« PreviousContinue »
general acquaintance with human nature, or his particular experience of the corruption of courts, does not appear ; but it was no doubt wise and necessary, for, unless matters are greatly misrepresented, many things are walked into in Washington, as in all other courts, from which people of delicate conscience would be likely to walk away.
When the traveller arrived in Boston, the hotel was so full that he was obliged to put up with one of three beds in the same apartment; but after receiving this taste of aboriginal habits, he was taken down into more comfortable quarters. In regard to the inn, he says, that there was a large drawingroom with a piano, and a gay circle was always to be found in it ; but that the smoking-room offered greater attractions to the gentlemen, and in it there was an enormous expenditure of saliva and cigars. No wonder that foreigner's nerves are tried by these filthy exhibitions ; we have never been able to understand why smoking should be allowed within the dwelling, where so many are disgusted and sickened by it, while it is prohibited in the streets, where the atmosphere can be cleansed by the winds of heaven. With the situation and aspect of Boston our author was much pleased ; not so with its architecture, though he has not much to say about it. He visited the different points of interest, and, among others, the monument at Bunker Hill, where, instead of any disparaging remarks, such as are generally heard from English visiters, he simply says, -" It was a gallant fight, and the Americans may well be proud of it.” When he visits King's Chapel, and asks the reason why the doctrinal portions of the liturgy are omitted, and their place supplied by Scriptural ascriptions, he is regaled by an explanation of the matter sufficiently original on the part of his informant, who must have relied on the traveller's leaving the city without having time to ask if it was true. He appears to have been very much gratified with the opportunities of social intercourse which he enjoyed in Boston. At a club where he met several gentlemen of high standing, the Oregon question was discussed ; and while they were all in favor of a peaceful arrangement of the difficulty, they seemed unanimous in the opinion, that this country could never grant to England the free navigation of the Columbia river. It illustrates the manner in which trifling matters are made important by party interest or popular feeling, that the free navigation is now conceded, and so completely has the whole matter passed by, one is obliged to make an effort to remember what it was which brought forth in Congress so much feeling, and so much eloquence of that kind which blesses neither him who gives nor him who takes, since it is painfully exciting to the one, and wearisome almost unto death to the other.
Our author of course visited the usual resorts in the neighbourhood of Boston, but has only a few words to say for each. The cemetery at Mount Auburn made the same impression on him as on every other person of taste and feeling ; but unless he took occasion to visit it at the same season when he attended the Pilgrim Festival, an account of which comes soon after, it is marvellous that he should speak of the silence as unbroken by the voice of birds, which always abound there, partly in consequence of the protection afforded them, and partly attracted by the rich varieties of the woods. The festival just mentioned gave him considerable satisfaction. He was particularly pleased with an address at the table from Mr. Everett, " whose manner and delivery," he says,
were perfectly gentlemanlike and singularly pleasing, his style classic and finished, without a taint of pedantry, animated eloquent, and totally free from effort, while good taste and kindly feeling were in every sentence he uttered.” After the dinner, the arrangements of which were quite satisfactory, he attended the ball in the evening, where he was pleasantly impressed by the beauty of the ladies, and the simple good taste of their dress, of some varieties of which he gives an odd, and to us not very enlightening description ; but was not equally pleased with sundry bipeds who abounded “with every sort of hirsute abomination on their faces, besides ringlets, and flat greasy locks on the back of the head, waistcoats of dazzling magnificence, coats with collars scarcely visible and skirts of enormous size, pantaloons with enormous plaits round the waist and ample width down to the foot, where they suddenly contracted into a sort of gaiter, leaving visible only the square end of a boot of great breadth and wonderful acuteness of angle, and, in short, altogether the worst style of Young America.” He was still more annoyed in New York with the large assortment of these ferociously elegant persons which the shops of that thriving place afforded. Dr. Johnson remarks, that rags will always make their appearance where they have a right to do it ; and the same is true of this ambitious foppery, compared with which rags are quite a respectable affair.
One would have thought, from the perilous haste with which the traveller departed, that he must have been thoroughly disgusted with all that he saw, which was by no means the case. Leaving the ball-room at Plymouth at three o'clock in the morning, he was in the railway car for Boston at four, and in the train for Concord at seven. At eleven o'clock on the same day, he embarked in a stage-sleigh for Burlington, on a voyage which could have presented few attractions when the mercury was at twenty degrees below zero, a sort of exposure which stiffens the limbs so as to make the proprietor doubtful whether they are his own, and checks the circulation of the blood in such a manner as to paralyze the energies of the mind. He passed the night at Royalton, where he was painfully sensitive to the sight of some " scowling ruffians smoking and chewing round the stove in the public room.” Perhaps the traveller betrayed his emotions, which were not precisely those of satisfaction ; for, on asking for a little hot water, it was denied him ; and when he requested to be called in season for the stage in the morning, he was advised to see to that matter for himself. Surely, if he met with many of these two-footed animals, he deserves great credit for the manner in which he speaks of the civility and kindness of the Americans. One is apt to mistake this occasional barbarism for the rule, when it strikes him so much because it is the exception. If many public houses were of this description, there would be few travellers to enjoy the blessing.
At the close of his work, the author, or perhaps the editor, indulges in some extended remarks on various subjects connected with our country ; but they have not the interest of the journal, and are of the kind which any one might indite, without having set foot in our land. He thinks that there is a large amount of information generally diffused among us, without a proportional abundance of literature and learning. He also remarks, that we have very few intellectual names not connected with the professions, which is the same as saying that literature is not made a profession among us to any extent. This is true ; and the reason of it is, that literature will not afford subsistence without some other employment which engrosses the time. If the honor of living for literature involves the necessity of starving, the candidates for its prizes must necessarily be few. Our professions are all active and laborious; it is difficult to maintain influence in any of them without industrious and incessant action. If there were time, experience proves that much might be done for literature and science in the intervals of these exertions. But there is not; and meantime the market is filled with a pestilent importation of English and French novels, which teach nothing but bad taste, bad grammar, and bad morals. Works of a higher character his own country is not able to supply in such abundance as this writer fondly believes.
We do not wonder that an unfavorable impression of American taste and cultivation is given by a great proportion of the speeches in Congress, though some of them are business-like, condensed, and intellectual, with merits of a high order. But every member must signalize his fitness for the trust by making a speech, while his idea of eloquence is too often formed from the example of a clerical writer of a former day, who said, that, when Washington ascended, all the battalia of heaven presented arms. Some of those who can put themselves forward in no other way contrive to make themselves notorious by some remarkable absurdity; for notoriety answers the purpose quite as well as fame. When an Englishman hears the chairman of an important committee in Congress saying, that, in case of war, " England could do no more hurt to America than a child in its nurse's arms,” without reflecting, that, if the remark was childish, the person who made it should have the indulgence due to a tender age, he is provoked ; for he infers that no creature having the use of reason would say such things, unless some others delighted to hear them. But it is not so ; these explosions would wait for ever to see the light, if they depended on others to report them. The individual himself supplies a copy to the public press, where it lies unread, except perhaps from charity or affection, and only helps to swell the mass of political matter, which is already sufficiently unsavory and revolting. We are surprised to hear our traveller say that he was treated to a flourish of this kind by a young Whig, at a dinnertable in Boston, who descanted in the same style upon the probable fate of England in case of a war with this country ; but when he reflected on the awful doom which he was measuring out to the motherland, he said, with a sort of forbearing humanity, -"But poor old England ! I should be sorry, after all, if her own children should trample her under their feet.” Should this youth have occasion to travel, we trust he will give old England timely warning, that with all her infirmities she may be able to get out of the way of the march of mind as represented by these trampling feet. One of the parties must needs suffer in such an encounter, and we dare not hazard a conjecture which it would be.
The author's account of his home-bound passage in the steamer gives a strong impression of the dulness of such a voyage. He rejoiced only in the concluding dinner with which the arrival is solemnized, when the passengers, in the fulness of their hearts, deal out their formal thanks, or peradventure a piece of plate, to the captain, for the marvellous exploit of bringing them safe across the sea. The harmony of the occasion was somewhat impaired by a colored A bolitionist, who took occasion, just after rising from the prolonged session at table, when speakers grow needlessly fluent, and audiences are more prone to wrath than they might be in cooler hours, to make an address in condemnation of America. This judicious selection of time and place led on to a war of words, in which the Abolitionist, probably from long practice, had the advantage. This again was nearly followed by a conflict of blows, in which the genius of universal emancipation might have been struck down, had it not been for the efforts of some passengers who retained their senses, which is not usual in the discussion of such a theme. They were to separate on the next day, never to meet again. It is a good precept for the voyage of life, not to be very ready to censure and abuse the companions of our way ; it makes the passage uncomfortable to all concerned; and if any one says that his conscience requires it, let him see if he has not given that high name to a quarrelsome temper and a cold and bitter heart.
The works of tourists in America, excepting always De Tocqueville, are not of any considerable value. The natural desire to know what others say of us, which is as strong in one nation as another, gives interest to a traveller's story ; but the attraction is apt to disappear before we reach the end of the book. We often find, even in persons of talent, — Miss Martineau, for example, — so little power of observing to any good purpose, and such a disposition to judge of every thing from the manner in which self happens to be affected by it, that their books are worthless either for counsel or
VOL. LXIV. — NO. 134.