« PreviousContinue »
a little above the others, who, with a most affable smile of recognition, beckoned me toward him. Supposing it a friend, of whom I had just now so much need, who had observed me, I made haste to obey. He had mounted on the rear of an omnibus, the better to draw my attention. Close by, in a similar situation, was another, who, as I approached, disputed with him the honor of my acquaintance. • This vay, Sir!' said the one; • This vay,
Sir!' said the other, both with great animation. I now thought they were warning me of some imminent danger, but not knowing in what direction, I stood still, paying them my respects alternately; a kind of Scotch reel, setting now to this lady, now to that; till at length I made up my mind in favor of one, without giving preference to either, as happens often in love, or a president's election, and stepped in, aided by the civility of the gentleman, who slammed the door upon my heels. In a French omnibus, you get in, to be sure, with impediments, sitting about on the women's laps; but they take it in good part, and assist your movements, and you even sometimes get into little conversations : 'I hope I have not hurt you, Ma'am ? • Au contraire, Nonsieur ;' and the whole affair is agreeable enough. But only think of running the gauntlet between two rows of Englishmen's faces ! • Take care, Sir!' — Hal-loo!' It is a cold bath at the Yellow Springs ! But I had no sooner reached the back seat, than I recollected, with great presence of mind, that I had not the slightest intention of riding, and that I must absolutely, and in spite of the general displeasure, get out. However, I found that one always leaves a crowded vehicle with general consent, and I passed out without other obstacle than from the conductor (classically 'cad') insisting on six pence, his fee for having outwitted me, which I willingly paid, and again set foot on the pavement. I observed, by the faces of my fellow passengers, that they understood the joke, and enjoyed it at my expense; but swearing a little in French, in getting out, put the scandal upon the French nation, and spared brother Jonathan's blushes. The mistake was natural enough, since neither in France nor America do they solicit passengers in this senseless manner; senseless, because the number of persons, who, like me, do not know whether they want to ride or walk, must be inconsiderable ; at least not worth half the noise these fellows make to entrap them; serenading one end of the town with · Bank! Bank !' and the other with • Cha-cross ! Cha-cross!' or some equally emphatic word, from day-light to dark; beckoning, smiling, and raising constantly the arm to a horizontal position with a jerk — the little finger a little higher, there being a ring on it-enough of themselves to make London insupportable to a stranger, if there were no other reason for detesting it. It is strange, that when simply imposing silence upon these rogues would take from them the power of deceiving the unwary, the practice should be tolerated. But no; it would be robbing two classes of British subjects, the cads and Bow-street officers, of a means of livelihood. The French omnibus, with its flag overhead, indicating its start and destination, sets off at the minute, not waiting or contending for a load ; the English moves two steps, then stops, then moves again for five or ten minutes ; also senseless, for hundreds prefer walking, from apprehension of the delay.
I now regained the side-walk, with only the loss of two buttons, by being run against by a box; and as I stood here a minute, recovering from the shock, and pulling my hair with spite, for having gone. aboard of that galley,' a person ran eagerly toward me, smiling, and taking off his glove : ‘How do you do? — my dear fellow, how are you ? Without taking time to peruse his features, and all the little soul I had left, mantling in my face, I tendered him my hand. He took hold of it: Very happy to make your acquaintance, Sir; but it is the gentleman behind you I was speaking to. Some villainous ances. tor of mine must have done deeds in this island to be expiated by his posterity! Some great-grandfather, (for l am Scotch by the mother's side,) must have left an unrequited debt of insolence to be settled up by me in mortifications ! However, I felt obliged to the Fates for exacting it rather in these little instalments, than in a gross sum, which, with my present scanty means, would have left me a bankrupt. With this, I stepped out of Cheapside, having made a resolution not to speak to the king, and continuing my way over the brow of Ludgate Hill
, I stood upon the corner of St. Paul's.' It is not a little to the credit of London, that its most conspicuous monument, beside having a religious character, should stand in the centre of the town, and upon a hill. I was not much in a mood for admiration, but I paid devoutly my little share of the tribute due from all mankind to the genius of Sir Christopher Wren. Only think of an acre of church ! room enough in its nave for half the churches of Philadelphia, including the Quaker Meeting, and for more than half the honest worshippers in Christendom. The houses in the neighborhood scem to squat down with humility in its presence ; the men, as they walk by, appear to be curtailed of their ordinary dimensions; and one feels impressed with an awful sense of human littleness. In looking around, I was bound as if by a spell, by the familiarity of names, and the revival of youthful associations. What I know of the alphabet, I learned upon the banks of the Juniata, in a Dilworth's spelling book, printed in Paternoster Row,' and here it was, staring me in the face. I remembered, too, I was taught this branch of human knowledge by a very clever man, named Butler, yet living, who, as a boy, used to take the toll upon the old London Bridge, which I will visit, or its successor, some one of these days, on his account. I recollected, also, that to these Englishmen, whom I am so disposed to rail at during this wet weather, I owe the entire obligation of knowing how to read. I do not feel the least rancor against them on this account, but am only sorry I cannot repay it. It is a symptom of a weak or an ungenerous mind, not to be able to bear the weight of a favor, honestly conferred. How could I have supposed, as I stepped out, my Bible under my arm, to read Sanford and Merton, by the sunny side of the little hill in the Tuscarora, that I should one day stand here to stare at · Mr. Newberry's shop, corner of St. Paul's church-yard,' which used to figure so conspicuously in the title-page! The names of this place are to me old acquaintances, recognised after a long absence. It seems to me I knew them before I was born. I am almost tempted to believe with the Platonists, that the soul is omniscient as well as immortal, and that it had from all VOL. XIII.
eternity, an idea of Paternoster Row,' and Amen Corner,' only to be revived on occasion.
I gazed long upon the west side, from which is a view of the principal architectural beauties, and before taking leave, examined the statues; for one of which I felt a kind of yearning affection, without suspecting the cause. I have since learned it is a figure of America. What she can be doing here, about the church, I do not conceive. And they have set out the Virgin Anne in front, in all the accoutrements in use in her time. Who but the English would ever have thought of putting a woman up in hoop petticoats in a church-yard ! While taking a last look, and holding on by the iron ballustrade in front : *How difficult,' thought I, “it is for an English queen to get a husband! By marrying at home, she descends from her rank, and confers an invidious distinction on a subject; and abroad, she must select a good Protestant, and there are none. If we had set up a monarchy in America, we might now have furnished our mother country with husbands; as it is, we must be content with tobacco and cotton;' and just in the midst of this reflection, I was interrupted by a light tap on the shoulder. Not such a fool! To be deceived once, may be a mark of goodness or inexperience; a second time, in the same manner, of imprudence; but the third, of incurable stupidity.' So
says Montaigne ; and it was only after a shake, that I would look round. But here was no mistake. It was a real, live Yankee, just come over, like myself. Here was much idle talk. ' And how do you find London ?' He found it ‘a pretty considerable town; rather thick-settled, just here about the meeting-house;' and then, being hurried, left me, after appointment to dinner for the evening. If you have twenty children, bring them all up to the whaling business. This person is pleased with the English, their climate, and himself! What can make such a man unhappy ?
You may now fancy me plodding along Fleet-street, and the Strand, (always the same street, under different names,) and looking at the shops. Their general character is an old hulk of a house, proud only of its wares within, of such intrinsic merit as to need no external ornaments; but now and then you meet one of great magnificence, having a facade of glass in pannels larger than your street doors, and exhibiting on carpeted floors the precious Cashmeres, artistly arranged, and multiplied by mirrors; and here one can stand, and under pretext of admiring the merchandise, contemplate the portly figure which forms, in the distance, the elegant counterpart of one's self. Then I amused my fancy in examining every thing, and spelling the signs, which
you know are a part of the literature of a nation. Female infirmities—patronised by all the nobility. Reading and writing, sixpence a week; manners three pence. Half-price in both the countries.'
I observed here pleasant little streets, running at right angles toward the river, about the eighth of a mile, which I fancied would be convenient retirements for lodgings, and I explored them, one after another, in this intent. Persons having rooms to let, put labels at the window, intimating their intention. I passed several, and at last spied one, agreeable in position, and having the welcome word, “Mrs. Sanderson’ emblazoned on a brass plate. This was irresistible. I went
in, and there was, to be sure, Mrs. S., with four or five children gathering about her, and one squalling in the cradle. She talked incontinently, even to give me suspicions of a common ancestry, and recommended her rooms: • They are very hairy,'Sir, I assure you.' But they are quite small; have you not one larger ?' • The adjoining one is larger, Sir, but my husband keeps his ‘’ores' there.' 'Now,' thought 1, as I went away abruptly, “ here is a woman, who not only connives at the licentiousness of her husband, but has so lost the sense of shame, as to speak of it with the indifference of a Turk! Thank heaven, our country has not yet reached this effrontery of vice!' I learned, however, in a neighboring house, that this Mrs. S. is a very decent woman, and the wife of an industrious mineralogist; whence I have presumed that, stripped of its aspirate, the offensive word probably meant only a very innocent collection of copper, iron, and other specimens, which occupy said room.
I next entered a very agreeable house, having two rooms vacant, • which,' said the hostess, a very pleasant woman,' were occupied by your countryman, Cooper.' He had brought the Muses from the Aonian mount, into this room. He had written one of his novels here. • This was his bed, this his table, this his chair ;' and she asked more for it, on this account. I refused; not, however, from insensibility to chairs that have been sat upon by eminent persons. I knew the history well enough of Apollo's stool and the Sybil, and how Madame Le Norman, in Paris, is always tripodded on a stool of the Marechale d'Anire ; and indeed myself, when I sat upon Dagobert's chair, in the king's library, I felt monarchical; on Rousseau's, sentimental, and on Madame de Staël's, at St. Oner, I felt, I do n't know how. A person never having sat upon the 'coronation chair,' at the Abbey, would be a miracle. And we know that Shakspeare's chair at Stratford had several bottoms sat out annually; and that when not a straw of Shakspeare's original one was left, a German seer, aware what way inspiration comes, stole this chair away to the continent; thus transferring the palladium of English genius to a foreign country. It is with pleasure I observe, that Elizabeth Walbridge's chair has lately been transported from the Isle of Wight to America, (where there was so much need of it) by a pious American, and that it will be henceforth sat upon, at their anniversaries, by the Tract Society of New-York. But in the present case, I feared that sleeping in Mr. Cooper's bed, and sitting on his chair, these letters, which I design to be strictly didactic and historical, might run mad with fiction and romance.
So I proceeded farther. At length I found a quiet and sober little corner, having a perfume of sanctity about it, quite in unison with my present feelings, near No. 1, Adam-street; for many years the residence of Doctor Vicissimus Knox; and Vicissimus, you know, was not much behind John, the most damnatory of the Presbyterians. I had been a whole year in Paris, and this seemed to me the very best corner of the world to be unfronchified, and taper off into Pennsylvania gravity, against my return home; should I, surviving my present home-sickness, ever attain that blessing. I therefore made at once my conditions with the maiden women, the proprietors, ordered my luggage round, and then did honor to my engagement, at the dinner hour, in
Leicester Square. What need of many words? We enjoyed a good dinner ; Burgundy, hot coffee, followed by champagne, had the desired effect; then came conversation, chiefly of our travels on the continent; passports, pretty women, museums of comparative anatomy, the Gobelins, pick-pockets, the Rocher Cancale, St. Peter's, and Miss Linwood's needle-work; all had their turn, not forgetting the fine arts. My companion, who was brought up to codfish, was not greatly a connoisseur, no more than myself; but he had not been an idle observer. So we talked much of the Venus of Medicine, and other specimens at Florence, and finished by criticizing the engravings overhanging the dinner table ; a Coriolanus advancing to meet his mother, she repelling him : ' That's a good looking fellow, Major; who is it? He wants to kiss that woman, do n't you see? and she wont let him. Next, a group from Scott, which we soon interpreted into a scripture piece, giving a pair of Scotch boots to St. Peter; and finally, a Jupiter and Io, of which we made Jupiter and Ten, and afterward corrected it to Jupiter and Joe. At dinner, just opposite, was an Englishman, of polite manners, but severe, to whom, on one occasion, my companion addressed the conversation, of his stay at Rome, Venice, Paris, and other cities; of his design of stopping a month in London, just running into Scotland and Ireland; ' and then' (all with circumstances, and in a slow, emphatic speech; the listener meanwhile holding his knife horizontally, and awaiting, rather impatiently, the cadence of the sentence,) ' and then I will go back to America.' 'I will thank you,' said the Englishman, gravely, ‘for the salt, before you go!' This anecdote to fill up the page. It might seem ungrateful, as well as malicious, in me, to relate this gossip, my entertainer coming in for his share of the ridicule ; but I have his consent. He is not a virtuoso, even in pretension. Moreover, a man of an hundred thousand dollars has little need of
and my revenue can less avail itself of the exemption. We went to the theatre, and saw Tommy Thumb swallowed by a cow, and at a quarter past eleven, exact, I stood upon the threshold of the two maids.
I was much pleased with these two sisters. It is often the prettiest women, who live maids, their very beauty being frequently the cause of their maidenhood. Adain-street, too! It is the name of the street upon which I reside in America. It seemed like revisiting one's household gods, and I raised the knocker with respect, with a repetition, after a reasonable interval, a little louder, and then louder still. Then I stood and reflected on the patience of ancient times, when a Roman used to lie upon the steps, imploring his mistress' door to be opened, until he had broken his ribs upon her marble. After this, I tried as near as I could the knock of a nobleman's footman; a kind of recitative, with a run along the chromatic ; relapsing again into reflections ; this time, on the value of early moral instruction. Doctor Franklin, who was brought up to dipping candles, was remarkable for his patient waiting the regular growth of events; and then a knock loud enough to wake up Vicissimus Knox, and a ring at the bell, with a tintinnabulatum which I feared never would end. It did end, however, when, from the uppermost window, w hich rose slowly upon its pulleys, a female poured these words upon the night, in a