Old England: Its Scenery, Art, and People
By Hurd and Houghton., Professor in Yale College. New York :
“ THE ‘ Pavilion,’ with its puerile domes and minarets, recalls the false and flimsy epoch of that semi-Oriental monarch, George IV. His statue by Chantrey stands upon a promenade called the ‘ Old Steine.’ The house of Mrs. Thrale, where Doctor Johnson visited, is still standing. The atmosphere of Brighton is considered to be favorable for invalids in the winter-time, as well as the summer.”
In this haphazard way many of the various objects of interest in Old England are introduced to his reader by a New England writer, who possibly mistakes the disorder of a note-book for literary ease, or who possibly has little of the method of picturesqueness in him. In either case his reader returns from Old England with the impression that his travelling-companion is a sensible, honest observer, who, in forming a book out of very good material, has often budded, not better, but worse, than he knew. There is no want of graphic touches ; there is enough of fine and poetic feeling ; but there is no perspective, no atmosphere : much of Old England through this book affects one somewhat as a faithful Chinese drawing of the moon might.
At other times Mr. Hoppin’s treatment of his subject is sufficiently artistic, and he has seen some places and persons not worn quite threadbare by travel. He did not pay the national visit to Mr. Tennyson, although he had a letter of introduction ; and of those people whose hospitality he did enjoy, he writes with great discretion and good taste. His sketch of the High Church clergyman at Land’s End is a case in point, and it has an interest to Americans for the light it throws upon the present conflict of religious thought in England.
Mr. Hoppin writes best of the less frequented parts of England, — of Land’s End, and of Cornwall and Penzance ; but he writes no more particularly of them than of the suburbs of London. The chapter on London art and the London pulpit is a curious mélange of shrewd, original thoughts about pictures and of acceptations of critical authority, of sectarian belief and of worldly toleration, together with a certain immaturity of literary judgment and a characteristic tendency to incoherence. “ Turner,” he says, “ did a great work, if it were only to have been the occasion of Ruskin’s marvellous eloquence” ; and of Dr. Cumming he writes, as if transcribing literally from his note-book: “ His voice is rich and mellow without being powerful. He is a tall man, with high, white forehead and white hair. It was difficult to find a seat, even upon the pulpit stairs. Dr. Cumming, as a graceful, yet not effeminate preacher, has good claims to his celebrity.”
It remains for us to praise the author’s conscientious effort at all times to convey information, and his success in this effort. He has doubtless seen everything that is worth seeing in the country he has passed over ; and if we cannot accept the whole of his book as literature, we have still the impression that we should find it one of the best and thoroughest of hand-books for travel in Old England.