« ZurückWeiter »
GLASGOW, April 16, 1853. DEAR AUNT E.:
You shall have my earliest Scotch letter; for I am sure nobody can sympathize in the emotions of the first approach to Scotland as you can. A country dear to us by the memory of the dead and of the living; a country whose history and literature, interesting enough of itself, has become to us still more so, because the reading and learning of it formed part of our communion for many a social hour, with friends long parted from earth.
The views of Scotland, which lay on my mother's table, even while I was a little child, and in poring over which I spent so many happy, dreamy hours, - the Scotch ballads, which were the delight of our evening fireside, and which seemed almost to melt the soul out of me, before I was old enough to understand their words, — the songs of Burns,
which had been a household treasure among us,
the enchantments of Scott, all these dimly returned upon me.
It was the result of them all which I felt in nerve and brain.
And, by the by, that puts me in mind of one thing; and that is, how much of our pleasure in literature results from its reflection on us from other minds. As we advance in life, the literature which has charmed us in the circle of our friends becomes endeared to us from the reflected remembrance of them, of their individualities, their opinions, and their sympa
thies, so that our memory of it is a many-colored cord, drawn from many minds.
So in coming near to Scotland, I seemed to feel not only my own individuality, but all that my friends would have felt, had they been with me. For sometimes we seem to be encompassed, as by a cloud, with a sense of the sympathy of the absent and the dead.
We left Liverpool with hearts a little tremulous and excited by the vibration of an atmosphere of universal sympathy and kindness. We found ourselves, at length, shut from the warm adieus of our friends, in a snug compartment of the railroad car.
The English cars are models of comfort and good keeping. There are six seats in a compartment, luxuriously cushioned and nicely carpeted, and six was exactly the number of our party. Nevertheless, so obstinate is custom that we averred at first that we preferred our American cars, deficient as they are in many points of neatness and luxury, because they are so much more social.
“Dear me,” said Mr. S., “six Yankees shut up in a car together! Not one Englishman to tell us any thing about the country! Just like the six old ladies that made their living by taking tea at each other's houses.”
But that is the way here in England: every arrangement in travelling is designed to maintain that privacy and reserve which is the dearest and most sacred part of an Englishman's nature. Things are so arranged here that, if a man pleases, he can travel all through England with his family, and keep the circle an unbroken unit, having just as little communication with any thing outside of it as in his own house.
From one of these sheltered apartments in a railroad car, he can pass to preëngaged parlors and chambers in the hotel,
with his own separate table, and all his domestic manners and peculiarities unbroken. In fact, it is a little compact home travelling about.
Now, all this is very charming to people who know already as much about a country as they want to know; but it follows from it that a stranger might travel all through England, from one end to the other and not be on conversing terms with a person in it. He may be at the same hotel, in the same train with people able to give him all imaginable information, yet never touch them at any practicable point of communion. This is more especially the case if his party, as ours was, is just large enough to fill the whole apartment.
As to the comforts of the cars, it is to be said, that for the same price you can get far more comfortable riding in Ameri
Their first class cars are beyond all praise, but also beyond all price; their second class are comfortless, cushionless, and uninviting. Agreeably with our theory of democratic equality, we have a general car, not so complete as the one, nor so bare as the other, where all ride together; and if the traveller in thus riding sees things that occasionally annoy him, when he remembers that the whole population, from the highest to the lowest, are accommodated here together, he will certainly see hopeful indications in the general comfort, order, and respectability which prevail ; all which we talked over most patriotically together, while we were lamenting that there was not a seventh to our party, to instruct us in the localities.
Every thing upon the railroad proceeds with systematic accuracy. There is no chance for the most careless person to commit a blunder, or make a mistake. At the proper
time the conductor marches every body into their places and locks them in, gives the word, “ All right,” and away we go. Somebody has remarked, very characteristically, that the starting word of the English is “all right,” and that of the Americans “ go ahead.”
Away we go through Lancashire, wide awake, looking out on all sides for any signs of antiquity. In being thus whirled through English scenery, I became conscious of a new understanding of the spirit and phraseology of English poetry. There are many phrases and expressions with which we have been familiar from childhood, and which, we suppose, in a kind of indefinite way, we understand, which, after all, when we
nglish ground, start into a new sign ce: take, for instance, these lines from L'Allegro:
“ Sometimes walking, not unseen,
Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures,
Now, these hedge-row elms. I had never even asked myself what they were till I saw them; but you know, as I said in a former letter, the hedges are not all of them carefully cut; in fact
many of them are only irregular rows of bushes, where, although the hawthorn is the staple element, yet firs, and brambles, and many other interlopers put in their claim, and they all grow up together in a kind of straggling unity; and in the hedges trees are often set out, particularly elms, and have a very pleasing effect.
Then, too, the trees have more of that rounding outline which is expressed by the word “bosomed.” But here we are, right under the walls of Lancaster, and Mr. S. wakes me up by quoting, “Old John o' Gaunt, time-honored Lancaster.”
“ Time-honored,” said I; “it looks as fresh as if it had been built yesterday : you do not mean to say that is the real old castle?”
“ To be sure, it is the very old castle built in the reign of · Edward III., by John of Gaunt.”
It stands on the summit of a hill, seated regally like a queen upon a throne, and every part of it looks as fresh, and sharp, and clear, as if it were the work of modern times. It is used now for a county jail. We have but a moment to stop or admire the merciless steam car drives on. We have a little talk about the feudal times, and the old past days; when again the cry goes up,
“O, there's something! What's that?” “O, that is Carlisle.” “ Carlisle !” said I; “what, the Carlisle of Scott's ballad?” “ What ballad?”
“Why, don't you remember, in the Lay of the Last Minstrel, the song of Albert Graeme, which has something about Carlisle's wall in every verse ?
• It was an English laydie bright
I used to read this when I was a child, and wonder what Carlisle wall' was."