Letters and Notes From England
I HAVE still somewhat more to tell my readers about England as it appears in the light of every day, and most of this will naturally arrange itself under distinct headings ; but in the present number of The Atlantic, and perhaps in one other, I shall record memories of a miscellaneous character, some of which I shall present just as I find them in the letters that I wrote home while I was in England. These will at least have the value and possibly the interest which generally attaches to descriptions and relations written upon the spot.
I walked from Twickenham to Hampton Court. J. H. went with me. We had walked a few miles, and were skirting a brick wall, which did not attract my attention by being unlike other brick walls that I had seen, when H. said suddenly, “Here we are!” and we turned into a gateway. What a sight! — a sight of trees such as I had never even imagined. I found myself in an avenue about two hundred yards broad, which stretched on before me for what proved to be a mile and an eighth. On either side were gigantic horse-chestnut trees, standing five deep at regular distances, which had given them ample room to spread. They looked as if they were a hundred feet high. Even as they stretched on before me into the distance I saw that every tree was higher than the roof of any dwelling-house in New York. And such majesty of foliage ! There is nothing finer, nothing even so fine, I am told, even in this country of arboral avenues. The great avenue at Windsor Park is longer, but when an avenue is a mile and a furlong in length, what matter as to its effect at any one point how much longer it is or might be ! This is the famous avenue of horse-chestnuts at Bushy Park. It is much praised for its beauty when the trees are in blossom ; but I was glad that I found it clothed only in green. There is in rural nature hardly anything equal to, surely no other thing quite like, a lane between two orchards of apple-trees in bloom. In tint, and in perfume, the concentrated expression of all the beauty, material and spiritual, that accompanies our idea of spring finds there its perfect and absolute embodiment. And there is about the apple-tree a homeliness and a home-keeping character which make it fit to don this daintily beautiful and somewhat womanish garb of welcome to the returning year. It is not too grand or too dignified to wear a chaplet of blossoms. But I have always felt that the horse-chestnut was far too lofty and elegant a creature to be beautified by floral decoration. It seems to me like sending bouquets to a big, bearded man. I should as soon think of crowning a statue of Washington or of Wellington with a chaplet of roses. Horse-chestnut trees must have blossoms, or there would be no chestnuts, and the trees would come to an end,—just as a man who marries must figure in the absurd position of bridegroom; but I would rather see Benedick a month or two after the wedding, and the horse-chestnut tree after it has cast its blossoms.
When this avenue has run its mile and its furlong it opens out suddenly into a circle more than a quarter of a mile in diameter, from which stretch avenues which are like transepts to a nave. In the midst of this circle is a vast basin with a fountain. Then come the lawns and the gardens around Hampton Court palace; the former of such closeness and fineness of turf that it seems as if it is the velvet carpet that should be likened to them; and all about such old, old yew-trees ! The garden is made by formal beds cut out of the turf and filled with flowers and plants with richly colored leaves, which are arranged in patterns. The extent of all this is greater than you would imagine. There is a broad canal that stretches up from the Thames to a terrace in front of the palace. It was used in former days for barges that brought visitors from London. Its functions, but not its beauty, are now assumed by the railway. Old “ Ego et Rex Meus ” may have been a man of unbounded stomach, but beyond dispute he had fine taste in palaces; for you will remember that this noble seat was of Wolsey’s planning and building. The first sight of the palace itself is very disappointing; for the principal front which it presents shows at a glance the hand of the architect of the cathedral of St. Paul’s ; but the part built by Wolsey is very fine, — old Tudor brickwork in excellent preservation. The roof of the great hall — open-work in wood — is beautiful both in outline and detail; but the stained windows seemed to me of dubious date, and to be lacking in richness of tone and simplicity of design-
The whole of the royal apartments have been turned into picture-galleries, which contain a mixture of the good work of great men with not a little rubbish. The Sir Peter Lelys, — portraits of the beauties of Charles II.’s court, — about which there is so much talk, are poor, flimsy, meretricious things. Even the flesh tints, which are the best part of them, are weak and washy ; and the drawing is very bad. The eyes are, I think, the worst that I ever saw in paintings of any pretension. The shape of the eye, which is exactly the same in all the beauties, is like that of an Assyrian statue; and the under lids would be costly if the lot were sold at a dollar a pound. All this is much modified and improved in the engravings by which these portraits are generally known. Notwithstanding the presence of the work of some greater men, I was chiefly impressed — no, not chiefly, but very greatly — by some heads by Bassano, which for strength and vitality surpassed any that I had ever seen, except some by Velasquez, and some of Titian ; and Holbein’s which I knew only through copies or engravings. Perhaps I was the more impressed by them because the painter was new to me. A great surprise was the portrait of Madame de Pompadour, by Greuse, — an exquisite painting, with all the signs of being a good likeness. It is full of life and character. But to my surprise I found her fair, with bright blue eyes and a retreating chin, — a very manifest double chin too, although she is in the bloom of early womanhood. Her complexion is divinely fair, and her figure shows the perfection of womanly beauty. But I had always thought of the haughty, brilliant, scheming favorite of Louis XV. as a tall, dark-eyed, dark-haired woman, with a round, firm chin and a face of great spirit: it was hard to accept in place of my ideal this soft, blue-eyed, simple, almost rustic - seeming beauty. It was only one more added to a thousand lessons from which I should have learned before the truth that Shakespeare makes the disappointed Duncan utter: —
To find the mind’s construction in the face.”
After we had spent a long morning in the palace and its grounds, we went to the Greyhound Inn, just outside the gates, for a little luncheon : some cold beef, of which a huge joint was set before us, the whole of which we might have eaten, if we had chosen, at the same price that we paid for our not very moderate inroads, and some beer, of which we each easily disposed of an imperial pint. We were punctiliously served by a waiter who did not look like a live waiter at all, but just as if John Leech had drawn him.
The walks in the country around Twickenham are idyls. On Sunday evening, as the west was reddening, H. and I went out, and walked three or four miles leisurely, returning just after sunset. It was like living Gray’s Elegy. From the old church towers in the distance came the chimes of bells, soft, sweet, and irregular, making a gentle clamor. Everything is soft here; mellow and tender upon the surface, although it may be rich and strong within. We talked when we first set out; but gradually we gave ourselves up in silence to the enjoyment of a sense of harmony that stole alike through eye and ear, and which, like the enjoyment of all beauty of the higher kind, produced an almost sad, submissive feeling.
A few days afterward I took with the same companion a walk of some twenty one or two miles which led us through some of the Thames villages, Kew Gardens and the museums, Richmond and Richmond Park. We started at half past ten in the morning, were on our feet all the time except when we stopped at a little alehouse in Isleworth for a bite and a sup of beer, and we came in at such a pace that it was remarked, as we passed through Twickenham, and I was good for five miles more at the same pace ; which, as Pepys said of his dancing, I did wonder to see myself do, particularly when I found that I was as fresh as ever the next morning. Now in the atmosphere of New York or New England neither my companion nor myself could have done that with such comfort and ease, — indeed, such pleasure ; for we were both out of all training, not having walked five miles on any day within three years.
What we saw was greatly gratifying, chiefly owing to the Thames, which we skirted frequently and crossed three times.1 Of the beauty of this river from this distance above London to its upper water we have no type in any one of the United States with which I am acquainted. At Richmond it is hardly as wide as the Mohawk where travelers usually see it; but the land lies around it in such a way as to give it a certain graceful dignity. The banks do not so much slope as gently curve down to it, and everywhere they are covered with the soft, richly green turf which seems to be the natural clothing of this island. This is darkened here and there all along the banks by beautiful trees, singly, in clumps, and in rows, that are to my eye a never-ceasing surprise and delight. Nevertheless, the notion generally prevalent about trees in England is erroneous. I have seen larger oaks and elms in New England and in New Jersey than
I saw in England. Except some shells of trunks, I saw no oak so great in girth as that noble tree lately cut down at Tory Corners, near Orange, in New Jersey, the first branches of which were like large trees, and which, although they were rather less horizontal than is common with the oak, had a spread of more than one hundred feet. Nor did I see anywhere in England elms with the massive trunks and domes of green that are to be found in not a few New England villages. It is the multitude of very large trees and the strong, rich, juicy green of their foliage that is so impressive. Oaks and elms with trunks four or five feet in diameter are common. They stand alone, or in ranks by the roadside; they nod to you over high brick walls; they gather together in great groups upon the meadows, where they do not push and crowd each other, but remain somewhat aloof with a becoming mutual respect. I soon gave over measuring their trunks ; early in my walks a circumference of from sixteen to eighteen feet became too common to attract my special attention.
The view from Richmond Hill is of such a grand loveliness, like the beauty of some of Titian’s women, that you wonder how nature could accidentally dispose forms and colors so as to give such delight to the eye and the mind of man ; and the moist air, because of the light which it holds in solution, marks the distances by a distinct but very delicate gradation. But of this view I have spoken before. From it I went directly to Richmond Park. Everything of note that I have seen here, excepting Stratford-upon-Avon, I have found more beautiful than I expected to find it, but in many cases it has been smaller. Richmond Park, however, is not only more beautiful, but much larger, than I expected, — on a much grander scale. Compared with it, or indeed with any great park that I have seen, our socalled “ Central Park ” at New York, admirable as it is in many respects, is slight and fanciful. Olmsted is the ablest man in his profession that I know; but even he cannot contend successfully with time and space and nature. I shall never forget the companies of great solemn oaks that I saw brooding over the earth in this park. I shall never forget seeing a gentleman and a lady come cantering out of a stretch of wood, that seemed more than half a mile off. right down upon us, until at about half their distance they turned at right angles, and we could hear them talking — his manly tones and her sweet, clear Englishwoman’s voice — back and forth, but no sound of their horses’ hoofs upon the turf; and they were so far away that they looked like toys. On that stretch of sward there might have been a tournament of giants.
Some requests which I have received, both in person and by letter, with regard to certain phases of life in England, cannot be better complied with than by the following extract from a letter, — a literal transcript except in the suppression of names : —
Now I will tell you a little — it can be but a little — about life in the “great houses,” as they are called here. When you are asked to come to one, a train is suggested, and you are told that a carriage will be at the station to meet you Somehow the footman manages to find you out. At——, which is a little station at which few people get out, I had hardly left the train when a very respectablelooking person, not a footman, stepped up to me and said, “ Lord ——’s carriage is waiting for you, sir.” The carriage and the footman and coachman were of course on the other side of the building. My drive from the station to —— took quite as long a time as it took me to come down by rail from London, although we went at a grand trot. The country was beautiful, stretching off on both sides in broad fields and meadows, darkened in lines by hedges, and in spots by clumps of trees. The roads were very narrow, — they seemed rather like lanes, —and this effect was increased by the high walls and hedges on either side. Two carriages had hardly room to pass in some places, with careful driving. Being in Lord——’s well-known carriage, I was quite in state, and the country folk, most of them, bowed to me as I went on ; and of course I followed the apostolic injunction, and condescended unto men of low estate. And, by the way, yesterday afternoon (for a day has passed since I began this letter, and I am now at——) Lady —— drove me through their park and off to ——. the dowager Lady——’s jointure house, and I had the honor of acknowledging for her all the numerous bobs and ducks she received from the tenants and their children. So you see I shall be in good training when I come into my estate. When and where I entered the park, either here or at ——, I could not exactly make out. There were gates and gates, and the private ground seemed to shade off gradually into the public. I know that the park extended far beyond the lodge. —— is very ugly. It was built by Inigo Jones, and, never handsome, was altogether spoiled by tasteless alterations in the last century. The ugliness of English country houses built at that time is quite inexpressible.
I ought to have said that the ——s are in deep mourning, Lord —— having lost his father and his sister and another near relative within nine months ; and it was very kind of them to invite me. I was met at the door by a dignified personage in black, who asked me if I would go up to Lady-’s room. She welcomed me warmly, said that Lord — had been called away for a few hours, and offered me tea from a tiny table at her side. And, by the way, you are usually asked to come at a time which brings you to five-o’clock tea, and submits you to feminine examination, before you are turned loose, — as you soon are. This also gives you an opportunity to rub off the rough edge of strangeness before you dress for dinner. Lady ——’s own room was large and hung with tapestry, and yet it was cosy and home-like. The hall is large and square, and the walls are covered with old arms. The staircase is good, but not so grand as others that I have seen ; that at ——, for instance, where there was an oriel window on the first landing. This one has no landing ; it is of polished oak, but is carpeted. Lady —— is a very attractive and elegant woman, sensible, sensitive, and with a soft, gentle way of speech and action, which is all the more charming as she is tall. Her tea was good. She talked well, and we got on together very satisfactorily. Presently a nurse brought in her two little daughters. I thought she must have approved of her savage Yankee guest; for she encouraged them to come to me and sit upon my knees ; and all mothers are shy about that. Soon in popped Lord ——, and gave me the heartiest welcome that I have received since I have been in England. He has altered somewhat since he was in New York ; is grown a little stouter, and a very little graver ; but is just the same frank, simple fellow as when you saw him. About seven o’clock I was asked if I would like to go up to my room. He went with me, — an attention which I found general; and “ directly he had left me,” according to the phrase here, a very finemannered person, in a dress coat and a white tie, appeared, and asked me for my keys. I apprehended the situation at once, and submitted to his ministrations. He did everything for me except actually to wash my face and hands and put on my clothes. He laid everything that I could need out in a wow,” like Lord Dundreary’s night-shirts, opened and laid out my dressing-case, and actually turned my stockings. Dinner at eight. I take in Lady ——. Butler, a very solemn personage; but not stout or red-faced. I have seen no stout, red-faced butler since I have been in England. Dining-room large and handsome. Some good portraits. Gas in globes at the walls; candles on the table. Dinner very good, of course. Menu written in pencil on a porcelain card, with the formula in gilt and a coronet. Indeed, the earl’s coronet and cipher was on the very cans that came up to my bedroom with hot water. I was inclined to scoff at this, at first, as ostentatious ; but after all, as the things were to be marked, how could it be done better? After dinner, a very pleasant chat in the drawingroom until about eleven o’ clock, when Lord —— sent Lady —— to bed. She shakes hands on bidding me good-night, and asks if half past nine o’clock is too early for breakfast for me. I was tempted to say that it was, and to ask if it could n’t be postponed till ten ; but I did n’t. The drawing-room, by the way, although it was handsome and cheerful, was far inferior in its show to a thousand that might be found in New York, many of which, too, are quite equal to it in comfort and in tasteful adornment. Lord —— and I sit up awhile and chat about old times and the shooting on Long Island, and when I go to my room I find that, although I am to stay but two days, my trunk has been unpacked and all my clothes put into the wardrobe and the drawers, and most carefully arranged, as if I were going to stay a month. My morning dress has been taken away.2
In the morning the same servant comes, opens my window, draws my bed curtain, prepares my bath, again lays out everything that I need “ in a wow,” turns my stockings, and in fact does everything but actually bathe and dress me, and all with a very pleasant and cheerful attentiveness. At a quarter past nine the gong rings for prayers. These are generally read by the master of the household in the dining-room, with the breakfast-table laid ; but here in a morning - room. After breakfast you are left very much to yourself. Business and household affairs are looked after by your host and hostess ; and you go where you please and do what you like. On Sunday I of course went to church with the family ; a charming old church ; tower of the time of Edward III. ; some fine old monuments. It was Harvest Thanksgiving day, a festival recently introduced in England, in imitation of that which has come down to us from our Puritan forefathers. There was a special service; and the church was very prettily dressed with oats, flowers, grass, and grapes, the last being substituted for hops, as it was too late for them. The offerings were for the Bulgarians ; for everything now in England is tinged with the hue of “ Turkish horrors.” After church Lord —— took me to the chantry where the tombs of the family are. It was to show me a famous statue, that of a Lady —— and her baby, at the birth of which she died, it dying soon, too. The statue is very beautiful, and is the most purely and sweetly pathetic work in sculpture that I ever saw. It had a special interest for me because I remembered reading about it in my boyhood ; but I had forgotten the name of the subject, and I had no thought of finding it here in a little country church. To go to church we merely walked through the park a distance of about the width of Washington Square, passed through a little door in the park wall, and there was the church just opposite.
And so it was at —— Place, or rather “ The Place,” as it is called simply, in the phrase of the country. I found there another ugly house, but the most beautiful park I had yet seen. The sweep of greensward before my bedroom window, the grand march of stalwart, higli-crested trees, and the statelyterraced garden gave me great delight. In the middle of the house is a great square hall with a polished oak floor, and columns supporting a corridor which runs all around the hall on the next floor, and upon which some dozen or fifteen doors of bedroom suits open, all alike, — a perilous similitude. Floor of the corridor oak also, very rich in color; and this and the staircase and the hall below so polished that you could slide on them like a boy on ice. There are three drawing-rooms, one of which, that which is used as a sitting-room or parlor, has at one end an organ ten feet wide and six deep, showing nineteen pipes in front, of which six are large ; and yet it does not look too large for the room, in which besides are a library table of the largest size, a grand pianoforte, a round table that might have served King Arthur and his knights, a divan that would seat a harem, and a dozen great chairs with welcoming arms, and “ nary one alike,” — but, by the way, no rocking-chair; at the absence of which pest you know I must rejoice. The organ was once the Duke of ——’s Lord —’s uncle, who got tired of it and gave it to him. it must be pleasant to have uncles who get tired of organs. The great Oxford musician —— was down here, and played on it admirably ; and on the piano-forte, too, very well. But English organ-playing seems always better to me than English pianoforte or violin playing. The latter is at best a little cold, tame, and precise. I have not, however, heard Arabella Goddard. The blue drawing-room, or West Room, has some fine pictures, among which are the best Canalettis — views in Florence — that I ever saw. In the dining-room is the finest Sir Joshua I have yet found anywhere, in public or in private. It is the portrait of a former Lady ——, and is the perfection of the expression of grace and elegance ; sweet and silvery in color, and yet not pale. A very interesting and peculiar picture is on the staircase. It is a copy by Gainsborough of a halflength portrait by Vandyke of the Duke of ——, an ancestor of Lord ——. The subject, the origiual master, and the copyist make it a very singular and valuable painting. Lord —— is very much interested in science, and has a laboratory and workshop in one wing of the house, where he and I spent some interesting hours ; but this did not keep us from playing lawn tennis with the ladies. This is the way life passes from day to day in these “ great houses; ” in which, by the way, except at dinner, and when you dress in the morning and in the evening for dinner, you rarely see a servant, unless you ring for one. There is a movement, which I am glad to see, to introduce the custom of having none but women servants inside the house. Lord-mentioned it to me, and at— I found it in practice. It seemed to work admirably. And certainly it was pleasant to see a comely sort of female butler and four tidy, comely maid-servants, in white gowns and blue ribbons, drawn up in row at the head of the table when we entered the diningroom ; and it was far more agreeable to have them serve us than to have three or four great hulking he-creatures, in black coats and white chokers, attend to the little wants of the table, when they should have been doing man’s work of some kind. At all these “ great houses ” my host has, at a hint from me, kindly taken me through all the offices, even to the laundry, etc., and has told me all about the management of such a household, which I wished to know by actual observation. I have managed to get the same information in the same way in regard to middle-class houses as well ; and have thus seen the domestic economy of England, from that of the peasantry to that of the peer. I have seen nothing of such great establishments as the Duke of Omnium’s at Gatherum Castle; but what I have seen is enough. In households such as those of which I have been speaking, there are between twenty-five and thirty servants inside the house ; that is, exclusive of those in the stables, the gardens, and the grounds.
And yet it was funny to hear both —— and ——, when I asked the functions of these servants, begin the list with, “ There’s the odd man.” The place of each servant is very strictly defined, and they are all very punctilious about doing nothing that does not belong to their several places. This has caused the introduction, lately, of a functionary who is called the odd man, whose place is like John Wesley’s parish, and who is about the most important person in the household. Tell —— that Du Maurier is right, and that ladies here do wear mob-caps at dinner.
Our British cousins twit us “ Americans ” (for they “ lump ” us all, Yankees, emigrants, and children of emigrants, together) with a liking for highsounding names. On my walk from Twickenham to Hampton Court I passed “ Devonshire House,” Bolton House,” “ Claremont Villa,” and some other private residences with like names, which were written on their gate-posts. It might he reasonably supposed that these houses were at least pretty villa residences; but no, they were scrubby little roadside cottages, with a neglected patch of earth or grass before them by way of court-yard, — cottages that did not rise even to the height of the shabby genteel. And, for my particular benefit, I suppose, the worst of them, a wretched row, the eaves of which were not ten feet from the ground, was styled “ American Buildings.” Every English house which is not in a town has a name; and all over the country these names are either ambitious or sentimental to a degree that is somewhat absurd.
Mammon is worshiped in England quite as much as in the United States; but there are other gods there of nobler mien which we have not. One difference in this respect is worthy of remark. There is in society no talk, or very rarely any talk, about money or about business, using the word in its trading sense. I was at the houses of men of business of various sorts, “ city men ” and others, where, among half a dozen or a dozen male guests, I was the only one not connected in some way with business; I was for some days at the country house of a London banker, where guests were coming and going, and we sat from eighteen to twenty-five at table; and not once, in the dining-room or in the drawing-room, did I hear between any of these men talk of pounds, shillings, and pence in the way of business, or as a topic of conversation, or any mention of stocks, or consols, or principal, or interest, or anything of the sort. I could not but think, at one of these informal entertainments, of the last dinner-party that I had attended in New York, where the company was supposed to be of the higher sort; and indeed we had at least a dozen very “ prominent gentlemen ” there, including two ex-cabinet ministers. And yet the fish was not removed before all around me the table buzzed with the sound of “ dollars,” “ bonds,” “ five-twenties,” “ legal tender,” “ principal and interest.” Before they reached the pecus they began to talk about pecunia. This subject with a slight admixture of party politics of the narrowest and most personal kind furnished the only topics of conversation. In England everybody that I met seemed to have something else to talk about; the very “ city men ” seemed to be able to leave the city behind them when they came home to their families and friends, and to be only too glad to do so. There seems to he, even for the trader, the manufacturer, and the artisan, a richer and more varied life in England than the same classes have in America. They love money there, perhaps even more than we do here ; but they do not seem, the great mass of them, to love moneymaking so much for its own sake. At any rate, they have interests beyond it, — I will not offend Wall Street and Mr. John Sherman by saying above it ; and when you see two men chatting together in England over a chop, or an oyster, or a glass of ale, even if they are elderly men of business, you may in most cases be pretty sure that their talk is not of pounds, shillings, and pence, or any subject thereto pertaining. If social, moral, and literary topics fail them, or are beyond their ken, they have at least Ireland. and India, and Turkey, and Africa, and disestablishment, and burials, and ritualism, and game laws; and failing these, the Court Circular.
The careless confidence of people generally, in England, soon attracted my attention. There seemed to be no fear of thieves and robbers. I have already mentioned how common it is at hotels to leave the doors of bedrooms open, and how the housekeepers smiled incredulously when I suggested the danger of the custom. I saw many front doors in London and in smaller towns left open or ajar. A friend to whom I mentioned this said that I was quite right, and pointed out to me that the windows of the large and handsome houses in the suburban place through which we were walking were absolutely without shutter or blind. It was true. The windows of these houses, all the residences of wealthy merchants, were without such protection of any kind, inside or outside ; and when I, with my friend, who lived in one of them, reached his house, we found his own front door ajar. And this in the country which produces the London cracksman, who is the terror of the police the world over.
At Rockfort, near Birkenhead, in Lancashire, I observed what seemed to me a remarkable manifestation of that determination to active resistance of wrong which is a distinguishing trait of English life. It seems that somehow, no one knew how, a report had got about that there was small-pox in Rockfort. Wherefore the authorities of the place had set up posters all about the neighborhood, in which they formally and officially denied the truth of the report aforesaid; and not only so, but threatened the parties originating and circulating this slander with prosecution at the law. Such a poster here would not be thought of ; if set up it would only excite laughter ; but perhaps there is a question whether the determination and the ability to resist injurious misrepresentation have a moral and social aspect which is quite ridiculous.
As I was on the rail from Birmingham to Liverpool, I found myself in a carriage with a woman, the charm of whose presence I shall never forget. She was very handsome ; a fair-skinned, dark-eyed, dark-haired beauty. She was approaching the maturity of woman’s years, and her tall figure had ripened into a large and noble loveliness. A boy about ten years old called her “ mamma ; ” and yet her sweet lips and her sweet face were fresh, — as fresh and sweet as her voice. She was one of those women who bestow a blessing upon the world every time they come forth into it. So far she might in all respects have been a Yankee. But horrors, the dress of her ! It might be called heterogeneous ; but that would imply that it was somewhat geneous. Her gown was of a great plaid of purple and gray; around her neck she had a silk kerchief of bronze and brown ; over her plaid gown was a short embroidered velvet sacque; and all this she had surmounted with a blue velvet bonnet with a white feather!
One very remarkable and characteristic trait of England is the established differences in custom, in fashion, and even, it would seem, in natural objects, that distinguish places which are only a few miles apart. For example, observing, as I walked in Sussex, a peculiarity in the forms of the tops of some chimneys, the lines being more complex than usual, I remarked upon it to a Sussex gentleman who was with me, and he told me that all chimneys in Sussex were finished at the top in that way. I found that this was true. I saw no chimneys built otherwise in that county, and I saw none of this form in any other county. And yet more, I found that all the pigs in Sussex were black. Elsewhere I found them white. The huge swine that I saw the little boy drive triumphantly through the ancient gate of Warwick was as white as a conscientious pig could consistently be ; but, great or small, the pigs in Sussex were as black as crows. That such peculiarities should be limited by the narrow boundaries of counties is very noteworthy evidence of stability, of individuality, and of self-assertion. It is difficult for us, whose local traditions go back little farther than two hundred years, and which have been disturbed and almost erased by the mobility of the whole civilized world within that period, to imagine how such peculiarities originated among people of the same blood living within a few miles of each other. They are, doubtless, of very remote origin ; and their preservation is the consequence of the immobility of rural life in England. Clarendon records that Charles II. was very near being discovered on his flight from the defeat of Worcester, because it was remarked by a smith at an inn where be stopped that “ his horse’s four shoes had been made in four several counties.” Think of a way of putting shoes on a horse peculiar to the farriers of one county, and noticeably unlike that of the farriers in counties on either side ! The variety was limited only by the capacity of the beast. If Charles had traveled upon a centipede the English counties could have furnished him with peculiar shoes for every foot. We may laugh at this ; but is it not better that a man should be himself, that a community should be itself, than that either should be a mere imitation, a duplicate, or, it may be, a centuplicate, of some other man or some other community ? Better county fashions in horse-shoes than shoes turned out in packages by machinery, in usum totius mundi, to say nothing of the possible service of the county fashion in preventing the escape of royal fugitives from justice.
In the climate of England I remarked the greater effect of the heat of the sun and the less of his light. I used to write most of my letters in bed before breakfast. In Essex, at the end of October, the sun would shine into my window so warm that, although the room was large, I more than once had to get up and pull down the shade. The rays which fell upon the bed did not hurt my eyes with glare, but I could not bear the heat; and yet it would afterwards rain almost all day. We never have the sun with us so hot in the middle of October that we cannot bear it through a window ten feet off. At first I thought that the climate was cooler than ours at the same season ; but that was because there was a “ cold snap ; ” only there was no snap at all in it, but a dismal, cheerless, uncheerable dankness. It is this ever-present moisture that makes a little heat oppressive. Its effect seems to be all pervading. Excepting champagne, nothing in England is ever quite dry, not even humor.
Richard Grant White.
- One of these three crossings of the Thames was at Twickenham ferry; the ferry consisting merely of a little skiff and an oarsman. The embarkation, the passage, and the disembarkation occupied about one minute, and the fare was one penny; and yet it was so charming and picturesque an incident of that day’s enjoyment that I shall never forget it. Only a day or two ago I happened to see at Sckirmer’s, for the first time, this song: —↩
- TWICKENHAM FERRY.↩
- “ O hoi ye ho ! ho ye ho! who’s for the ferry?
(The briar’s in bud, and the sun’s going down.)
And I ’ll row ye so quick, and I ’ll row ye so steady,
And ’t is but a penny to Twickenham town.”
The ferry-man’s slim, and the ferry-man’s young,
And he’s just a soft twang at the end of his tongue,
And he’s fresh as a pippin and brown as a berry,
And’t is but a penny to Twickenham town.
“ O hoi ve ho! ho ye ho! I ’m for the ferry.
(The briar’s in bud, and the sun’s going down.)
And it’s late as it is, and I have n’t a penny;
And how shall I get me to Twickenham town ? ”
She ’s a rose in her bonnet, and oh she looks sweet
As the little pink flower that grows in the wheat,
With her cheeks like a rose and her lips like a cherry.
“ And sure and you 're welcome to Twickenham town.”↩
- “ O hoi ye ho ! ho! ” you 're too late for the ferry.
(The briar’s in bud, and the sun ’s going down.)
And he ’s not rowing quick, and he ’s not rowing steady:
You ’d think ’ twas a journey to Twickenham town.
O hoi! and O ho ! ye may call as ye will;
The moon is a-rising on Petersham hill;
And with love like a rose in the stern of the wherry
There’s danger in rowing to Twickenham town.↩
- Now the existence of this ferry and of this song is highly characteristic of the difference between the two countries. For centuries, ever since there was a Twickenham, and probably longer, the Thames has been crossed at that spot in just the same way - and far be the day when it shall be crossed there in any other. Hence, and because of the beauty of the river there, this song is possible. I do not know in this country a ferry about which such a song could be written; not one which even the writer of Barclay of Ury and Barbara Frietchie could hope to make successfully the subject of a ballad song; nor can there ever be one.↩
- To be carefully brushed, examined, and, if it is found necessary, put in order otherwise. You are not consulted upon such trifling matters.↩