Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

a

Of course, this was evidently for the benefit of society, but it was certainly one of those cases where the poetical suffers for the practical. I comforted myself in my despondency, by looking over at the old stone piers underneath, which were indisputably the same. We drove now through beautiful grounds, and alighted at an elegant mansion, which in former days belonged to Lockhart, the son-in-law of Scott. It was in this house that Old Mortality was written.

As I was weary, the party left me here, while they went on to see the Duke of Hamilton's grounds. Our kind hostess showed me into a small study, where she said Old Mortality was written. The window commanded a beautiful view of many of the localities described. Scott was as particular to consult for accuracy in his local descriptions as if he had been writing a guide book.

He was in the habit of noting down in his memorandum book even names and characteristics of the wild flowers and grasses that grew about a place. When a friend once remarked to him, that he should have supposed his imagination could have supplied such trifles, he made an answer that is worth remembering by every artist — that no imagination

could long support its freshness, that was not nourished by a constant and minute observation of nature.

Craignethan Castle, which is the original of Tillietudlem, we were informed, was not far from thence. It is stated in Lockhart's Life of Scott, that the ruins of this castle excited in Scott such delight and enthusiasm, that its owner urged him to accept for his lifetime the use of a small habitable house, enclosed within the circuit of the walls.

After the return of the party from Hamilton Park, we sat down to an elegant lunch, where my eye was attracted more

than any thing else, by the splendor of the hothouse flowers which adorned the table. So far as I have observed, the culture of flowers, both in England and Scotland, is more universally an object of attention than with us. Every family in easy circumstances seems, as a matter of course, to have their greenhouse, and the flowers are brought to a degree of perfection which I have never seen at home.

I may as well say here, that we were told by a gentleman, whose name I do not now remember, that this whole district had been celebrated for its orchards ; he added, however, that since the introduction of the American apple into the market, its superior excellence had made many of these orchards almost entirely worthless. It is a curious fact, showing how the new world is working on the old.

After taking leave of our hospitable friends, we took to our carriages again. As we were driving slowly through the beautiful grounds, admiring, as we never failed to do, their perfect cultivation, a party of servants appeared in sight, waving their hats and handkerchiefs, and cheering us as we passed. These kindly expressions from them were as pleasant as any we received.

In the evening we had engaged to attend another soirée, gotten up by the working classes, to give admission to many who were not in circumstances to purchase tickets for the other. This was to me, if any thing, a more interesting réunion, because this was just the class whom I wished to meet. The arrangements of the entertainment were like those of the evening before.

As I sat in the front gallery and looked over the audience with an intense interest, I thought they appeared on the whole very much like what I might have seen at home in a

similar gathering. Men, women, and children were dressed in a style which showed both self-respect and good taste, and the speeches were far above mediocrity. One pale young man, a watchmaker, as I was told afterwards, delivered an address, which, though doubtless it had the promising fault of too much elaboration and ornament, yet I thought had passages which would do honor to any literary periodical whatever.

There were other orators less highly finished, who yet spoke “right on,” in a strong, forcible, and really eloquent way, giving the grain of the wood without the varnish. They contended very seriously and sensibly, that although the working men of England and Scotland had many things to complain of, and many things to be reformed, yet their condition was world-wide different from that of the slave.

One cannot read the history of the working classes in England, for the last fifty years, without feeling sensibly the difference between oppressions under a free government and slavery. So long as the working class of England produces orators and writers, such as it undoubtedly has produced; so long as it has in it that spirit of independence and resistance of wrong, which has shown itself more and more during the agitations of the last fifty years; and so as long as the law allows them to meet and debate, to form associations and committees, to send up remonstrances and petitions to government,

one can see that their case is essentially different from , that of plantation slaves.

I must say, I was struck this night with the resemblance between the Scotchman and the New Englander.

One sees the distinctive nationality of a country more in the middle and laboring classes than in the higher, and accordingly at this meeting there was more nationality, I thought, than at the other.

The highest class of mind in all countries loses nationality, and becomes universal; it is a great pity, too, because nationality is picturesque always. One of the greatest miracles to my mind about Kossuth was, that with so universal an education, and such an extensive range of language and thought, he was yet so distinctively a Magyar.

One thing has surprised and rather disappointed us. Our enthusiasm for Walter Scott does not apparently meet a response in the popular breast. Allusions to Bannockburn and Drumclog bring down the house, but enthusiasm for Scott was met with comparative silence. We discussed this matter among ourselves, and rather wondered at it.

The fact is, Scott belonged to a past, and not to the coming age. He beautified and adorned that which is waxing old and passing away. He loved and worshipped in his very

soul institutions which the majority of the common people have felt as a restraint and a burden. One might naturally get a very different idea of a feudal castle by starving to death in the dungeon of it, than by writing sonnets on it at a picturesque distance. Now, we in America are so far removed from feudalism, — it has been a thing so much of mere song and story with us, and our sympathies are so unchecked by any experience of inconvenience or injustice in its consequences, - that we are at full liberty to appreciate the picturesque of it, and sometimes, when we stand overlooking our own beautiful scenery, to wish that we could see,

а

a

“On yon bold brow, a lordly tower ;

In that soft vale, a lady's bower ;
In yonder meadow, far away,
The turrets of a cloister gray ;

when those who know by experience all the accompaniments of these ornaments, would have quite another impression.

Nevertheless, since there are two worlds in man, the real and the ideal, and both have indisputably a right to be, since God made the faculties of both, we must feel that it is a benefaction to mankind, that Scott was thus raised up as the link, in the ideal world, between the present and the past. It is a loss to universal humanity to have the imprint of any phase of human life and experience entirely blotted out. Scott's fictions are like this beautiful ivy, with which all the ruins here are overgrown, — they not only adorn, but, in many cases, they actually hold together, and prevent the crumbling mass from falling into ruins.

To-morrow we are going to have a sail on the Clyde.

« ZurückWeiter »