plates, and the ceiling was well stored with provisions of various kinds, such as sugar-loaves, black-puddings, hams, sausages, flitches of bacon, &c.
While I was eating, a post-chaise drove up, and in a moment both the folding-doors were thrown open and the whole house set in motion, in order to receive, with all due respect, these guests, who, no doubt, were supposed to be persons of consequence. The gentlemen alighted, however, only for a moment, and called for nothing but a couple of pots of beer, and then drove away again. Notwithstanding, the people of the house behaved to them with all possible attention, for they came in a post-chaise.
Though this was only an ordinary village, and they certainly did not take me for a person of consequence, they yet gave me a carpeted bedroom, and a very good bed.
The next morning I put on clean linen, which I had along with me, and dressed myself as well as I could. And now, when I thus made my appearance, they did not, as they had the evening before, show me into the kitchen, but into the parlour, a room that seemed to be allotted for strangers, on the ground-floor. I was also now addressed by the most respectful term, "sir;" whereas the evening before I had been called only "master": by this latter appellation, I believe, it is usual to address only farmers and quite common people.
This was Sunday, and all the family were in their Sunday-clothes. I now began to be much pleased with this village, and so I resolved to stop at it for the day, and attend divine service. For this purpose I borrowed a prayer-book of my host. Mr. Illing was his name, which struck me the more, perhaps, because it is a very common name in Germany. During my breakfast I read over several parts of the English liturgy, and could not help being struck at the circumstance that every word in the whole service seems to be prescribed and dictated to the clergyman. They do not visit the sick but by a prescribed form; as, for instance, they must begin by saying, "Peace be to this house," &c.
Its being called a prayer-book, rather than, like ours, a hymn-book, arises from the nature of the English service, which is composed very little of singing, and almost entirely of praying. The psalms of David, however, are here translated into English verse, and are generally printed at the end of English prayer-books.
The prayer-book which my landlord lent me was quite a family piece, for all his children's births and names, and also his own wedding- day, were very carefully set down on it. Even on this account alone the book would not have been uninteresting to me.
At half-past nine the service began. Directly opposite to our house, the boys of the village were all drawn up, as if they had been recruits to be drilled; all well-looking, healthy lads, neat and decently dressed, and with their hair cut short and combed on the forehead, according to the English fashion; their bosoms were open, and the white frills of their shirts turned back on each side. They seemed to be drawn up here at the entrance of the village merely to wait the arrival of the clergyman.
I walked a little way out of the village, where, at some distance, I saw several people coming from another village, to attend divine service here at Nettlebed.
At length came the parson on horseback. The boys pulled off their hats, and all made him very low bows. He appeared to be rather an elderly man, and wore his own hair round and decently dressed, or rather curled naturally.
The bell now rung in, and so I too, with a sort of secret proud sensation, as if I also had been an Englishman, went with my prayer- book under my arm to church, along with the rest of the congregation; and when I got into the church, the clerk very civilly seated me close to the pulpit.
Nothing can possibly be more simple, apt, and becoming than the few decorations of this church.
Directly over the altar, on two tables in large letters, the ten commandments were written. There surely is much wisdom and propriety in thus placing, full in the view of the people, the sum and substance of all morality.
Under the pulpit near the steps that led up to it, was a desk, from which the clergyman read the liturgy, the responses were all regularly made by the clerk; the whole congregation joining occasionally, though but in a low voice; as for instance, the minister said, "Lord, have mercy upon us!" the clerk and the congregation immediately subjoin, "and forgive us all our sins." In general, when the clergyman offers up a prayer, the clerk and the whole congregation answer only, Amen!
The English service must needs be exceedingly fatiguing to the officiating minister, inasmuch as besides a sermon, the greatest part of the liturgy falls to his share to read, besides the psalms and two lessons.
The joining of the whole congregation in prayer has something exceedingly solemn and affecting in it.
Two soldiers, who sat near me in the church, and who had probably been in London, seemed to wish to pass for philosophers, and wits; for they did not join in the prayers of the church.
The service was now pretty well advanced, when I observed some little stir in the desk, the clerk was busy, and they seemed to be preparing for something new and solemn, and I also perceived several musical instruments. The clergyman now stopped, and the clerk then said in a loud voice, "Let us sing to the praise and glory of God, the forty-seventh psalm."
I cannot well express how affecting and edifying it seemed to me, to hear this whole orderly and decent congregation, in this small country church, joining together with vocal and instrumental music, in the praise of their Maker. It was the more grateful, as having been performed, not by mercenary musicians, but by the peaceful and pious inhabitants of this sweet village. I can hardly figure to myself any offering more likely to be grateful to God.
The congregation sang and prayed alternately several times, and the tunes of the psalms were particularly lively and cheerful, though at the same time sufficiently grave, and uncommonly interesting. I am a warm admirer of all sacred music, and I cannot but add that that of the Church of England is particularly calculated to raise the heart to devotion; I own it often affected me even to tears.
The clergyman now stood up and made a short but very proper discourse on this text: "Not all they who say, Lord, Lord! shall enter the kingdom of heaven." His language was particularly plain, though forcible; his arguments were no less plain, convincing, and earnest, but contained nothing that was particularly striking. I do not think the sermon lasted more than half an hour.
This clergyman had not perhaps a very prepossessing appearance; I thought him also a little distant and reserved, and I did not quite like his returning the bows of the farmers with a very formal nod.
I stayed till the service was quite over, and then went out of the church with the congregation, and amused myself with reading the inscriptions on the tombstones in the churchyard, which in general, are simpler, more pathetic, and better written than ours.
There were some of them which, to be sure, were ludicrous and laughable enough.
Among these is one on the tomb of a smith, which on account of its singularity, I here copy and send you.
"My sledge and anvil he declined, My bellows too have lost their wind; My fire's extinct, my forge decayed, My coals are spent, my iron's gone, My nails are drove: my work is done."
Many of these epitaphs closed with the following quaint rhymes:
"Physicians were in vain; God knew the best; So here I rest."
In the body of the church I saw a marble monument of a son of the celebrated Dr. Wallis, with the following simple and affecting inscription:
"The same good sense which qualified him for every public employment Taught him to spend his life here in retirement."
All the farmers whom I saw there were dressed, not as ours are, in coarse frocks, but with some taste, in fine good cloth; and were to be distinguished from the people of the town, not so much by their dress, as by the greater simplicity and modesty of their behaviour.
Some soldiers, who probably were ambitious of being thought to know the world, and to be wits, joined me, as I was looking at the church, and seemed to be quite ashamed of it, as they said it was only a very miserable church. On which I took the liberty to inform them, that no church could be miserable which contained orderly and good people.
I stayed here to dinner. In the afternoon there was no service; the young people however, went to church, and there sang some few psalms; others of the congregation were also present. This was conducted with so much decorum, that I could hardly help considering it as actually a kind of church-service. I stayed with great pleasure till this meeting also was over.
I seemed indeed to be enchanted, and as if I could not leave this village. Three times did I get off, in order to go on farther, and as often returned, more than half resolved to spend a week, or more, in my favourite Nettlebed.
But the recollection that I had but a few weeks to stay in England, and that I must see Derbyshire, at length drove me away. I cast many a longing, lingering look on the little church-steeple, and those hospitable friendly roofs, where, all that morning, I had found myself so perfectly at home.
It was now nearly three o'clock in the afternoon when I left this place, and I was still eighteen miles from Oxford. However, I seemed resolved to make more than one stage of it to Oxford, that seat of the muses, and so, by passing the night about five miles from it, to reach it in good time next morning.
The road from Nettlebed seemed to me but as one long fine gravel walk in a neat garden. And my pace in it was varied, like that of one walking in a garden: I sometimes walked quick, then slow, and then sat down and read Milton.
When I had got about eight miles from Nettlebed, and was now not far from Dorchester, I had the Thames at some distance on my left, and on the opposite side I saw an extensive hill, behind which a tall mast seemed to rise. This led me to suppose that on the other side of the hill there must needs also be a river. The prospect I promised myself from this hill could not possibly be passed, and so I went out of the road to the left over a bridge across the Thames, and mounted the hill, always keeping the mast in view. When I had attained the summit, I found (and not without some shame and chagrin) that it was all an illusion. There was, in fact, nothing before me but a great plain, and the mast had been fixed there, either as a maypole only, or to entice curious people out of their way.
I therefore now again, slowly and sullenly, descended the hill, at the bottom of which was a house, where several people were looking out of the window, and, as I supposed, laughing at me. Even if it were so, it seemed to be but fair, and so it rather amused, than vexed me, and I continued to jog on, without much regretting my waste journey to the mast.
Not far from Dorchester, I had another delightful view. The country here became so fine, that I positively could not prevail on myself to quit it, and so I laid myself down on the green turf, which was so fresh and sweet, that I could almost have been contented, like Nebuchadnezzar, to have grazed on it. The moon was at the full; the sun darted its last parting rays through the green hedges, to all which was added, the overpowering fragrance of the meadows, the diversified song of the birds, the hills that skirted the Thames, some of them of a light, and others of a dark-green hue, with the tufted tops of trees dispersed here and there among them. The contemplation of all these delightful circumstances well-nigh overcame me.
I arrived rather late at Dorchester. This is only a small place, but there is in it a large and noble old church. As I was walking along, I saw several ladies with their heads dressed, leaning out of their windows, or standing before the houses, and this made me conclude that this was too fine a place for me, and so I determined to walk on three-quarters of a mile farther to Nuneham, which place is only five miles from Oxford. When I reached Nuneham, I was not a little tired, and it was also quite dark.