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Transcribed from the 1886 Cassell & Company edition by David Price,
TRAVELS IN ENGLAND IN 1782
Charles P. Moritz’s “Travels, chiefly on foot, through several parts of England in 1782, described in Letters to a Friend,” were translated from the German by a lady, and published in 1795. John Pinkerton included them in the second volume of his Collection of Voyages and Travels.
The writer of this account of England as it was about a hundred years ago, and seven years before the French Revolution, was a young Prussian clergyman, simply religious, calmly enthusiastic for the freer forms of citizenship, which he found in England and contrasted with the military system of Berlin. The touch of his times was upon him, with some of the feeling that caused Frenchmen, after the first outbreak of the Revolution, to hail Englishmen as “their forerunners in the glorious race.” He had learnt English at home, and read Milton, whose name was inscribed then in German literature on the banners of the free.
In 1782 Charles Moritz came to England with little in his purse and “Paradise Lost” in his pocket, which he meant to read in the Land of Milton. He came ready to admire, and enthusiasm adds some colour to his earliest impressions; but when they were coloured again by hard experience, the quiet living sympathy remained. There is nothing small in the young Pastor Moritz, we feel a noble nature in his true simplicity of character.
He stayed seven weeks with us, three of them in London. He travelled on foot to Richmond, Windsor, Oxford, Birmingham, and Matlock, with some experience of a stage coach on the way back; and when, in dread of being hurled from his perch on the top as the coach flew down hill, he tried a safer berth among the luggage in the basket, he had further experience. It was like that of Hood’s old lady, in the same place of inviting shelter, who, when she crept out, had only breath enough left to murmur, “Oh, them boxes!”
Pastor Moritz’s experience of inns was such as he hardly could pick up in these days of the free use of the feet. But in those days everybody who was anybody rode. And even now, there might be cold welcome to a shabby-looking pedestrian without a knapsack. Pastor Moritz had his Milton in one pocket and his change of linen in the other. From some inns he was turned away as a tramp, and in others he found cold comfort. Yet he could be proud of a bit of practical wisdom drawn by himself out of the “Vicar of Wakefield,” that taught him to conciliate the innkeeper by drinking with him; and the more the innkeeper drank of the ale ordered the better, because Pastor Moritz did not like it, and it did not like him. He also felt experienced in the ways of the world when, having taken example from the manners of a bar-maid, if he drank in a full room he did not omit to say, “Your healths, gentlemen all.”
Fielding’s Parson Adams, with his Æschylus in his pocket, and Parson Moritz with his Milton, have points of likeness that bear strong witness to Fielding’s power of entering into the spirit of a true and gentle nature. After the first touches of enthusiastic sentiment, that represent real freshness of enjoyment, there is no reaction to excess in opposite extreme. The young foot traveller settles down to simple truth, retains his faith in English character, and reports ill-usage without a word of bitterness.
The great charm of this book is its unconscious expression of the writer’s character. His simple truthfulness presents to us of 1886 as much of the England of 1782 as he was able to see with eyes full of intelligence and a heart full of kindness. He heard Burke speak on the death of his friend and patron Lord Rockingham, with sudden rebuke to an indolent and inattentive house. He heard young Pitt, and saw how he could fix, boy as he looked, every man’s attention.
“Oh, wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion.”
And when the power is so friendly as that of the Pastor Moritz, we may, if wise, know ourselves better than from a thousand satires, but if foolish we may let all run into self-praise.
On the Thames, 31st May.
At length, my dearest Gedike, I find myself safely landed on the happy shores of that country, a sight of which has, for many years, been my most earnest wish; and whither I have so often in imagination transported myself. A few hours ago the green hills of England yet swam imperfectly before our eyes, scarcely perceptible in the distant horizon: they now unfold themselves on either side, forming as it were a double amphitheatre. The sun bursts through the clouds, and gilds alternately the shrubs and meadows on the distant shores, and we now espy the tops of two masts of ships just peeping above the surface of the deep. What an awful warning to adventurous men! We now sail close by those very sands (the Goodwin) where so many unfortunate persons have found their graves.
The shores now regularly draw nearer to each other: the danger of the voyage is over; and the season for enjoyment, unembittered by cares, commences. How do we feel ourselves, we, who have long been wandering as it were, in a boundless space, on having once more gained prospects that are not without limits! I should imagine our sensations as somewhat like those of the traveller who traverses the immeasurable deserts of America, when fortunately he obtains a hut wherein to shelter himself; in those moments he certainly enjoys himself; nor does he then complain of its being too small. It is indeed the lot of man to be always circumscribed to a narrow space, even when he wanders over the most extensive regions; even when the huge sea envelops him all around, and wraps him close to its bosom, in the act, as it were, of swallowing him up in a moment: still he is separated from all the circumjacent immensity of space only by one small part, or insignificant portion of that immensity.
That portion of this space, which I now see surrounding me, is a most delightful selection from the whole of beautiful nature. Here is the Thames full of large and small ships and boats, dispersed here and there, which are either sailing on with us, or lying at anchor; and there the hills on either side, clad with so soft and mild a green, as I have nowhere else ever seen equalled. The charming banks of the Elbe, which I so lately quitted, are as much surpassed by these shores as autumn is by spring! I see everywhere nothing but fertile and cultivated lands; and those living hedges which in England more than in any other country, form the boundaries of the green cornfields, and give to the whole of the distant country the appearance of a large and majestic garden. The neat villages and small towns with sundry intermediate country seats, suggest ideas of prosperity and opulence which is not possible to describe.
The prospect towards Gravesend is particularly beautiful. It is a clever little town, built on the side of a hill; about which there lie hill and dale and meadows, and arable land, intermixed with pleasure grounds and country seats; all diversified in the most agreeable manner. On one of the highest of these hills near Gravesend stands a windmill, which is a very good object, as you see it at some distance, as well as part of the country around it, on the windings of the Thames. But as few human pleasures are ever complete and perfect, we too, amidst the pleasing contemplation of all these beauties, found ourselves exposed on the quarter-deck to uncommonly cold and piercing weather. An unintermitting violent shower of rain has driven me into the cabin, where I am now endeavouring to divert a gloomy hour by giving you the description of a pleasing one.
London, 2nd June.
This morning those of us who were fellow passengers together in the great cabin, being six in number, requested to be set on shore in a boat, a little before the vessel got to Dartford, which is still sixteen miles from London. This expedient is generally adopted, instead of going up the Thames, towards London, where on account of the astonishing number of ships, which are always more crowded together the nearer you approach the city, it frequently requires many days before a ship can finish her passage. He therefore who wishes to lose no time unnecessarily, and wishes also to avoid other inconveniences, such as frequent stoppages, and perhaps, some alarming dashings against other ships, prefers travelling those few miles by land in a post-chaise, which is not very expensive, especially when three join together, as three passengers pay no more than one. This indulgence is allowed by act of parliament.
As we left the vessel we were honoured with a general huzza, or in the English phrase with three cheers, echoed from the German sailors of our ship. This nautical style of bidding their friends farewell our Germans have learned from the English. The cliff where we landed was white and chalky, and as the distance was not great, nor other means of conveyance at hand, we resolved to go on foot to Dartford: immediately on landing we had a pretty steep hill to climb, and that gained, we arrived at the first English village, where an uncommon neatness in the structure of the houses, which in general are built with red bricks and flat roofs, struck me with a pleasing surprise, especially when I compared them with the long, rambling, inconvenient, and singularly mean cottages of our peasants. We now continued our way through the different villages, each furnished with his staff, and thus exhibited no remote resemblance of a caravan. Some few people who met us seemed to stare at us, struck, perhaps, by the singularity of our dress, or the peculiarity of our manner of travelling. On our route we passed a wood where a troop of gipsies had taken up their abode around a fire under a tree. The country, as we continued to advance, became more and more beautiful. Naturally, perhaps, the earth is everywhere pretty much alike, but how different is it rendered by art! How different is that on which I now tread from ours, and every other spot I have ever seen. The soil is rich even to exuberance, the verdure of the trees and hedges, in short the whole of this paradisaical region is without a parallel! The roads too are incomparable; I am astonished how they have got them so firm and solid; every step I took I felt, and was conscious it was English ground on which I trod.
We breakfasted at Dartford. Here, for the first time, I saw an English soldier, in his red uniform, his hair cut short and combed back on his forehead, so as to afford a full view of his fine, broad, manly face. Here too I first saw (what I deemed a true English fight) in the street, two boys boxing.
Our little party now separated, and got into two post-chaises, each of which hold three persons, though it must be owned three cannot sit quite so commodiously in these chaises as two: the hire of a post-chaise is a shilling for every English mile. They may be compared to our extra posts, because they are to be had at all times. But these carriages are very neat and lightly built, so that you hardly perceive their motion as they roll along these firm smooth roads; they have windows in front, and on both sides. The horses are generally good, and the postillions particularly smart and active, and always ride on a full trot. The one we had wore his hair cut short, a round hat, and a brown jacket of tolerable fine cloth, with a nosegay in his bosom. Now and then, when he drove very hard, he looked round, and with a smile seemed to solicit our approbation. A thousand charming spots, and beautiful landscapes, on which my eye would long have dwelt with rapture, were now rapidly passed with the speed of an arrow.
Our road appeared to be undulatory, and our journey, like the journey of life, seemed to be a pretty regular alternation of up hill and down, and here and there it was diversified with copses and woods; the majestic Thames every now and then, like a little forest of masts, rising to our view, and anon losing itself among the delightful towns and villages. The amazing large signs which at the entrance of villages hang in the middle of the street, being fastened to large beams, which are extended across the street from one house to another opposite to it, particularly struck me; these sign-posts have the appearance of gates or of gateways, for which I at first took them, but the whole apparatus, unnecessarily large as it seems to be, is intended for nothing more than to tell the inquisitive traveller that there is an inn. At length, stunned as it were by this constant rapid succession of interesting objects to engage our attention, we arrived at Greenwich nearly in a state of stupefaction.
The Prospect of London.
We first descried it enveloped in a thick smoke or fog. St. Paul’s arose like some huge mountain above the enormous mass of smaller buildings. The Monument, a very lofty column, erected in memory of the great fire of London, exhibited to us, perhaps, chiefly on account of its immense height, apparently so disproportioned to its other dimensions (for it actually struck us as resembling rather a slender mast, towering up in immeasurable height into the clouds, than as that it really is, a stately obelisk) an unusual and singular appearance. Still we went on, and drew nearer and nearer with amazing velocity, and the surrounding objects became every moment more distinct. Westminster Abbey, the Tower, a steeple, one church, and then another, presented themselves to our view; and we could now plainly distinguish the high round chimneys on the tops of the houses, which yet seemed to us to form an innumerable number of smaller spires, or steeples.
The road from Greenwich to London is actually busier and far more alive than the most frequented streets in Berlin. At every step we met people on horseback, in carriages, and foot passengers; and everywhere also, and on each side of the road, well-built and noble houses, whilst all along, at proper distances, the road was lined with lamp-posts. One thing, in particular, struck and surprised me not a little. This was the number of people we met riding and walking with spectacles on, among whom were many who appeared stout, healthy, and young. We were stopped at least three times at barriers or gates, here called turnpikes, to pay a duty or toll which, however small, as being generally paid in their copper coinage, in the end amounted to some shillings.
At length we arrived at the magnificent bridge of Westminster. The prospect from this bridge alone seems to afford one the epitome of a journey, or a voyage in miniature, as containing something of everything that mostly occurs on a journey. It is a little assemblage of contrasts and contrarieties. In contrast to the round, modern, and majestic cathedral of St. Paul’s on your right, the venerable, old-fashioned, and hugely noble, long abbey of Westminster, with its enormous pointed roof, rises on the left. Down the Thames to the right you see Blackfriar’s Bridge, which does not yield much, if at all, in beauty to that of Westminster; on the left bank of the Thames are delightful terraces, planted with trees, and those new tasteful buildings called the Adelphi. On the Thames itself are countless swarms of little boats passing and repassing, many with one mast and one sail, and many with none, in which persons of all ranks are carried over. Thus there is hardly less stir and bustle on this river, than there is in some of its own London’s crowded streets. Here, indeed, you no longer see great ships, for they come no farther than London Bridge
We now drove into the city by Charing Cross, and along the Strand, to those very Adelphi Buildings which had just afforded us so charming a prospect on Westminster Bridge.
My two travelling companions, both in the ship and the post-chaise, were two young Englishmen, who living in this part of the town, obligingly offered me any assistance and services in their power, and in particular, to procure me a lodging the same day in their neighbourhood.
In the streets through which we passed, I must own the houses in general struck me as if they were dark and gloomy, and yet at the same time they also struck me as prodigiously great and majestic. At that moment, I could not in my own mind compare the external view of London with that of any other city I had ever before seen. But I remember (and surely it is singular) that about five years ago, on my first entrance into Leipzig, I had the very same sensations I now felt. It is possible that the high houses, by which the streets at Leipzig are partly darkened, the great number of shops, and the crowd of people, such as till then I had never seen, might have some faint resemblance with the scene now surrounding me in London.
There are everywhere leading from the Strand to the Thames, some well-built, lesser, or subordinate streets, of which the Adelphi Buildings are now by far the foremost. One district in this neighbourhood goes by the name of York Buildings, and in this lies George Street, where my two travelling companions lived. There reigns in those smaller streets towards the Thames so pleasing a calm, compared to the tumult and bustle of people, and carriages, and horses, that are constantly going up and down the Strand, that in going into one of them you can hardly help fancying yourself removed at a distance from the noise of the city, even whilst the noisiest part of it is still so near at hand.
It might be about ten or eleven o’clock when we arrived here. After the two Englishmen had first given me some breakfast at their lodgings, which consisted of tea and bread and butter, they went about with me themselves, in their own neighbourhood, in search of an apartment, which they at length procured for me for sixteen shillings a week, at the house of a tailor’s widow who lived opposite to them. It was very fortunate, on other accounts, that they went with me, for equipped as I was, having neither brought clean linen nor change of clothes from my trunk, I might perhaps have found it difficult to obtain good lodgings.
It was a very uncommon but pleasing sensation I experienced on being now, for the first time in my life, entirely among Englishmen: among people whose language was foreign, their manners foreign, and in a foreign climate, with whom, notwithstanding, I could converse as familiarly as though we had been educated together from our infancy. It is certainly an inestimable advantage to understand the language of the country through which you travel. I did not at first give the people I was with any reason to suspect I could speak English, but I soon found that the more I spoke, the more attention and regard I met with. I now occupy a large room in front on the ground floor, which has a carpet and mats, and is very neatly furnished; the chairs are covered with leather, and the tables are of mahogany. Adjoining to this I have another large room. I may do just as I please, and keep my own tea, coffee, bread and butter, for which purpose my landlady has given me a cupboard in my room, which locks up.
The family consists of the mistress of the house, her maid, and her two sons, Jacky and Jerry; singular abbreviations for John and Jeremiah. The eldest, Jacky, about twelve years old, is a very lively boy, and often entertains me in the most pleasing manner by relating to me his different employments at school, and afterwards desiring me in my turn to relate to him all manner of things about Germany. He repeats his amo, amas, amavi, in the same singing tone as our common school-boys. As I happened once when he was by, to hum a lively tune, he stared at me with surprise, and then reminded me it was Sunday; and so, that I might not forfeit his good opinion by any appearance of levity, I gave him to understand that, in the hurry of my journey, I had forgotten the day. He has already shown me St. James’s Park, which is not far from hence; and now let me give you some description of the renowned
St. James’s Park.
The park is nothing more than a semicircle, formed of an alley of trees, which enclose a large green area in the middle of which is a marshy pond.
The cows feed on this green turf, and their milk is sold here on the spot, quite new.
In all the alleys or walks there are benches, where you may rest yourself. When you come through the Horse Guards (which is provided with several passages) into the park, on the right hand is St. James’s Palace, or the king’s place of residence, one of the meanest public buildings in London. At the lower end, quite at the extremity, is the queen’s palace, a handsome and modern building, but very much resembling a private house. As for the rest, there are generally everywhere about St. James’s Park very good houses, which is a great addition to it. There is also before the semicircle of the trees just mentioned a large vacant space, where the soldiers are exercised.
How little this famous park is to be compared with our park at Berlin, I need not mention. And yet one cannot but form a high idea of St. James’s Park and other public places in London; this arises, perhaps, from their having been oftener mentioned in romances and other books than ours have. Even the squares and streets of London are more noted and better known than many of our principal towns.
But what again greatly compensates for the mediocrity of this park, is the astonishing number of people who, towards evening in fine weather, resort here; our finest walks are never so full even in the midst of summer. The exquisite pleasure of mixing freely with such a concourse of people, who are for the most part well-dressed and handsome, I have experienced this evening for the first time.
Before I went to the park I took another walk with my little Jacky, which did not cost me much fatigue and yet was most uncommonly interesting. I went down the little street in which I live, to the Thames nearly at the end of it, towards the left, a few steps led me to a singularly pretty terrace, planted with trees, on the very brink of the river.
Here I had the most delightful prospect you can possibly imagine. Before me was the Thames with all its windings, and the stately arches of its bridges; Westminster with its venerable abbey to the right, to the left again London, with St. Paul’s, seemed to wind all along the windings of the Thames, and on the other side of the water lay Southwark, which is now also considered as part of London. Thus, from this single spot, I could nearly at one view see the whole city, at least that side of it towards the Thames. Not far from hence, in this charming quarter of the town, lived the renowned Garrick. Depend upon it I shall often visit this delightful walk during my stay in London.
To-day my two Englishmen carried me to a neighbouring tavern, or rather an eating-house, where we paid a shilling each for some roast meat and a salad, giving at the same time nearly half as much to the waiter, and yet this is reckoned a cheap house, and a cheap style of living. But I believe, for the future, I shall pretty often dine at home; I have already begun this evening with my supper. I am now sitting by the fire in my own room in London. The day is nearly at an end, the first I have spent in England, and I hardly know whether I ought to call it only one day, when I reflect what a quick and varied succession of new and striking ideas have, in so short a time, passed in my mind.
London, 5th June.
At length, dearest Gedike, I am again settled, as I have now got my trunk and all my things from the ship, which arrived only yesterday. Not wishing to have it taken to the Custom House, which occasions a great deal of trouble, I was obliged to give a douceur to the officers, and those who came on board the ship to search it. Having pacified, as I thought, one of them with a couple of shillings, another came forward and protested against the delivery of the trunk upon trust till I had given him as much. To him succeeded a third, so that it cost me six shillings, which I willingly paid, because it would have cost me still more at the Custom House.
By the side of the Thames were several porters, one of whom took my huge heavy trunk on his shoulders with astonishing ease, and carried it till I met a hackney coach. This I hired for two shillings, immediately put the trunk into it, accompanying it myself without paying anything extra for my own seat. This is a great advantage in the English hackney coaches, that you are allowed to take with you whatever you please, for you thus save at least one half of what you must pay to a porter, and besides go with it yourself, and are better accommodated. The observations and the expressions of the common people here have often struck me as peculiar. They are generally laconic, but always much in earnest and significant. When I came home, my landlady kindly recommended it to the coachman not to ask more than was just, as I was a foreigner; to which he answered, “Nay, if he were not a foreigner I should not overcharge him.”
My letters of recommendation to a merchant here, which I could not bring with me on account of my hasty departure from Hamburgh, are also arrived. These have saved me a great deal of trouble in the changing of my money. I can now take my German money back to Germany, and when I return thither myself, refund to the correspondent of the merchant here the sum which he here pays me in English money. I should otherwise have been obliged to sell my Prussian Fredericks-d’or for what they weighed; for some few Dutch dollars which I was obliged to part with before I got this credit they only gave me eight shillings.
A foreigner has here nothing to fear from being pressed as a sailor, unless, indeed, he should be found at any suspicious place. A singular invention for this purpose of pressing is a ship, which is placed on land not far from the Tower, on Tower Hill, furnished with masts and all the appurtenances of a ship. The persons attending this ship promise simple country people, who happen to be standing and staring at it, to show it to them for a trifle, and as soon as they are in, they are secured as in a trap, and according to circumstances made sailors of or let go again.
The footway, paved with large stones on both sides of the street, appears to a foreigner exceedingly convenient and pleasant, as one may there walk in perfect safety, in no more danger from the prodigious crowd of carts and coaches, than if one was in one’s own room, for no wheel dares come a finger’s breadth upon the curb stone. However, politeness requires you to let a lady, or any one to whom you wish to show respect, pass, not, as we do, always to the right, but on the side next the houses or the wall, whether that happens to be on the right or on the left, being deemed the safest and most convenient. You seldom see a person of any understanding or common sense walk in the middle of the streets in London, excepting when they cross over, which at Charing Cross and other places, where several streets meet, is sometimes really dangerous.
It has a strange appearance - especially in the Strand, where there is a constant succession of shop after shop, and where, not unfrequently, people of different trades inhabit the same house - to see their doors or the tops of their windows, or boards expressly for the purpose, all written over from top to bottom with large painted letters. Every person, of every trade or occupation, who owns ever so small a portion of a house, makes a parade with a sign at his door; and there is hardly a cobbler whose name and profession may not be read in large golden characters by every one that passes. It is here not at all uncommon to see on doors in one continued succession, “Children educated here,” “Shoes mended here,” “Foreign spirituous liquors sold here,” and “Funerals furnished here;” of all these inscriptions. I am sorry to observe that “Dealer in foreign spirituous liquors” is by far the most frequent. And indeed it is allowed by the English themselves, that the propensity of the common people to the drinking of brandy or gin is carried to a great excess; and I own it struck me as a peculiar phraseology, when, to tell you that a person is intoxicated or drunk, you hear them say, as they generally do, that he is in liquor. In the late riots, which even yet are hardly quite subsided, and which are still the general topic of conversation, more people have been found dead near empty brandy-casks in the streets, than were killed by the musket-balls of regiments that were called in. As much as I have seen of London within these two days, there are on the whole I think not very many fine streets and very fine houses, but I met everywhere a far greater number and handsomer people than one commonly meets in Berlin. It gives me much real pleasure when I walk from Charing Cross up the Strand, past St. Paul’s to the Royal Exchange, to meet in the thickest crowd persons from the highest to the lowest ranks, almost all well-looking people, and cleanly and neatly dressed. I rarely see even a fellow with a wheel-barrow who has not a shirt on, and that, too, such a one as shows it has been washed; nor even a beggar without both a shirt and shoes and stockings. The English are certainly distinguished for cleanliness.
It has a very uncommon appearance in this tumult of people, where every one, with hasty and eager step, seems to be pursuing either his business or his pleasure, and everywhere making his way through the crowd, to observe, as you often may, people pushing one against another, only perhaps to see a funeral pass. The English coffins are made very economically, according to the exact form of the body; they are flat, and broad at top; tapering gradually from the middle, and drawing to a point at the feet, not very unlike the case of a violin.
A few dirty-looking men, who bear the coffin, endeavour to make their way through the crowd as well as they can; and some mourners follow. The people seem to pay as little attention to such a procession, as if a hay-cart were driving past. The funerals of people of distinction, and of the great, are, however, differently regarded.
These funerals always appear to me the more indecent in a populous city, from the total indifference of the beholders, and the perfect unconcern with which they are beheld. The body of a fellow-creature is carried to his long home as though it had been utterly unconnected with the rest of mankind. And yet, in a small town or village, everyone knows everyone; and no one can be so insignificant as not to be missed when he is taken away.
That same influenza which I left at Berlin, I have had the hard fortune again to find here; and many people die of it. It is as yet very cold for the time of the year, and I am obliged every day to have a fire. I must own that the heat or warmth given by sea-coal, burnt in the chimney, appears to me softer and milder than that given by our stoves. The sight of the fire has also a cheerful and pleasing effect. Only you must take care not to look at it steadily, and for a continuance, for this is probably the reason that there are so many young old men in England, who walk and ride in the public streets with their spectacles on; thus anticipating, in the bloom of youth, those conveniences and comforts which were intended for old age.
I now constantly dine in my own lodgings; and I cannot but flatter myself that my meals are regulated with frugality. My usual dish at supper is some pickled salmon, which you eat in the liquor in which it is pickled, along with some oil and vinegar; and he must be prejudiced or fastidious who does not relish it as singularly well tasted and grateful food.
I would always advise those who wish to drink coffee in England, to mention beforehand how many cups are to be made with half an ounce; or else the people will probably bring them a prodigious quantity of brown water; which (notwithstanding all my admonitions) I have not yet been able wholly to avoid. The fine wheaten bread which I find here, besides excellent butter and Cheshire-cheese, makes up for my scanty dinners. For an English dinner, to such lodgers as I am, generally consists of a piece of half-boiled, or half-roasted meat; and a few cabbage leaves boiled in plain water; on which they pour a sauce made of flour and butter. This, I assure you, is the usual method of dressing vegetables in England.
The slices of bread and butter, which they give you with your tea, are as thin as poppy leaves. But there is another kind of bread and butter usually eaten with tea, which is toasted by the fire, and is incomparably good. You take one slice after the other and hold it to the fire on a fork till the butter is melted, so that it penetrates a number of slices at once: this is called toast.
The custom of sleeping without a feather-bed for a covering particularly pleased me. You here lie between two sheets: underneath the bottom sheet is a fine blanket, which, without oppressing you, keeps you sufficiently warm. My shoes are not cleaned in the house, but by a person in the neighbourhood, whose trade it is; who fetches them every morning, and brings them back cleaned; for which she receives weekly so much. When the maid is displeased with me, I hear her sometimes at the door call me “the German”; otherwise in the family I go by the name of “the Gentleman.”
I have almost entirely laid aside riding in a coach, although it does not cost near so much as it does at Berlin; as I can go and return any distance not exceeding an English mile for a shilling, for which I should there at least pay a florin. But, moderate as English fares are, still you save a great deal, if you walk or go on foot, and know only how to ask your way. From my lodging to the Royal Exchange is about as far as from one end of Berlin to the other, and from the Tower and St. Catharine’s, where the ships arrive in the Thames, as far again; and I have already walked this distance twice, when I went to look after my trunk before I got it out of the ship. As it was quite dark when I came back the first evening, I was astonished at the admirable manner in which the streets are lighted up; compared to which our streets in Berlin make a most miserable show. The lamps are lighted whilst it is still daylight, and are so near each other, that even on the most ordinary and common nights, the city has the appearance of a festive illumination, for which some German prince, who came to London for the first time, once, they say, actually took it, and seriously believed it to have been particularly ordered on account of his arrival.
The 9th June, 1782.
I preached this day at the German church on Ludgate Hill, for the Rev. Mr. Wendeborn. He is the author of “Die statischen Beyträge zur nähern Kentniss Grossbrittaniens.” This valuable book has already been of uncommon service to me, and I cannot but recommend it to everyone who goes to England. It is the more useful, as you can with ease carry it in your pocket, and you find in it information on every subject. It is natural to suppose that Mr. Wendeborn, who has now been a length of time in England, must have been able more frequently, and with greater exactness to make his observations, than those who only pass through, or make a very short stay. It is almost impossible for anyone, who has this book always at hand, to omit anything worthy of notice in or about London; or not to learn all that is most material to know of the state and situation of the kingdom in general.
Mr. Wendeborn lives in New Inn, near Temple Bar, in a philosophical, but not unimproving, retirement. He is almost become a native; and his library consists chiefly of English books. Before I proceed, I must just mention, that he has not hired, but bought his apartments in this great building, called New Inn: and this, I believe, is pretty generally the case with the lodgings in this place. A purchaser of any of these rooms is considered as a proprietor; and one who has got a house and home, and has a right, in parliamentary or other elections, to give his vote, if he is not a foreigner, which is the case with Mr. Wendeborn, who, nevertheless, was visited by Mr. Fox when he was to be chosen member for Westminster.
I saw, for the first time, at Mr. Wendeborn’s, a very useful machine, which is little known in Germany, or at least not much used.
This is a press in which, by means of very strong iron springs, a written paper may be printed on another blank paper, and you thus save yourself the trouble of copying; and at the same time multiply your own handwriting. Mr. Wendeborn makes use of this machine every time he sends manuscripts abroad, of which he wishes to keep a copy. This machine was of mahogany, and cost pretty high. I suppose it is because the inhabitants of London rise so late, that divine service begin only at half-past ten o’clock. I missed Mr. Wendeborn this morning, and was therefore obliged to enquire of the door-keeper at St. Paul’s for a direction to the German church, where I was to preach. He did not know it. I then asked at another church, not far from thence. Here I was directed right, and after I had passed through an iron gate to the end of a long passage, I arrived just in time at the church, where, after the sermon, I was obliged to read a public thanksgiving for the safe arrival of our ship. The German clergy here dress exactly the same as the English clergy - i.e., in long robes with wide sleeves - in which I likewise was obliged to wrap myself. Mr. Wendeborn wears his own hair, which curls naturally, and the toupee is combed up.
The other German clergymen whom I have seen wear wigs, as well as many of the English.
I yesterday waited on our ambassador, Count Lucy, and was agreeably surprised at the simplicity of his manner of living. He lives in a small private house. His secretary lives upstairs, where also I met with the Prussian consul, who happened just then to be paying him a visit. Below, on the right hand, I was immediately shown into his Excellency’s room, without being obliged to pass through an antechamber. He wore a blue coat, with a red collar and red facings. He conversed with me, as we drank a dish of coffee, on various learned topics; and when I told him of the great dispute now going on about the tacismus or stacismus, he declared himself, as a born Greek, for the stacismus.
When I came to take my leave, he desired me to come and see him without ceremony whenever it suited me, as he should be always happy to see me.
Mr. Leonhard, who has translated several celebrated English plays, such as “The School for Scandal,” and some others, lives here as a private person, instructing Germans in English, and Englishmen in German, with great ability. He also it is who writes the articles concerning England for the new Hamburgh newspaper, for which he is paid a stated yearly stipend. I may add also, that he is the master of a German Freemasons’ lodge in London, and representative of all the German lodges in England - an employment of far more trouble than profit to him, for all the world applies to him in all cases and emergencies. I also was recommended to him from Hamburgh. He is a very complaisant man, and has already shown me many civilities. He repeats English poetry with great propriety, and speaks the language nearly with the same facility as he does his mother language. He is married to an amiable Englishwoman. I wish him all possible happiness. And now let me tell you something of the so often imitated, but perhaps inimitable
I yesterday visited Vauxhall for the first time. I had not far to go from my lodgings, in the Adelphi Buildings, to Westminster Bridge, where you always find a great number of boats on the Thames, which are ready on the least signal to serve those who will pay them a shilling or sixpence, or according to the distance.
From hence I went up the Thames to Vauxhall, and as I passed along I saw Lambeth; and the venerable old palace belonging to the archbishops of Canterbury lying on my left.
Vauxhall is, properly speaking, the name of a little village in which the garden, now almost exclusively bearing the same name, is situated. You pay a shilling entrance.
On entering it, I really found, or fancied I found, some resemblance to our Berlin Vauxhall, if, according to Virgil, I may be permitted to compare small things with great ones. The walks at least, with the paintings at the end, and the high trees, which, here and there form a beautiful grove, or wood, on either side, were so similar to those of Berlin, that often, as I walked along them, I seemed to transport myself, in imagination, once more to Berlin, and forgot for a moment that immense seas, and mountains, and kingdoms now lie between us. I was the more tempted to indulge in this reverie as I actually met with several gentlemen, inhabitants of Berlin, in particular Mr. S--r, and some others, with whom I spent the evening in the most agreeable manner. Here and there (particularly in one of the charming woods which art has formed in this garden) you are pleasingly surprised by the sudden appearance of the statues of the most renowned English poets and philosophers, such as Milton, Thomson, and others. But, what gave me most pleasure was the statue of the German composer Handel, which, on entering the garden, is not far distant from the orchestra.
This orchestra is among a number of trees situated as in a little wood, and is an exceedingly handsome one. As you enter the garden, you immediately hear the sound of vocal and instrumental music. There are several female singers constantly hired here to sing in public.
On each side of the orchestra are small boxes, with tables and benches, in which you sup. The walks before these, as well as in every other part of the garden, are crowded with people of all ranks. I supped here with Mr. S--r, and the secretary of the Prussian ambassador, besides a few other gentlemen from Berlin; but what most astonished me was the boldness of the women of the town, who often rushed in upon us by half dozens, and in the most shameless manner importuned us for wine, for themselves and their followers. Our gentlemen thought it either unwise, unkind, or unsafe, to refuse them so small a boon altogether.
Latish in the evening we were entertained with a sight, that is indeed singularly curious and interesting. In a particular part of the garden a curtain was drawn up, and by means of some mechanism of extraordinary ingenuity, the eye and the ear are so completely deceived, that it is not easy to persuade one’s self it is a deception, and that one does not actually see and hear a natural waterfall from a high rock. As everyone was flocking to this scene in crowds, there arose all at once a loud cry of “Take care of your pockets.” This informed us, but too clearly, that there were some pickpockets among the crowd, who had already made some fortunate strokes.
The rotunda, a magnificent circular building in the garden, particularly engaged my attention. By means of beautiful chandeliers, and large mirrors, it was illuminated in the most superb manner; and everywhere decorated with delightful paintings, and statues, in the contemplation of which you may spend several hours very agreeably, when you are tired of the crowd and the bustle, in the walks of the garden.
Among the paintings one represents the surrender of a besieged city. If you look at this painting with attention, for any length of time, it affects you so much that you even shed tears. The expression of the greatest distress, even bordering on despair, on the part of the besieged, the fearful expectation of the uncertain issue, and what the victor will determine concerning those unfortunate people, may all be read so plainly, and so naturally in the countenances of the inhabitants, who are imploring for mercy, from the hoary head to the suckling whom his mother holds up, that you quite forget yourself, and in the end scarcely believe it to be a painting before you.
You also here find the busts of the best English authors, placed all round on the sides. Thus a Briton again meets with his Shakespeare, Locke, Milton, and Dryden in the public places of his amusements; and there also reveres their memory. Even the common people thus become familiar with the names of those who have done honour to their nation; and are taught to mention them with veneration. For this rotunda is also an orchestra in which the music is performed in rainy weather. But enough of Vauxhall!
Certain it is that the English classical authors are read more generally, beyond all comparison, than the German; which in general are read only by the learned; or, at most, by the middle class of people. The English national authors are in all hands, and read by all people, of which the innumerable editions they have gone through are a sufficient proof.
My landlady, who is only a tailor’s widow, reads her Milton; and tells me, that her late husband first fell in love with her on this very account: because she read Milton with such proper emphasis. This single instance, perhaps, would prove but little; but I have conversed with several people of the lower class, who all knew their national authors, and who all have read many, if not all, of them. This elevates the lower ranks, and brings them nearer to the higher. There is hardly any argument or dispute in conversation, in the higher ranks, about which the lower cannot also converse or give their opinion. Now, in Germany, since Gellert, there has as yet been no poet’s name familiar to the people. But the quick sale of the classical authors is here promoted also by cheap and convenient editions. They have them all bound in pocket volumes, as well as in a more pompous style. I myself bought Milton in duodecimo for two shillings, neatly bound; it is such a one as I can, with great convenience, carry in my pocket. It also appears to me to be a good fashion, which prevails here, and here only, that the books which are most read, are always to be had already well and neatly bound. At stalls, and in the streets, you every now and then meet with a sort of antiquarians, who sell single or odd volumes; sometimes perhaps of Shakespeare, etc., so low as a penny; nay, even sometimes for a halfpenny a piece. Of one of these itinerant antiquarians I bought the two volumes of the Vicar of Wakefield for sixpence, i.e. for the half of an English shilling. In what estimation our German literature is held in England, I was enabled to judge, in some degree, by the printed proposals of a book which I saw. The title was, “The Entertaining Museum, or Complete Circulating Library,” which is to contain a list of all the English classical authors, as well as translations of the best French, Spanish, Italian, and even German novels.
The moderate price of this book deserves also to be noticed; as by such means books in England come more within the reach of the people; and of course are more generally distributed among them. The advertisement mentions that in order that everyone may have it in his power to buy this work, and at once to furnish himself with a very valuable library, without perceiving the expense, a number will be sent out weekly, which, stitched, costs sixpence, and bound with the title on the back, ninepence. The twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth numbers contain the first and second volume of the Vicar of Wakefield, which I had just bought of the antiquarian above-mentioned.
The only translation from the German which has been particularly successful in England, is Gesner’s “Death of Abel.” The translation of that work has been oftener reprinted in England than ever the original was in Germany. I have actually seen the eighteenth edition of it; and if the English preface is to be regarded, it was written by a lady. “Klopstock’s Messiah,” as is well known, has been here but ill received; to be sure, they say it is but indifferently translated. I have not yet been able to obtain a sight of it. The Rev. Mr. Wendeborn has written a grammar for the German language in English, for the use of Englishmen, which has met with much applause.
I must not forget to mention, that the works of Mr. Jacob Boehmen are all translated into English.
London, 13th June.
Often as I had heard Ranelagh spoken of, I had yet formed only an imperfect idea of it. I supposed it to be a garden somewhat different from that of Vauxhall; but, in fact, I hardly knew what I thought of it. Yesterday evening I took a walk in order to visit this famous place of amusement; but I missed my way and got to Chelsea; where I met a man with a wheel-barrow, who not only very civilly showed me the right road, but also conversed with me the whole of the distance which we walked together. And finding, upon enquiry, that I was a subject of the King of Prussia, he desired me, with much eagerness, to relate to him some anecdotes concerning that mighty monarch. At length I arrived at Ranelagh; and having paid my half-crown on entrance, I soon enquired for the garden door, and it was readily shown to me; when, to my infinite astonishment, I found myself in a poor, mean-looking, and ill-lighted garden, where I met but few people. I had not been here long before I was accosted by a young lady, who also was walking there, and who, without ceremony, offered me her arm, asking me why I walked thus solitarily? I now concluded, this could not possibly be the splendid, much-boasted Ranelagh; and so, seeing not far from me a number of people entering a door, I followed them, in hopes either to get out again, or to vary the scene.
But it is impossible to describe, or indeed to conceive, the effect it had on me, when, coming out of the gloom of the garden, I suddenly entered a round building, illuminated by many hundred lamps; the splendour and beauty of which surpassed everything of the kind I had ever seen before. Everything seemed here to be round; above, there was a gallery divided into boxes; and in one part of it an organ with a beautiful choir, from which issued both instrumental and vocal music. All around, under this gallery, are handsome painted boxes for those who wish to take refreshments: the floor was covered with mats, in the middle of which are four high black pillars; within which there are neat fire-places for preparing tea, coffee and punch; and all around, also, there are placed tables, set out with all kinds of refreshments. Within these four pillars, in a kind of magic rotundo, all the beau-monde of London move perpetually round and round.
I at first mixed with this immense concourse of people, of all sexes, ages, countries, and characters; and I must confess, that the incessant change of faces, the far greater number of which were strikingly beautiful, together with the illumination, the extent and majestic splendour of the place, with the continued sound of the music, makes an inconceivably delightful impression on the imagination; and I take the liberty to add, that, on seeing it now for the first time, I felt pretty nearly the same sensations that I remember to have felt when, in early youth, I first read the Fairy Tales.
Being, however, at length tired of the crowd, and being tired also with always moving round and round in a circle, I sat myself down in one of the boxes, in order to take some refreshment, and was now contemplating at my ease this prodigious collection and crowd of a happy, cheerful world, who were here enjoying themselves devoid of care, when a waiter very civilly asked me what refreshments I wished to have, and in a few moments returned with what I asked for. To my astonishment he would accept no money for these refreshments; which I could not comprehend, till he told me that everything was included in the half-crown I had paid at the door; and that I had only to command if I wished for anything more; but that if I pleased, I might give him as a present a trifling douceur. This I gave him with pleasure, as I could not help fancying I was hardly entitled to so much civility and good attention for one single half-crown.
I now went up into the gallery, and seated myself in one of the boxes there; and from thence becoming all at once a grave and moralising spectator, I looked down on the concourse of people who were still moving round and round in the fairy circle; and then I could easily distinguish several stars and other orders of knighthood; French queues and bags contrasted with plain English heads of hair, or professional wigs; old age and youth, nobility and commonalty, all passing each other in the motley swarm. An Englishman who joined me during this my reverie, pointed out to me on my enquiring, princes and lords with their dazzling stars; with which they eclipsed the less brilliant part of the company.
Here some moved round in an eternal circle to see and be seen; there a group of eager connoisseurs had placed themselves before the orchestra and were feasting their ears, while others at the well-supplied tables were regaling the parched roofs of their mouths in a more substantial manner, and again others, like myself, were sitting alone, in the corner of a box in the gallery, making their remarks and reflections on so interesting a scene.
I now and then indulged myself in the pleasure of exchanging, for some minutes, all this magnificence and splendour for the gloom of the garden, in order to renew the pleasing surprise I experienced on my first entering the building. Thus I spent here some hours in the night in a continual variation of entertainment; when the crowd now all at once began to lessen, and I also took a coach and drove home.
At Ranelagh the company appeared to me much better, and more select than at Vauxhall; for those of the lower class who go there, always dress themselves in their best, and thus endeavour to copy the great. Here I saw no one who had not silk stockings on. Even the poorest families are at the expense of a coach to go to Ranelagh, as my landlady assured me. She always fixed on some one day in the year, on which, without fail, she drove to Ranelagh. On the whole the expense at Ranelagh is nothing near so great as it is at Vauxhall, if you consider the refreshments; for any one who sups at Vauxhall, which most people do, is likely, for a very moderate supper, to pay at least half-a-guinea.
I had almost forgotten to tell you that I have already been to the Parliament House; and yet this is of most importance. For, had I seen nothing else in England but this, I should have thought my journey thither amply rewarded.
As little as I have hitherto troubled myself with politics, because indeed with us it is but little worth our while, I was however desirous of being present at a meeting of parliament - a wish that was soon amply gratified.
One afternoon, about three o’clock, at which hour, or thereabouts, the house most commonly meets, I enquired for Westminster Hall, and was very politely directed by an Englishman. These directions are always given with the utmost kindness. You may ask whom you please, if you can only make yourself tolerably well understood; and by thus asking every now and then, you may with the greatest ease find your way throughout all London.
Westminster Hall is an enormous Gothic building, whose vaulted roof is supported, not by pillars, but instead of these there are, on each side, large unnatural heads of angels, carved in wood, which seem to support the roof.
When you have passed through this long hall, you ascend a few steps at the end, and are led through a dark passage into the House of Commons, which, below, has a large double-door; and above, there is a small staircase, by which you go to the gallery, the place allotted for strangers.
The first time I went up this small staircase, and had reached the rails, I saw a very genteel man in black standing there. I accosted him without any introduction, and I asked him whether I might be allowed to go into the gallery. He told me that I must be introduced by a member, or else I could not get admission there. Now, as I had not the honour to be acquainted with a member, I was under the mortifying necessity of retreating, and again going down-stairs, as I did much chagrined. And now, as I was sullenly marching back, I heard something said about a bottle of wine, which seemed to be addressed to me.
I could not conceive what it could mean, till I got home, when my obliging landlady told me I should have given the well-dressed man half-a-crown, or a couple of shillings for a bottle of wine. Happy in this information, I went again the next day; when the same man who before had sent me away, after I had given him only two shillings, very politely opened the door for me, and himself recommended me to a good seat in the gallery.
And thus I now, for the first time, saw the whole of the British nation assembled in its representatives, in rather a mean-looking building, that not a little resembles a chapel. The Speaker, an elderly man, with an enormous wig, with two knotted kind of tresses, or curls, behind, in a black cloak, his hat on his head, sat opposite to me on a lofty chair; which was not unlike a small pulpit, save only that in the front of there was no reading-desk. Before the Speaker’s chair stands a table, which looks like an altar; and at this there sit two men, called clerks, dressed in black, with black cloaks. On the table, by the side of the great parchment acts, lies a huge gilt sceptre, which is always taken away, and placed in a conservatory under the table, as soon as ever the Speaker quits the chair; which he does as often as the House resolves itself into a committee. A committee means nothing more than that the House puts itself into a situation freely to discuss and debate any point of difficulty and moment, and, while it lasts, the Speaker partly lays aside his power as a legislator. As soon as this is over, some one tells the Speaker that he may now again be seated; and immediately on the Speaker being again in the chair, the sceptre is also replaced on the table before him.
All round on the sides of the house, under the gallery, are benches for the members, covered with green cloth, always one above the other, like our choirs in churches, in order that he who is speaking may see over those who sit before him. The seats in the gallery are on the same plan. The members of parliament keep their hats on, but the spectators in the gallery are uncovered.
The members of the House of Commons have nothing particular in their dress. They even come into the House in their great coats, and with boots and spurs. It is not at all uncommon to see a member lying stretched out on one of the benches while others are debating. Some crack nuts, others eat oranges, or whatever else is in season. There is no end to their going in and out; and as often as any one wishes to go out, he places himself before the Speaker, and makes him his bow, as if, like a schoolboy, he asked tutor’s permission.
Those who speak seem to deliver themselves with but little, perhaps not always with even a decorous, gravity. All that is necessary is to stand up in your place, take off your hat, turn to the Speaker (to whom all the speeches are addressed), to hold your hat and stick in one hand, and with the other to make any such motions as you fancy necessary to accompany your speech.
If it happens that a member rises who is but a bad speaker, or if what he says is generally deemed not sufficiently interesting, so much noise is made, and such bursts of laughter are raised, that the member who is speaking can scarcely distinguish his own words. This must needs be a distressing situation; and it seems then to be particularly laughable, when the Speaker in his chair, like a tutor in a school, again and again endeavours to restore order, which he does by calling out “To order, to order,” apparently often without much attention being paid to it.
On the contrary, when a favourite member, and one who speaks well and to the purpose, rises, the most perfect silence reigns, and his friends and admirers, one after another, make their approbation known by calling out, “Hear him,” which is often repeated by the whole House at once; and in this way so much noise is often made that the speaker is frequently interrupted by this same emphatic “Hear him.” Notwithstanding which, this calling out is always regarded as a great encouragement; and I have often observed that one who began with some diffidence, and even somewhat inauspiciously, has in the end been so animated that he has spoken with a torrent of eloquence.
As all speeches are directed to the Speaker, all the members always preface their speeches with “Sir” and he, on being thus addressed, generally moves his hat a little, but immediately puts it on again. This “Sir” is often introduced in the course of their speeches, and serves to connect what is said. It seems also to stand the orator in some stead when any one’s memory fails him, or he is otherwise at a loss for matter. For while he is saying “Sir,” and has thus obtained a little pause, he recollects what is to follow. Yet I have sometimes seen some members draw a kind of memorandum-book out of their pockets, like a candidate who is at a loss in his sermon. This is the only instance in which a member of the British parliament seems to read his speeches.
The first day that I was at the House of Commons an English gentleman who sat next to me in the gallery very obligingly pointed out to me the principal members, such as Fox, Burke, Rigby, etc., all of whom I heard speak. The debate happened to be whether, besides being made a peer, any other specific reward should be bestowed by the nation on their gallant admiral Rodney. In the course of the debate, I remember, Mr. Fox was very sharply reprimanded by young Lord Fielding for having, when minister, opposed the election of Admiral Hood as a member for Westminster.
Fox was sitting to the right of the Speaker, not far from the table on which the gilt sceptre lay. He now took his place so near it that he could reach it with his hand, and, thus placed, he gave it many a violent and hearty thump, either to aid, or to show the energy with which he spoke. If the charge was vehement, his defence was no less so. He justified himself against Lord Fielding by maintaining that he had not opposed this election in the character of a minister, but as an individual, or private person; and that, as such, he had freely and honestly given his vote for another - namely, for Sir Cecil Wray, adding that the King, when he appointed him Secretary of State, had entered into no agreement with him by which he lost his vote as an individual; to such a requisition he never would have submitted. It is impossible for me to describe with what fire and persuasive eloquence he spoke, and how the Speaker in the chair incessantly nodded approbation from beneath his solemn wig, and innumerable voices incessantly called out, “Hear him! hear him!” and when there was the least sign that he intended to leave off speaking they no less vociferously exclaimed, “Go on;” and so he continued to speak in this manner for nearly two hours. Mr. Rigby, in reply, made a short but humorous speech, in which he mentioned of how little consequence the title of “lord” and “lady” was without money to support it, and finished with the Latin proverb, “infelix paupertas - quia ridiculos miseros facit.” After having first very judiciously observed that previous inquiry should be made whether Admiral Rodney had made any rich prizes or captures; because, if that should be the case, he would not stand in need of further reward in money. I have since been almost every day at the parliament house, and prefer the entertainment I there meet with to most other amusements.
Fox is still much beloved by the people, notwithstanding that they are (and certainly with good reason) displeased at his being the cause of Admiral Rodney’s recall, though even I have heard him again and again almost extravagant in his encomiums on this noble admiral. The same celebrated Charles Fox is a short, fat, and gross man, with a swarthy complexion, and dark; and in general he is badly dressed. There certainly is something Jewish in his looks. But upon the whole, he is not an ill-made nor an ill-looking man, and there are many strong marks of sagacity and fire in his eyes. I have frequently heard the people here say that this same Mr. Fox is as cunning as a fox. Burke is a well-made, tall, upright man, but looks elderly and broken. Rigby is excessively corpulent, and has a jolly rubicund face.
The little less than downright open abuse, and the many really rude things which the members said to each other, struck me much. For example, when one has finished, another rises, and immediately taxes with absurdity all that the right honourable gentleman (for with this title the members of the House of Commons always honour each other) had just advanced. It would, indeed, be contrary to the rules of the House flatly to tell each other that what they have spoken is false, or even foolish. Instead of this, they turn themselves, as usual, to the Speaker, and so, whilst their address is directed to him, they fancy they violate neither the rules of parliament nor those of good breeding and decorum, whilst they utter the most cutting personal sarcasms against the member or the measure they oppose.
It is quite laughable to see, as one sometimes does, one member speaking, and another accompanying the speech with his action. This I remarked more than once in a worthy old citizen, who was fearful of speaking himself, but when his neighbour spoke he accompanied every energetic sentence with a suitable gesticulation, by which means his whole body was sometimes in motion.
It often happens that the jett, or principal point in the debate is lost in these personal contests and bickerings between each other. When they last so long as to become quite tedious and tiresome, and likely to do harm rather than good, the House takes upon itself to express its disapprobation; and then there arises a general cry of, “The question! the question!” This must sometimes be frequently repeated, as the contending members are both anxious to have the last word. At length, however, the question is put, and the votes taken, when the Speaker says, “Those who are for the question are to say aye, and those who are against it no.” You then hear a confused cry of “aye” and “no” but at length the Speaker says, “I think there are more ayes than noes, or more noes than ayes. The ayes have it; or the noes have it,” as the case may be. But all the spectators must then retire from the gallery; for then, and not till then, the voting really commences. And now the members call aloud to the gallery, “Withdraw! withdraw!” On this the strangers withdraw, and are shut up in a small room at the foot of the stairs till the voting is over, when they are again permitted to take their places in the gallery. Here I could not help wondering at the impatience even of polished Englishmen. It is astonishing with what violence, and even rudeness, they push and jostle one another as soon as the room door is again opened, eager to gain the first and best seats in the gallery. In this manner we (the strangers) have sometimes been sent away two or three times in the course of one day, or rather evening, afterwards again permitted to return. Among these spectators are people of all ranks, and even, not unfrequently, ladies. Two shorthand writers have sat sometimes not far distant from me, who (though it is rather by stealth) endeavour to take down the words of the speaker; and thus all that is very remarkable in what is said in parliament may generally be read in print the next day. The shorthand writers, whom I noticed, are supposed to be employed and paid by the editors of the different newspapers. There are, it seems, some few persons who are constant attendants on the parliament; and so they pay the door-keeper beforehand a guinea for a whole session. I have now and then seen some of the members bring their sons, whilst quite little boys, and carry them to their seats along with themselves.
A proposal was once made to erect a gallery in the House of Peers also for the accommodation of spectators. But this never was carried into effect. There appears to be much more politeness and more courteous behaviour in the members of the upper House. But he who wishes to observe mankind, and to contemplate the leading traits of the different characters most strongly marked, will do well to attend frequently the lower, rather than the other, House.
Last Tuesday was (what is here called) hanging-day. There was also a parliamentary election. I could only see one of the two sights, and therefore naturally preferred the latter, while I only heard tolling at a distance the death-bell of the sacrifice to justice. I now, therefore, am going to describe to you, as well as can, an
Election for a Member of Parliament.
The cities of London and Westminster send, the one four, and the other two, members to parliament. Mr. Fox is one of the two members for Westminster. One seat was vacant, and that vacancy was now to be filled. And the same Sir Cecil Wray, whom Fox had before opposed to Lord Hood, was now publicly chosen. They tell me that at these elections, when there is a strong opposition party, there is often bloody work; but this election was, in the electioneering phrase, a “hollow thing” - i.e. quite sure, as those who had voted for Admiral Hood now withdrew, without standing a poll, as being convinced beforehand their chance to succeed was desperate.
The election was held in Covent Garden, a large market-place in the open air. There was a scaffold erected just before the door of a very handsome church, which is also called St. Paul’s, but which, however, is not to be compared to the cathedral.
A temporary edifice, formed only of boards and wood nailed together, was erected on the occasion. It was called the hustings, and filled with benches; and at one end of it, where the benches ended, mats were laid, on which those who spoke to the people stood. In the area before the hustings immense multitudes of people were assembled, of whom the greatest part seemed to be of the lowest order. To this tumultuous crowd, however, the speakers often bowed very low, and always addressed them by the title of “gentlemen.” Sir Cecil Wray was obliged to step forward and promise these same gentlemen, with hand and heart, that he would faithfully fulfil his duties as their representative. He also made an apology because, on account of his long journey and ill-health, he had not been able to wait on them, as became him, at their respective houses. The moment that he began to speak, even this rude rabble became all as quiet as the raging sea after a storm, only every now and then rending the air with the parliamentary cry of “Hear him! hear him!” and as soon as he had done speaking, they again vociferated aloud an universal “huzza,” every one at the same time waving his hat.
And now, being formally declared to have been legally chosen, he again bowed most profoundly, and returned thanks for the great honour done him, when a well-dressed man, whose name I could not learn, stepped forward, and in a well-indited speech congratulated both the chosen and the choosers. “Upon my word,” said a gruff carter who stood near me, “that man speaks well.”
Even little boys clambered up and hung on the rails and on the lamp-posts; and as if the speeches had also been addressed to them, they too listened with the utmost attention, and they too testified their approbation of it by joining lustily in the three cheers and waving their hats.
All the enthusiasm of my earliest years kindled by the patriotism of the illustrious heroes of Rome. Coriolanus, Julius Cæsar, and Antony were now revived in my mind; and though all I had just seen and heard be, in fact, but the semblance of liberty, and that, too, tribunitial liberty, yet at that moment I thought it charming, and it warmed my heart. Yes, depend on it, my friend, when you here see how, in the happy country, the lowest and meanest member of society thus unequivocally testifies the interest which he takes in everything of a public nature; when you see how even women and children bear a part in the great concerns of their country; in short, how high and low, rich and poor, all concur in declaring their feelings and their convictions that a carter, a common tar, or a scavenger, is still a man - nay, an Englishman, and as such has his rights and privileges defined and known as exactly and as well as his king, or as his king’s minister - take my word for it, you will feel yourself very differently affected from what you are when staring at our soldiers in their exercises at Berlin.
When Fox, who was among the voters, arrived at the beginning of the election, he too was received with an universal shout of joy. At length, when it was nearly over, the people took it into their heads to hear him speak, and every one called out, “Fox! Fox!” I know not why, but I seemed to catch some of the spirit of the place and time, and so I also bawled “Fox! Fox!” and he was obliged to come forward and speak, for no other reason that I could find but that the people wished to hear him speak. In this speech he again confirmed, in the presence of the people, his former declaration in parliament, that he by no means had any influence as minister of State in this election, but only and merely as a private person.
When the whole was over, the rampant spirit of liberty and the wild impatience of a genuine English mob were exhibited in perfection. In a very few minutes the whole scaffolding, benches, and chairs, and everything else, was completely destroyed. and the mat with which it had been covered torn into ten thousand long strips, or pieces, or strings, with which they encircled or enclosed multitudes of people of all ranks. These they hurried along with them, and everything else that came in their way, as trophies of joy; and thus, in the midst of exultation and triumph, they paraded through many of the most populous streets of London.
Whilst in Prussia poets only speak of the love of country as one of the dearest of all human affections, here there is no man who does not feel, and describe with rapture, how much he loves his country. “Yes, for my country I’ll shed the last drop of my blood!” often exclaims little Jacky, the fine boy here in the house where I live, who is yet only about twelve years old. The love of their country, and its unparalleled feats in war are, in general, the subject of their ballads and popular songs, which are sung about the streets by women, who sell them for a few farthings. It was only the other day our Jacky brought one home, in which the history of an admiral was celebrated who bravely continued to command, even after his two legs were shot off and he was obliged to be supported. I know not well by what means it has happened that the King of England, who is certainly one of the best the nation ever had, is become unpopular. I know not how many times I have heard people of all sorts object to their king at the same time that they praised the King of Prussia to the skies. Indeed, with some the veneration for our monarch went so far that they seriously wished he was their king. All that seems to shock and dishearten them is the prodigious armies he keeps up, and the immense number of soldiers quartered in Berlin alone. Whereas in London, at least in the city, not a single troop of soldiers of the King’s guard dare make their appearance.
A few days ago I saw what is here deemed a great sight - viz., a lord mayor’s procession. The lord mayor was in an enormous large gilt coach, which was followed by an astonishing number of most showy carriages, in which the rest of the city magistrates, more properly called aldermen of London, were seated. But enough for the present.
London, June 17th, 1782.
I have now been pretty nearly all over London, and, according to my own notions, have now seen most of the things I was most anxious to see. Hereafter, then, I propose to make an excursion into the country; and this purpose, by the blessing of God, I hope to be able to carry into effect in a very few days, for my curiosity is here almost satiated. I seem to be tired and sick of the smoke of these sea-coal fires, and I long, with almost childish impatience, once more to breathe a fresher and clearer air.
It must, I think, be owned, that upon the whole, London is neither so handsomely nor so well built as Berlin is; but then it certainly has far more fine squares. Of these there are many that in real magnificence and beautiful symmetry far surpass our Gens d’Armes Markt, our Denhoschen and William’s Place. The squares or quadrangular places contain the best and most beautiful buildings of London; a spacious street, next to the houses, goes all round them, and within that there is generally a round grass-plot, railed in with iron rails, in the centre of which, in many of them, there is a statue, which statues most commonly are equestrian and gilt. In Grosvenor Square, instead of this green plot or area, there is a little circular wood, intended, no doubt, to give one the idea of rus in urbe.
One of the longest and pleasantest walks I have yet taken is from Paddington to Islington; where to the left you have a fine prospect of the neighbouring hills, and in particular of the village of Hampstead, which is built on one of them; and to the right the streets of London furnish an endless variety of interesting views. It is true that it is dangerous to walk here alone, especially in the afternoon and in an evening, or at night, for it was only last week that a man was robbed and murdered on this very same road. But I now hasten to another and a more pleasing topic:
The British Museum.
I have had the happiness to become acquainted with the Rev. Mr. Woide; who, though well known all over Europe to be one of the most learned men of the age, is yet, if possible, less estimable for his learning than he is for his unaffected goodness of heart. He holds a respectable office in the museum, and was obliging enough to procure me permission to see it, luckily the day before it was shut up. In general you must give in your name a fortnight before you can he admitted. But after all, I am sorry to say, it was the rooms, the glass cases, the shelves, or the repository for the books in the British Museum which I saw, and not the museum itself, we were hurried on so rapidly through the apartments. The company, who saw it when and as I did, was various, and some of all sorts; some, I believe, of the very lowest classes of the people, of both sexes; for, as it is the property of the nation, every one has the same right (I use the term of the country) to see it that another has. I had Mr. Wendeborn’s book in my pocket, and it, at least, enabled me to take a somewhat more particular notice of some of the principal things; such as the Egyptian mummy, a head of Homer, &c. The rest of the company, observing that I had some assistance which they had not, soon gathered round me; I pointed out to them as we went along, from Mr. Wendeborn’s German book, what there was most worth seeing here. The gentleman who conducted us took little pains to conceal the contempt which he felt for my communications when he found out that it was only a German description of the British Museum I had got. The rapidly passing through this vast suite of rooms, in a space of time little, if at all, exceeding an hour, with leisure just to cast one poor longing look of astonishment on all these stupendous treasures of natural curiosities, antiquities, and literature, in the contemplation of which you could with pleasure spend years, and a whole life might be employed in the study of them - quite confuses, stuns, and overpowers one. In some branches this collection is said to be far surpassed by some others; but taken altogether, and for size, it certainly is equalled by none. The few foreign divines who travel through England generally desire to have the Alexandrian manuscript shewn them, in order to be convinced with their own eyes whether the passage, “These are the three that bear record, &c.,” is to be found there or not.
The Rev. Mr. Woide lives at a place called Lisson Street, not far from Paddington; a very village-looking little town, at the west end of London. It is quite a rural and pleasant situation; for here I either do, or fancy I do, already breathe a purer and freer air than in the midst of the town. Of his great abilities, and particularly in oriental literature, I need not inform you; but it will give you pleasure to hear that he is actually meditating a fac-simile edition of the Alexandrian MS. I have already mentioned the infinite obligations I lie under to this excellent man for his extraordinary courtesy and kindness.
The Theatre in the Haymarket.
Last week I went twice to an English play-house. The first time “The Nabob” was represented, of which the late Mr. Foote was the author, and for the entertainment, a very pleasing and laughable musical farce, called “The Agreeable Surprise.” The second time I saw “The English Merchant:” which piece has been translated into German, and is known among us by the title of “The Scotchwoman,” or “The Coffee-house.” I have not yet seen the theatres of Covent Garden and Drury Lane, because they are not open in summer. The best actors also usually spend May and October in the country, and only perform in winter.
A very few excepted, the comedians whom I saw were certainly nothing extraordinary. For a seat in the boxes you pay five shillings, in the pit three, in the first gallery two, and in the second or upper gallery, one shilling. And it is the tenants in this upper gallery who, for their shilling, make all that noise and uproar for which the English play-houses are so famous. I was in the pit, which gradually rises, amphitheatre-wise, from the orchestra, and is furnished with benches, one above another, from the top to the bottom. Often and often, whilst I sat there, did a rotten orange, or pieces of the peel of an orange, fly past me, or past some of my neighbours, and once one of them actually hit my hat, without my daring to look round, for fear another might then hit me on my face.
All over London as one walks, one everywhere, in the season, sees oranges to sell; and they are in general sold tolerably cheap, one and even sometimes two for a halfpenny; or, in our money, threepence. At the play-house, however, they charged me sixpence for one orange, and that noways remarkably good.
Besides this perpetual pelting from the gallery, which renders an English play-house so uncomfortable, there is no end to their calling out and knocking with their sticks till the curtain is drawn up. I saw a miller’s, or a baker’s boy, thus, like a huge booby, leaning over the rails and knocking again and again on the outside, with all his might, so that he was seen by everybody, without being in the least ashamed or abashed. I sometimes heard, too, the people in the lower or middle gallery quarrelling with those of the upper one. Behind me, in the pit, sat a young fop, who, in order to display his costly stone buckles with the utmost brilliancy, continually put his foot on my bench, and even sometimes upon my coat, which I could avoid only by sparing him as much space from my portion of the seat as would make him a footstool. In the boxes, quite in a corner, sat several servants, who were said to be placed there to keep the seats for the families they served till they should arrive; they seemed to sit remarkably close and still, the reason of which, I was told, was their apprehension of being pelted; for if one of them dares but to look out of the box, he is immediately saluted with a shower of orange peel from the gallery.
In Foote’s “Nabob” there are sundry local and personal satires which are entirely lost to a foreigner. The character of the Nabob was performed by a Mr. Palmer. The jett of the character is, this Nabob, with many affected airs and constant aims at gentility, is still but a silly fellow, unexpectedly come into the possession of immense riches, and therefore, of course, paid much court to by a society of natural philosophers, Quakers, and I do not know who besides. Being tempted to become one of their members, he is elected, and in order to ridicule these would-be philosophers, but real knaves, a fine flowery fustian speech is put into his mouth, which he delivers with prodigious pomp and importance, and is listened to by the philosophers with infinite complacency. The two scenes of the Quakers and philosophers, who, with countenances full of imaginary importance, were seated at a green table with their president at their head while the secretary, with the utmost care, was making an inventory of the ridiculous presents of the Nabob, were truly laughable. One of the last scenes was best received: it is that in which the Nabob’s friend and school-fellow visit him, and address him without ceremony by his Christian name; but to all their questions of “Whether he does not recollect them? Whether he does not remember such and such a play; or such and such a scrape into which they had fallen in their youth?” he uniformly answers with a look of ineffable contempt, only, “No sir!” Nothing can possibly be more ludicrous, nor more comic.
The entertainment, “The Agreeable Surprise,” is really a very diverting farce. I observed that, in England also, they represent school-masters in ridiculous characters on the stage, which, though I am sorry for, I own I do not wonder at, as the pedantry of school-masters in England, they tell me, is carried at least as far as it is elsewhere. The same person who, in the play, performed the school-fellow of the Nabob with a great deal of nature and original humour, here acted the part of the school-master: his name is Edwin, and he is, without doubt, one of the best actors of all that I have seen.
This school-master is in love with a certain country girl, whose name is Cowslip, to whom he makes a declaration of his passion in a strange mythological, grammatical style and manner, and to whom, among other fooleries, he sings, quite enraptured, the following air, and seems to work himself at least up to such a transport of passion as quite overpowers him. He begins, you will observe, with the conjugation, and ends with the declensions and the genders; the whole is inimitably droll:
I love a lass,
She is so sweet and tender,
It is sweet Cowslip’s Grace
In the Nominative Case.
And in the feminine Gender.”
Those two sentences in particular, “in the Nominative Case,” and “in the feminine Gender,” he affects to sing in a particularly languishing air, as if confident that it was irresistible. This Edwin, in all his comic characters, still preserves something so inexpressibly good-tempered in his countenance, that notwithstanding all his burlesques and even grotesque buffoonery, you cannot but be pleased with him. I own, I felt myself doubly interested for every character which he represented. Nothing could equal the tone and countenance of self-satisfaction with which he answered one who asked him whether he was a scholar? “Why, I was a master of scholars.” A Mrs. Webb represented a cheesemonger, and played the part of a woman of the lower class so naturally as I have nowhere else ever seen equalled. Her huge, fat, and lusty carcase, and the whole of her external appearance seemed quite to be cut out for it.
Poor Edwin was obliged, as school-master, to sing himself almost hoarse, as he sometimes was called on to repeat his declension and conjugation songs two or three times, only because it pleased the upper gallery, or “the gods,” as the English call them, to roar out “encore.” Add to all this, he was farther forced to thank them with a low bow for the great honour done him by their applause.
One of the highest comic touches in the piece seemed to me to consist in a lie, which always became more and more enormous in the mouths of those who told it again, during the whole of the piece. This kept the audience in almost a continual fit of laughter. This farce is not yet printed, or I really think I should be tempted to venture to make a translation, or rather an imitation of it.
“The English Merchant, or the Scotchwoman,” I have seen much better performed abroad than it was here. Mr. Fleck, at Hamburg, in particular, played the part of the English merchant with more interest, truth, and propriety than one Aickin did here. He seemed to me to fail totally in expressing the peculiar and original character of Freeport; instead of which, by his measured step and deliberate, affected manner of speaking, he converted him into a mere fine gentleman.
The trusty old servant who wishes to give up his life for his master he, too, had the stately walk, or strut, of a minister. The character of the newspaper writer was performed by the same Mr. Palmer who acted the part of the Nabob, but every one said, what I thought, that he made him far too much of a gentleman. His person, and his dress also, were too handsome for the character.
The character of Amelia was performed by an actress, who made her first appearance on the stage, and from a timidity natural on such an occasion, and not unbecoming, spoke rather low, so that she could not everywhere be heard; “Speak louder! speak louder!” cried out some rude fellow from the upper-gallery, and she immediately, with infinite condescension, did all she could, and not unsuccessfully, to please even an upper gallery critic.
The persons near me, in the pit, were often extravagantly lavish of their applause. They sometimes clapped a single solitary sentiment, that was almost as unmeaning as it was short, if it happened to be pronounced only with some little emphasis, or to contain some little point, some popular doctrine, a singularly pathetic stroke, or turn of wit.
“The Agreeable Surprise” was repeated, and I saw it a second time with unabated pleasure. It is become a favourite piece, and always announced with the addition of the favourite musical farce. The theatre appeared to me somewhat larger than the one at Hamburg, and the house was both times very full. Thus much for English plays, play-houses, and players.
English Customs and Education.
A few words more respecting pedantry. I have seen the regulation of one seminary of learning, here called an academy. Of these places of education, there is a prodigious number in London, though, notwithstanding their pompous names, they are in reality nothing more than small schools set up by private persons, for children and young people.
One of the Englishmen who were my travelling companions, made me acquainted with a Dr. G-- who lives near P--, and keeps an academy for the education of twelve young people, which number is here, as well as at our Mr. Kumpe’s, never exceeded, and the same plan has been adopted and followed by many others, both here and elsewhere.
At the entrance I perceived over the door of the house a large board, and written on it, Dr. G--’s Academy. Dr. G-- received me with great courtesy as a foreigner, and shewed me his school-room, which was furnished just in the same manner as the classes in our public schools are, with benches and a professor’s chair or pulpit.
The usher at Dr. G--’s is a young clergyman, who, seated also in a chair or desk, instructs the boys in the Greek and Latin grammars.
Such an under-teacher is called an usher, and by what I can learn, is commonly a tormented being, exactly answering the exquisite description given of him in the “Vicar of Wakefield.” We went in during the hours of attendance, and he was just hearing the boys decline their Latin, which he did in the old jog-trot way; and I own it had an odd sound to my ears, when instead of pronouncing, for example viri veeree I heard them say viri, of the man, exactly according to the English pronunciation, and viro, to the man. The case was just the same afterwards with the Greek.
Mr. G-- invited us to dinner, when I became acquainted with his wife, a very genteel young woman, whose behaviour to the children was such that she might be said to contribute more to their education than any one else. The children drank nothing but water. For every boarder Dr. G-- receives yearly no more than thirty pounds sterling, which however, he complained of as being too little. From forty to fifty pounds is the most that is generally paid in these academies.
I told him of our improvements in the manner of education, and also spoke to him of the apparent great worth of character of his usher. He listened very attentively, but seemed to have thought little himself on this subject. Before and after dinner the Lord’s Prayer was repeated in French, which is done in several places, as if they were eager not to waste without some improvement, even this opportunity also, to practise the French, and thus at once accomplish two points. I afterwards told him my opinion of this species of prayer, which however, he did not take amiss.
After dinner the boys had leave to play in a very small yard, which in most schools or academies, in the city of London, is the ne plus ultra of their playground in their hours of recreation. But Mr. G-- has another garden at the end of the town, where he sometimes takes them to walk.
After dinner Mr. G-- himself instructed the children in writing, arithmetic, and French, all which seemed to be well taught here, especially writing, in which the young people in England far surpass, I believe, all others. This may perhaps be owing to their having occasion to learn only one sort of letters. As the midsummer holidays were now approaching (at which time the children in all the academies go home for four weeks), everyone was obliged with the utmost care to copy a written model, in order to show it to their parents, because this article is most particularly examined, as everybody can tell what is or is not good writing. The boys knew all the rules of syntax by heart.
All these academies are in general called boarding-schools. Some few retain the old name of schools only, though it is possible that in real merit they may excel the so much-boasted of academies.
It is in general the clergy, who have small incomes, who set up these schools both in town and country, and grown up people who are foreigners, are also admitted here to learn the English language. Mr. G-- charged for board, lodging, and instruction in the English, two guineas a-week. He however, who is desirous of perfecting himself in the English, will do better to go some distance into the country, and board himself with any clergyman who takes scholars, where he will hear nothing but English spoken, and may at every opportunity be taught both by young and old.
There are in England, besides the two universities, but few great schools or colleges. In London, there are only St. Paul’s and Westminster schools; the rest are almost all private institutions, in which there reigns a kind of family education, which is certainly the most natural, if properly conducted. Some few grammar schools, or Latin schools, are notwithstanding here and there to be met with, where the master receives a fixed salary, besides the ordinary profits of the school paid by the scholars.
You see in the streets of London, great and little boys running about in long blue coats, which, like robes, reach quite down to the feet, and little white bands, such as the clergy wear. These belong to a charitable institution, or school, which hears the name of the Blue Coat School. The singing of the choristers in the streets, so usual with us, is not at all customary here. Indeed, there is in England, or at least in London, such a constant walking, riding, and driving up and down in the streets, that it would not be very practicable. Parents here in general, nay even those of the lowest classes, seem to be kind and indulgent to their children, and do not, like our common people, break their spirits too much by blows and sharp language. Children should certainly be inured early to set a proper value on themselves; whereas with us, parents of the lower class bring up their children to the same slavery under which they themselves groan.
Notwithstanding the constant new appetites and calls of fashion, they here remain faithful to nature - till a certain age. What a contrast, when I figure to myself our petted, pale-faced Berlin boys, at six years old, with a large bag, and all the parade of grown-up persons, nay even with laced coats; and here, on the contrary see nothing but fine, ruddy, slim, active boys, with their bosoms open, and their hair cut on their forehead, whilst behind it flows naturally in ringlets. It is something uncommon here to meet a young man, and more especially a boy, with a pale or sallow face, with deformed features, or disproportioned limbs. With us, alas! it is not to be concealed, the case is very much otherwise; if it were not, handsome people would hardly strike us so very much as they do in this country.
This free, loose, and natural dress is worn till they are eighteen, or even till they are twenty. It is then, indeed, discontinued by the higher ranks, but with the common people it always remains the same. They then begin to have their hair dressed, and curled with irons, to give the head a large bushy appearance, and half their backs are covered with powder. I am obliged to remain still longer under the hands of an English, than I was under a German hair-dresser; and to sweat under his hot irons with which he curls my hair all over, in order that I may appear among Englishmen, somewhat English. I must here observe that the English hair-dressers are also barbers, an office however, which they perform very badly indeed; though I cannot but consider shaving as a far more proper employment for these petit maîtres than it is for surgeons, who you know in our country are obliged to shave us. It is incredible how much the English at present Frenchify themselves; the only things yet wanting are bags and swords, with which at least I have seen no one walking publicly, but I am told they are worn at court.
In the morning it is usual to walk out in a sort of negligée or morning dress, your hair not dressed, but merely rolled up in rollers, and in a frock and boots. In Westminster, the morning lasts till four or five o’clock, at which time they dine, and supper and going to bed are regulated accordingly. They generally do not breakfast till ten o’clock. The farther you go from the court into the city, the more regular and domestic the people become; and there they generally dine about three o’clock, i.e. as soon as the business or ‘Change is over.
Trimmed suits are not yet worn, and the most usual dress is in summer, a short white waistcoat, black breeches, white silk stockings, and a frock, generally of very dark blue cloth, which looks like black; and the English seem in general to prefer dark colours. If you wish to be full dressed, you wear black. Officers rarely wear their uniforms, but dress like other people, and are to be known to be officers only by a cockade in their hats.
It is a common observation, that the more solicitous any people are about dress, the more effeminate they are. I attribute it entirely to this idle adventitious passion for finery, that these people are become so over and above careful of their persons; they are for ever, and on every occasion, putting one another on their guard against catching cold; “you’ll certainly catch cold,” they always tell you if you happen to be a little exposed to the draught of the air, or if you be not clad, as they think, sufficiently warm. The general topic of conversation in summer, is on the important objects of whether such and such an acquaintance be in town, or such a one in the country. Far from blaming it, I think it natural and commendable, that nearly one half of the inhabitants of this great city migrate into the country in summer. And into the country, I too, though not a Londoner, hope soon to wander.
Electricity happens at present to be the puppet-show of the English. Whoever at all understands electricity is sure of being noticed and successful. This a certain Mr. Katterfelto experiences, who gives himself out for a Prussian, speaks bad English, and understands beside the usual electrical and philosophical experiments, some legerdemain tricks, with which (at least according to the papers) he sets the whole world in wonder. For in almost every newspaper that appears, there are some verses on the great Katterfelto, which some one or other of his hearers are said to have made extempore. Every sensible person considers Katterfelto as a puppy, an ignoramus, a braggadocio, and an impostor; notwithstanding which he has a number of followers. He has demonstrated to the people, that the influenza is occasioned by a small kind of insect, which poisons the air; and a nostrum, which he pretends to have found out to prevent or destroy it, is eagerly bought of him. A few days ago he put into the papers: “It is true that Mr. Katterfelto has always wished for cold and rainy weather, in order to destroy the pernicious insects in the air; but now, on the contrary, he wishes for nothing more than for fair weather, as his majesty and the whole royal family have determined, the first fine day, to be eye-witnesses of the great wonder, which this learned philosopher will render visible to them.” Yet all this while the royal family have not so much as even thought of seeing the wonders of Mr. Katterfelto. This kind of rhodomontade is very finely expressed in English by the word puff, which in its literal sense, signifies a blowing, or violent gust of wind, and in the metaphorical sense, a boasting or bragging.
Of such puffs the English newspapers are daily full, particularly of quack medicines and empirics, by means of which many a one here (and among others a German who goes by the name of the German doctor) are become rich. An advertisement of a lottery in the papers begins with capitals in this manner, - “Ten Thousand Pounds for a Sixpence! Yes, however astonishing it may seem, it is nevertheless undoubtedly true, that for the small stake of sixpence, ten thousand pounds, and other capital prizes, may be won, etc.” - But enough for this time of the puffs of the English.
I yesterday dined with the Rev. Mr. Schrader, son-in-law to Professor Foster of Halle. He is chaplain to the German chapel at St. James’s; but besides himself he has a colleague or a reader, who is also in orders, but has only fifty pounds yearly salary. Mr. Schrader also instructs the younger princes and princesses of the royal family in their religion. At his house I saw the two chaplains, Mr. Lindeman and Mr. Kritter, who went with the Hanoverian troops to Minorca, and who were returned with the garrison. They were exposed to every danger along with the troops. The German clergy, as well as every other person in any public station immediately under Government, are obliged to pay a considerable tax out of their salaries.
The English clergy (and I fear those still more particularly who live in London) are noticeable, and lamentably conspicuous, by a very free, secular, and irregular way of life. Since my residence in England, one has fought a duel in Hyde Park, and shot has antagonist. He was tried for the offence, and it was evident the judge thought him guilty of murder; but the jury declared him guilty only of manslaughter; and on this verdict he was burnt in the hand, if that may be called burning which is done with a cold iron; this being a privilege which the nobility and clergy enjoy above other murderers.
Yesterday week, after I had preached for Mr. Wendeborne, we passed an English church in which, we understood the sermon was not yet quite finished. On this we went in, and then I heard a young man preaching, with a tolerable good voice, and a proper delivery; but, like the English in general, his manner was unimpassioned, and his tone monotonous. From the church we went to a coffee-house opposite to it, and there we dined. We had not been long there before the same clergyman whom we had just heard preaching, also came in. He called for pen and ink, and hastily wrote down a few pages on a long sheet of paper, which he put into his pocket; I suppose it was some rough sketch or memorandum that occurred to him at that moment, and which he thus reserved for some future sermon. He too ordered some dinner, which he had no sooner ate, than he returned immediately to the same church. We followed him, and he again mounted the pulpit, where he drew from his pocket a written paper, or book of notes, and delivered in all probability those very words which he had just before composed in our presence at the coffee-house.
In these coffee-houses, however, there generally prevails a very decorous stillness and silence. Everyone speaks softly to those only who sit next him. The greater part read the newspapers, and no one ever disturbs another. The room is commonly on the ground floor, and you enter it immediately from the street; the seats are divided by wooden wainscot partitions. Many letters and projects are here written and planned, and many of those that you find in the papers are dated from some of these coffee-houses. There is, therefore, nothing incredible, nor very extraordinary, in a person’s composing a sermon here, excepting that one would imagine it might have been done better at home, and certainly should not have thus been put off to the last minute.
Another long walk that I have taken pretty often, is through Hanover Square and Cavendish Square, to Bulstrode Street, near Paddington, where the Danish ambassador lives, and where I have often visited the Danish Charge d’Affaires, M. Schornborn. He is well known in Germany, as having attempted to translate Pindar into German. Besides this, and besides being known to be a man of genius, he is known to be a great proficient in most of the branches of natural philosophy. I have spent many very pleasant hours with him.
Sublime poetry, and in particular odes, are his forte; there are indeed few departments of learning in which he has not extensive knowledge, and he is also well read in the Greek and Roman authors. Everything he studies, he studies merely from the love he bears to the science itself, and by no means for the love of fame.
One could hardly help saying it is a pity that so excellent a man should be so little known, were it not generally the case with men of transcendent merit. But what makes him still more valuable is his pure and open soul, and his amiable unaffected simplicity of character, which has gained him the love and confidence of all who know him. He has heretofore been secretary to the ambassador at Algiers; and even here in London, when he is not occupied by the business arising from his public station, he lives exceedingly retired, and devotes his time almost entirely to the study of the sciences. The more agreeable I find such an acquaintance, the harder it will be for me to lose, as I soon must, his learned, his instructive, and his friendly conversation.
I have seen the large Freemasons’ Hall here, at the tavern of the same name. This hall is of an astonishing height and breadth, and to me it looked almost like a church. The orchestra is very much raised, and from that you have a fine view of the whole hall, which makes a majestic appearance. The building is said to have cost an immense sum. But to that the lodges in Germany also contributed. Freemasonry seems to be held in but little estimation in England, perhaps because most of the lodges are now degenerated into mere drinking clubs; though I hope there still are some who assemble for nobler and more essential purposes. The Duke of Cumberland is now grand master.
London, 20th June, 1782.
At length my determination of going into the country takes effect; and I am to set off this very afternoon in a stage; so that I now write to you my last letter from London, I mean till I return from my pilgrimage, for as soon as ever I have got beyond the dangerous neighbourhood of London, I shall certainly no longer suffer myself to be cooped up in a post-coach, but take my staff and pursue my journey on foot. In the meantime, however, I will relate to you what I may either have forgotten to write before, or what I have seen worth notice within these few days last past; among which the foremost is
I must own that on my entrance into this massy building, an uncommon vacancy, which seemed to reign in it, rather damped than raised an impression of anything majestic in me. All around me I could see nothing but immense bare walls and pillars. Above me, at an astonishing height, was the vaulted stone roof; and beneath me a plain, flat even floor, paved with marble. No altar was to be seen, or any other sign that this was a place where mankind assembled to adore the Almighty. For the church itself, or properly that part of it where they perform divine service, seems as it were a piece stuck on or added to the main edifice, and is separated from the large round empty space by an iron gate, or door. Did the great architects who adopted this style of building mean by this to say that such a temple is most proper for the adoration of the Almighty? If this was their aim, I can only say I admire the great temple of nature, the azure vaulted sky, and the green carpet with which the earth is spread. This is truly a large temple; but then there is in it no void, no spot unappropriated, or unfulfilled, but everywhere proofs in abundance of the presence of the Almighty. If, however, mankind, in their honest ambition to worship the great God of nature, in a style not wholly unsuitable to the great object of their reverence, and in their humble efforts at magnificence, aim in some degree to rival the magnificence of nature, particular pains should be taken to hit on something that might atone for the unavoidable loss of the animation and ampleness of nature; something in short that should clearly indicate the true and appropriated design and purpose of such a building. If, on the other hand, I could be contented to consider St. Paul’s merely as a work of art, built as if merely to show the amazing extent of human powers, I should certainly gaze at it with admiration and astonishment, but then I wish rather to contemplate it with awe and veneration. But, I perceive, I am wandering out of my way. St. Paul’s is here, as it is, a noble pile, and not unworthy of this great nation. And even if I were sure that I could, you would hardly thank me for showing you how it might have been still more worthy of this intelligent people. I make a conscience however of telling you always, with fidelity, what impression everything I see or hear makes on me at the time. For a small sum of money I was conducted all over the church by a man whose office it seemed to be, and he repeated to me, I dare say, exactly his lesson, which no doubt he has perfectly got by rote: of how many feet long and broad it was; how many years it was in building, and in what year built. Much of this rigmarole story, which, like a parrot, he repeated mechanically, I could willingly have dispensed with. In the part that was separated from the rest by the iron gate above mentioned, was what I call the church itself; furnished with benches, pews, pulpit, and an altar; and on each side seats for the choristers, as there are in our cathedrals. This church seemed to have been built purposely in such a way, that the bishop, or dean, or dignitary, who should preach there, might not be obliged to strain his voice too much. I was now conducted to that part which is called the whispering gallery, which is a circumference of prodigious extent, just below the cupola. Here I was directed to place myself in a part of it directly opposite to my conductor, on the other side of the gallery, so that we had the whole breadth of the church between us, and here as I stood, he, knowing his cue no doubt, flung to the door with all his force, which gave a sound that I could compare to nothing less than a peal of thunder. I was next desired to apply my ear to the wall, which, when I did, I heard the words of my conductor: “Can you hear me?” which he softly whispered quite on the other side, as plain and as loud as one commonly speaks to a deaf person. This scheme to condense and invigorate sound at so great a distance is really wonderful. I once noticed some sound of the same sort in the senatorial cellar at Bremen; but neither that, nor I believe any other in the world, can pretend to come in competition with this.
I now ascended several steps to the great gallery, which runs on the outside of the great dome, and here I remained nearly two hours, as I could hardly, in less time, satisfy myself with the prospect of the various interesting objects that lay all round me, and which can no where be better seen, than from hence.
Every view, and every object I studied attentively, by viewing them again and again on every side, for I was anxious to make a lasting impression of it on my imagination.
Below me lay steeples, houses, and palaces in countless numbers; the squares with their grass plots in their middle that lay agreeably dispersed and intermixed, with all the huge clusters of buildings, forming meanwhile a pleasing contrast, and a relief to the jaded eye.
At one end rose the Tower - itself a city - with a wood of masts behind it; and at the other Westminster Abbey with its steeples. There I beheld, clad in smiles, those beautiful green hills that skirt the environs of Paddington and Islington; here, on the opposite bank of the Thames, lay Southwark; the city itself it seems to be impossible for any eye to take in entirely, for with all my pains I found it impossible to ascertain either where it ended, or where the circumjacent villages began; far as the eye could reach, it seemed to be all one continued chain of buildings.
I well remember how large I thought Berlin when first I saw it from the steeple of St. Mary, and from the Temple Yard Hills, but how did it now sink and fall in my imagination, when I compared it with London!
It is, however, idle and vain to attempt giving you in words, any description, however faint and imperfect, of such a prospect as I have just been viewing. He who wishes at one view to see a world in miniature, must come to the dome of St Paul’s.
The roof of St. Paul’s itself with its two lesser steeples lay below me, and as I fancied, looked something like the background of a small ridge of hills, which you look down upon when you have attained the summit of some huge rock or mountain. I should gladly have remained here sometime longer, but a gust of wind, which in this situation was so powerful that it was hardly possible to withstand it, drove me down.
Notwithstanding that St. Paul’s is itself very high, the elevation of the ground on which it stands contributes greatly to its elevation.
The church of St. Peter at Berlin, notwithstanding the total difference between them in the style of building, appears in some respects to have a great resemblance to St. Paul’s in London. At least its large high black roof rises above the other surrounding buildings just as St. Paul’s does.
What else I saw in this stately cathedral was only a wooden model of this very edifice, which was made before the church was built, and which suggests some not unpleasing reflections when one compares it with the enormous building itself.
The churchyard is enclosed with an iron rail, and it appears a considerable distance if you go all round.
Owing to some cause or other, the site of St. Paul’s strikes you as being confined, and it is certain that this beautiful church is on every side closely surrounded by houses.
A marble statue of Queen Anne in an enclosed piece of ground in the west front of the church is something of an ornament to that side.
The size of the bell of St. Paul’s is also worthy of notice, as it is reckoned one of those that are deemed the largest in Europe. It takes its place, they say, next to that at Vienna.
Everything that I saw in St. Paul’s cost me only a little more than a shilling, which I paid in pence and halfpence, according to a regulated price, fixed for every different curiosity.
On a very gloomy dismal day, just such a one as it ought to be, I went to see Westminster Abbey.
I entered at a small door, which brought me immediately to the poets’ corner, where the monuments and busts of the principal poets, artists, generals, and great men, are placed.
Not far from the door, immediately on my entrance, I perceived the statue of Shakespeare, as large as life; with a band, &c., in the dress usual in his time.
A passage out of one of Shakespeare’s own plays (the Tempest), in which he describes in the most solemn and affecting manner, the end, or the dissolution of all things, is here, with great propriety, put up as his epitaph; as though none but Shakespeare could do justice to Shakespeare.
Not far from this immortal bard is Rowe’s monument, which, as it is intimated in the few lines that are inscribed as his epitaph, he himself had desired to be placed there.
At no great distance I saw the bust of that amiable writer, Goldsmith: to whom, as well as to Butler, whose monument is in a distant part of the abbey, though they had scarcely necessary bread to eat during their life time, handsome monuments are now raised. Here, too you see, almost in a row, the monuments of Milton, Dryden, Gay, and Thomson. The inscription on Gay’s tombstone is, if not actually immoral, yet futile and weak; though he is said to have written it himself:
“Life is a jest, and all things shew it,
‘I thought so once but now I know it.”
Our Handel has also a monument here, where he is represented as large as life.
An actress, Pritchard, and Booth, an actor, have also very distinguished monuments erected here to their memories.
For Newton, as was proper, there is a very costly one. It is above, at the entrance of the choir, and exactly opposite to this, at the end of the church, another is erected, which refers you to the former.
As I passed along the side walls of Westminster Abbey, I hardly saw any thing but marble monuments of great admirals, but which were all too much loaded with finery and ornaments, to make on me at least, the intended impression.
I always returned with most pleasure to the poets’ corner, where the most sensible, most able, and most learned men, of the different ages, were re-assembled; and particularly where the elegant simplicity of the monuments made an elevated and affecting impression on the mind, while a perfect recollection of some favourite passage, of a Shakespeare, or Milton, recurred to my idea, and seemed for a moment to re-animate and bring back the spirits of those truly great men.
Of Addison and Pope I have found no monuments here. The vaults where the kings are buried, and some other things worth notice in the abbey, I have not yet seen; but perhaps I may at my return to London from the country.
I have made every necessary preparation for this journey: In the first place, I have an accurate map of England in my pocket; besides an excellent book of the roads, which Mr. Pointer, the English merchant to whom I am recommended, has lent me. The title is “A new and accurate description of all the direct and principal cross roads in Great Britain.” This book, I hope, will be of great service to me in my ramblings.
I was for a long time undecided which way I should go, whether to the Isle of Wight, to Portsmouth, or to Derbyshire, which is famous for its natural curiosities, and also for its romantic situation. At length I have determined on Derbyshire.
During my absence I leave my trunk at Mr. Mulhausen’s (one of Mr. Pointer’s senior partners), that I may not be at the needless expense of paying for my lodging without making use of it. This Mr. Pointer lived long in Germany, and is politely partial to us and our language, and speaks it well. He is a well-bred and singularly obliging man; and one who possesses a vast fund of information, and a good taste. I cannot but feel myself happy in having obtained a recommendation to so accomplished a man. I got it from Messrs. Persent and Dorner, to whom I had the honour to be recommended by Mr. Von Taubenheim, Privy Counsellor at Berlin. These recommendations have been of infinite use to me.
I propose to go to-day as far as Richmond; for which place a stage sets out about two o’clock from some inn, not far from the new church in the Strand. Four guineas, some linen, my English book of the roads, and a map and pocket-book, together with Milton’s Paradise Lost, which I must put in my pocket, compose the whole of my equipage; and I hope to walk very lightly with it. But it now strikes half-past one, and of course it is time for me to be at the stage. Farewell! I will write to you again from Richmond.
Richmond, 21st June, 1782.
Yesterday afternoon I had the luxury for the first time of being driven in an English stage. These coaches are, at least in the eyes of a foreigner, quite elegant, lined in the inside; and with two seats large enough to accommodate six persons; but it must be owned, when the carriage is full, the company are rather crowded.
At the White Hart from whence the coach sets out, there was, at first only an elderly lady who got in; but as we drove along, it was soon filled, and mostly by ladies, there being only one more gentleman and myself. The conversation of the ladies among themselves, who appeared to be a little acquainted with each other, seemed to me to be but very insipid and tiresome. All I could do was, I drew out my book of the roads, and marked the way we were going.
Before you well know that you are out of London you are already in Kensington and Hammersmith; because there are all the way houses on both sides, after you are out of the city; just as you may remember the case is with us when you drive from Berlin to Schoneberg; although in point of prospect, houses and streets, the difference, no doubt, is prodigious.
It was a fine day, and there were various delightful prospects on both sides, on which the eye would willingly have dwelt longer, had not our coach rolled on past them, so provokingly quick. It appeared somewhat singular to me, when at a few miles from London, I saw at a distance a beautiful white house; and perceived on the high road, on which we were driving, a direction post, on which were written these words: “that great white house at a distance is a boarding-school!”
The man who was with us in the coach pointed out to us the country seats of the lords and great people by which we passed; and entertained us with all kind of stories of robberies which had been committed on travellers, hereabouts; so that the ladies at last began to be rather afraid; on which he began to stand up for the superior honour of the English robbers, when compared with the French: the former he said robbed only, the latter both robbed and murdered.
Notwithstanding this there are in England another species of villains, who also murder, and that oftentimes for the merest trifle, of which they rob the person murdered. These are called footpads, and are the lowest class of English rogues; amongst whom in general there reigns something like some regard to character.
The highest order of thieves are the pickpockets or cutpurses, whom you find everywhere; and sometimes even in the best companies. They are generally well and handsomely dressed, so that you take them to be persons of rank; as indeed may sometimes be the case: persons who by extravagance and excesses have reduced themselves to want, and find themselves obliged at last to have recourse to pilfering and thieving.
Next to them come the highwaymen, who rob on horseback; and often, they say, even with unloaded pistols, they terrify travellers, in order to put themselves in possession of their purses. Among these persons, however, there are instances of true greatness of soul, there are numberless instances of their returning a part of their booty, where the party robbed has appeared to be particularly distressed; and they are seldom guilty of murder.
Then comes the third and lowest, and worst of all thieves and rogues, the footpads before mentioned; who are on foot, and often murder in the most inhuman manner, for the sake of only a few shillings, any unfortunate people who happen to fall in their way. Of this several mournful instances may be read almost daily in the English papers. Probably they murder, because they cannot like highwaymen, aided by their horses, make a rapid flight: and therefore such pests are frequently pretty easily pursued and taken if the person robbed gives information of his robbery in time.
But to return to our stage, I must observe, that they have here a curious way of riding, not in, but upon a stage-coach. Persons to whom it is not convenient to pay a full price, instead of the inside, sit on the top of the coach, without any seats or even a rail. By what means passengers thus fasten themselves securely on the roof of these vehicles, I know not; but you constantly see numbers seated there, apparently at their ease, and in perfect safety.
This they call riding on the outside; for which they pay only half as much as those pay who are within: we had at present six of these passengers over our heads, who, when we alighted, frequently made such a noise and bustle, as sometimes almost frightened us. He who can properly balance himself, rides not incommodiously on the outside; and in summer time, in fine weather, on account of the prospects, it certainly is more pleasant than it is within: excepting that the company is generally low, and the dust is likewise more troublesome than in the inside, where, at any rate, you may draw up the windows according to your pleasure.
In Kensington, where we stopped, a Jew applied for a place along with us; but as there was no seat vacant in the inside, he would not ride on the outside, which seemed not quite to please my travelling companions. They could not help thinking it somewhat preposterous that a Jew should be ashamed to ride on the outside, or on any side, and in any way; since as they added, he was nothing more than a Jew. This antipathy and prejudice against the Jews, I have noticed to be far more common here, than it is even with us, who certainly are not partial to them.
Of the beautiful country seats and villas which we now passed, I could only through the windows of our coach gain a partial and indistinct prospect, which led me to wish, as I soon most earnestly did, to be released from this movable prison. Towards evening we arrived at Richmond. In London, before I set out, I had paid one shilling; another was now demanded, so that upon the whole, from London to Richmond, the passage in the stage costs just two shillings.
As soon as I had alighted at an inn and had drunk my tea, I went out immediately to see the town and the circumjacent country.
Even this town, though hardly out of sight of London, is more countrified, pleasanter, and more cheerful than London, and the houses do not seem to be so much blackened by smoke. The people also appeared to me here more sociable and more hospitable. I saw several sitting on benches before their doors, to enjoy the cool breeze of the evening. On a large green area in the middle of the town, a number of boys, and even young men, were enjoying themselves, and playing at trap-ball. In the streets there reigned here, compared to London, a pleasing rural tranquillity, and I breathed a purer and fresher air.
I went now out of the town over a bridge, which lies across the Thames, and where you pay a penny as often as you pass over it. The bridge is lofty and built in the form of an arch, and from it you enter immediately into a most charming valley, that winds all along the banks of the Thames.
It was evening. The sun was just shedding her last parting rays on the valley; but such an evening, and such a valley! Oh, it is impossible I should ever forget them. The terrace at Richmond does assuredly afford one of the finest prospects in the world. Whatever is charming in nature, or pleasing in art, is to be seen here. Nothing I had ever seen, or ever can see elsewhere, is to be compared to it. My feelings, during the few short enraptured minutes that I stood there, it is impossible for any pen to describe.
One of my first sensations was chagrin and sorrow for the days and hours I had wasted in London, and I had vented a thousand bitter reproaches on my irresolution, that I had not long ago quitted that huge dungeon to come here and pass my time in paradise.
Yes, my friend, whatever be your ideas of paradise, and how luxuriantly soever it may be depicted to your imagination, I venture to foretell that here you will be sure to find all those ideas realised. In every point of view, Richmond is assuredly one of the first situations in the world. Here it was that Thomson and Pope gleaned from nature all those beautiful passages with which their inimitable writings abound.
Instead of the incessant distressing noise in London, I saw here at a distance, sundry little family parties walking arm in arm along the banks of the Thames. Everything breathed a soft and pleasing calm, which warmed my heart and filed it with some of the most pleasing sensations of which our nature is susceptible.
Beneath I trod on that fresh, even, and soft verdure which is to be seen only in England. On one side of me lay a wood, than which nature cannot produce a finer, and on the other the Thames, with its shelvy bank and charming lawns rising like an amphitheatre, along which, here and there, one espies a picturesque white house, aspiring in majestic simplicity to pierce the dark foliage of the surrounding trees; thus studding, like stars in the galaxy, the rich expanse of this charming vale.
Sweet Richmond! never, no, never, shall I forget that lovely evening, when from thy fairy hills thou didst so hospitably smile on me, a poor lonely, insignificant stranger! As I traversed to and fro thy meads, thy little swelling hills and flowery dells, and above all that queen of all rivers, thy own majestic Thames, I forgot all sublunary cares, and thought only of heaven and heavenly things. Happy, thrice happy am I, I again and again exclaimed, that I am no longer in yon gloomy city, but here in Elysium, in Richmond.
O ye copsy hills, ye green meadows, and ye rich streams in this blessed country, how have ye enchanted me? Still, however, let me recollect and resolve, as I firmly do, that even ye shall not prevent my return to those barren and dusty lands where my, perhaps a less indulgent, destiny has placed me, and where, in the due discharge of all the arduous and important duties of that humble function to which providence has called me, I must and I will faithfully exert my best talents, and in that exertion find pleasure, and I trust, happiness. In every future moment of my life, however, the recollection of this scene, and the feelings it inspired, shall cheer my labours and invigorate my efforts.
These were some of my reflections, my dearest friend, during my solitary walk. Of the evening I passed at Richmond, I speak feebly when I content myself with saying only, it was one of the pleasantest I ever spent in my life.
I now resolved to go to bed early, with a firm purpose of also rising early the next day to revisit this charming walk; for I thought to myself, I have now seen this temple of the modern world imperfectly; I have seen it only by moonlight. How much more charming must it be when glistening with the morning dew! These fond hopes, alas, were all disappointed. In all great schemes of enjoyment, it is, I believe, no bad way always to figure to yourself some possible evil that may arise, and to anticipate a disappointment. If I had done so, I should not perhaps have felt the mortification I then experienced quite so pungent. By some means or other I stayed too long out, and so when I returned to Richmond, I had forgot the name and the sign of the inn where I had before stopped; it cost me no little trouble to find it again.
When at last I got back, I told the people what a sweet walk I had had, and they then spoke much of a prospect from a neighbouring hill, known by the name of Richmond Hill, which was the very same hill from the top of which I had just been gazing at the houses in the vale, the preceding evening. From this same kill, therefore, I resolved the next morning to see the sun rise.
The landlady of this house was a notable one, and talked so much and so loud to her servants, that I could not get to sleep till it was pretty late. However, I was up next morning at three o’clock, and was now particularly sensible of the great inconveniences they sustain in England by their bad custom of rising so late, for as I was the only one in this family who was up, I could not get out of the house. This obliged me to spend three most irksome and heavy hours till six o’clock; however, a servant at length opened the door, and I rushed out to climb Richmond Hill. To my infinite disappointment, within the space of an hour, the sky had become overcast, and it was now so cloudy that I could not even see, nor of course enjoy one half of the delightful prospect that lay before me.
On the top of this hill is an alley of chestnut trees, under which here and there seats are placed. Behind the alley is a row of well-built gentlemen’s country seats. One does not wonder to see it thus occupied; besides the pure air, the prospect exceeds everything else of the kind in the world. I never saw a palace which, if I were the owner of it, I would not give for any of the houses I now saw on Richmond Terrace.
The descent of the hill to the Thames is covered with verdure, the Thames at the foot of it forms near a semicircle, in which it seems to embrace woody plains, with meadows and country seats in its bosom. On one side you see the town and its magnificent bridge, and on the other a dark wood.
At a distance you could perceive, peeping out among the meadows and woods, sundry small villages, so that notwithstanding the dulness of the weather, this prospect even now was one of the finest I had ever seen. But what is the reason that yesterday evening my feelings were far more acute and lively, the impressions made on me much stronger, when from the vale I viewed the hill and fancied that there was in it every thing that was delightful, than they are this morning, when from the hill I overlooked the vale and knew pretty exactly what it contained?
I have now finished my breakfast, and once more seize my staff, the only companion I have, and now again set out on this romantic journey on foot. From Windsor you shall hear more of me.
Windsor, 23rd June.
I have already, my dearest friend, now that I write to you from hence, experienced so many inconveniences as a traveller on foot, that I am at some loss to determine whether or no I shall go on with my journey in the same manner.
A traveller on foot in this country seems to be considered as a sort of wild man or out-of-the way being, who is stared at, pitied, suspected, and shunned by everybody that meets him. At least this has hitherto been my case on the road from Richmond to Windsor.
My host at Richmond, yesterday morning, could not sufficiently express his surprise that I intended to venture to walk as far as Oxford, and still farther. He however was so kind as to send his son, a clever little boy, to show me the road leading to Windsor.
At first I walked along a very pleasant footway by the side of the Thames, where close to my right lay the king’s garden. On the opposite bank of the Thames was Isleworth, a spot that seemed to be distinguished by some elegant gentlemen’s country-seats and gardens. Here I was obliged to ferry the river in order to get into the Oxford Road, which also leads to Windsor.
When I was on the other side of the water, I came to a house and asked a man who was standing at the door if I was on the right road to Oxford. “Yes,” said he, “but you want a carriage to carry you thither.” When I answered him that I intended walking it, he looked at me significantly, shook his head, and went into the house again.
I was now on the road to Oxford. It is a charming fine broad road, and I met on it carriages without number, which, however, on account of the heat, occasioned a dust that was extremely troublesome and disagreeable. The fine green hedges, which border the roads in England, contribute greatly to render them pleasant. This was the case in the road I now travelled, for when I was tired I sat down in the shade under one of these hedges and read Milton. But this relief was soon rendered disagreeable to me, for those who rode or drove past me, stared at me with astonishment, and made many significant gestures as if they thought my head deranged; so singular must it needs have appeared to them to see a man sitting along the side of a public road and reading. I therefore found myself obliged, when I wished to rest myself and read, to look out for a retired spot in some by-lane or crossroad.
When I again walked, many of the coachmen who drove by called out to me, ever and anon, and asked if I would not ride on the outside; and when, every now and then, a farmer on horseback met me, he said, and seemingly with an air of pity for me, “’Tis warm walking, sir;” and when I passed through a village, every old woman testified her pity by an exclamation of - “Good God!”
As far as Hounslow the way was very pleasant; afterwards I thought it not quite so good. It lay across a common, which was of a considerable extent, and bare and naked, excepting that here and there I saw sheep feeding.
I now began to be very tired, when, to my astonishment, I saw a tree in the middle of the common that stood quite solitary, and spread a shade like an arbour round it. At the bottom, round the trunk, a bench was placed, on which one may sit down. Beneath the shade of this tree I reposed myself a little, read some of Milton, and made a note in my memorandum-book that I would remember this tree, which had so charitably and hospitably received under its shade a weary traveller. This, you see, I have now done.
The short English miles are delightful for walking. You are always pleased to find, every now and then, in how short a time you have walked a mile, though, no doubt, a mile is everywhere a mile, I walk but a moderate pace, and can accomplish four English miles in an hour. It used to take me pretty nearly the same time for one German mile. Now it is a pleasing exchange to find that in two hours I can walk eight miles. And now I fancy I was about seventeen miles from London, when I came to an inn, where, for a little wine and water, I was obliged to pay sixpence. An Englishman who happened to be sitting by the side of the innkeeper found out that I was a German, and, of course, from the country of his queen, in praise of whom he was quite lavish, observing more than once that England never had had such a queen, and would not easily get such another.
It now began to grow hot. On the left hand, almost close to the high road, I met with a singularly clear rivulet. In this I bathed, and was much refreshed, and afterwards, with fresh alacrity, continued my journey.
I had now got over the common, and was once more in a country rich and well cultivated beyond all conception. This continued to be the case as far as Slough, which is twenty miles and a half from London, on the way to Oxford, and from which to the left there is a road leading to Windsor, whose high white castle I have already seen at a distance.
I made no stay here, but went directly to the right, along a very pleasant high road, between meadows and green hedges, towards Windsor, where I arrived about noon.
It strikes a foreigner as something particular and unusual when, on passing through these fine English towns, he observed one of those circumstances by which the towns in Germany are distinguished from the villages - no walls, no gates, no sentries, nor garrisons. No stern examiner comes here to search and inspect us or our baggage; no imperious guard here demands a sight of our passports; perfectly free and unmolested, we here walk through villages and towns as unconcerned as we should through a house of our own.
Just before I got to Windsor I passed Eton College, one of the first public schools in England, and perhaps in the world. I have before observed that there are in England fewer of these great schools than one might expect. It lay on my left; and on the right, directly opposite to it, was an inn, into which I went.
I suppose it was during the hour of recreation, or in playtime, when I got to Eton, for I saw the boys in the yard before the college, which was enclosed by a low wall, in great numbers, walking and running up and down.
Their dress struck me particularly. From the biggest to the least, they all wore black cloaks, or gowns, over coloured clothes, through which there was an aperture for their arms. They also wore besides a square hat or cap, that seemed to be covered with velvet, such as our clergymen in many places wear.
They were differently employed - some talking together, some playing, and some had their books in their hands, and were reading; but I was soon obliged to get out of their sight, they stared at me so as I came along, all over dust, with my stick in my hand.
As I entered the inn, and desired to have something to eat, the countenance of the waiter soon gave me to understand that I should there find no very friendly reception. Whatever I got they seemed to give me with such an air as showed too plainly how little they thought of me, and as if they considered me but as a beggar. I must do them the justice to own, however, that they suffered me to pay like a gentleman. No doubt this was the first time this pert, bepowdered puppy had ever been called on to wait on a poor devil who entered their place on foot. I was tired, and asked for a bedroom where I might sleep. They showed me into one that much resembled a prison for malefactors. I requested that I might have a better room at night; on which, without any apology, they told me that they had no intention of lodging me, as they had no room for such guests, but that I might go back to Slough, where very probably I might get a night’s lodging.
With money in my pocket, and a consciousness, moreover, that I was doing nothing that was either imprudent, unworthy, or really mean, I own it mortified and vexed me to find myself obliged to put up with this impudent ill-usage from people who ought to reflect that they are but the servants of the public, and little likely to recommend themselves to the high by being insolent to the low. They made me, however, pay them two shillings for my dinner and coffee, which I had just thrown down, and was preparing to shake off the dust from my shoes, and quit this inhospitable St. Christopher, when the green hills of Windsor smiled so friendly upon me, that they seemed to invite me first to visit them.
And now trudging through the streets of Windsor, I at length mounted a sort of hill; a steep path led me on to its summit, close to the walls of the castle, where I had an uncommonly extensive and fine prospect, which so much raised my heart, that in a moment I forgot not only the insults of waiters and tavern-keepers, but the hardship of my lot in being obliged to travel in a manner that exposed me to the scorn of a people whom I wished to respect. Below me lay the most beautiful landscapes in the world - all the rich scenery that nature, in her best attire, can exhibit. Here were the spots that furnished those delightful themes of which the muse of Denham and Pope made choice. I seemed to view a whole world at once, rich and beautiful beyond conception. At that moment what more could I have wished for?
And the venerable castle, that royal edifice which, in every part of it, has strong traces of antiquity, smiles through its green trees, like the serene countenance of some hoary sage, who, by the vigour of a happy constitution, still retains many of the charms of youth.
Nothing inspired me with more veneration and awe than the fine old building St. George’s Church, which, as you come down from the castle, is on your right. At the sight of it past centuries seemed to revive in my imagination.
But I will see no more of those sights which are shown you by one of those venal praters, who ten times a day, parrot-wise, repeat over the same dull lesson they have got by heart. The surly fellow, who for a shilling conducted me round the church, had nearly, with his chattering, destroyed the finest impressions. Henry VIII., Charles I., and Edward IV. are buried here. After all, this church, both within and without, has a most melancholy and dismal appearance.
They were building at what is called the queen’s palace, and prodigious quantities of materials are provided for that purpose.
I now went down a gentle declivity into the delightful park at Windsor, at the foot of which it looks so sombrous and gloomy that I could hardly help fancying it was some vast old Gothic temple. This forest certainly, in point of beauty, surpasses everything of the kind you can figure to yourself. To its own charms, when I saw it, there were added a most pleasing and philosophical solitude, the coolness of an evening breeze, all aided by the soft sounds of music, which, at this distance from the castle, from whence it issued, was inexpressibly sweet. It threw me into a sort of enthusiastic and pleasing reverie, which made me ample amends for the fatigues, discourtesies, and continued cross accidents I had encountered in the course of the day.
I now left the forest; the clock struck six, and the workmen were going home from their work.
I have forgot to mention the large round tower of the castle, which is also a very ancient building. The roads that lead to it are all along their sides planted with shrubs; these, being modern and lively, make a pleasing contrast to the fine old mossy walls. On the top of this tower the flag of Great Britain is usually displayed, which, however, as it was now late in the evening, was taken in.
As I came down from the castle I saw the king driving up to it in a very plain, two-wheeled, open carriage. The people here were politer than I used to think they were in London, for I did not see a single person, high or low, who did not pull off their hats as their sovereign passed them.
I was now again in Windsor, and found myself, not far from the castle, opposite to a very capital inn, where I saw many officers and several persons of consequence going in and out. And here at this inn, contrary to all expectation, I was received by the landlord with great civility, and even kindness - very contrary to the haughty and insolent airs which the upstart at the other, and his jackanapes of a waiter, there thought fit to give themselves.
However, it seemed to be my fate to be still a scandal and an eyesore to all the waiters. The maid, by the order of her master, showed me a room where I might adjust my dress a little; but I could hear her mutter and grumble as she went along with me. Having put myself a little to rights, I went down into the coffee-room, which is immediately at the entrance of the house, and told the landlord that I thought I wished to have yet one more walk. On this he obligingly directed me to stroll down a pleasant field behind his house, at the foot of which, he said, I should find the Thames, and a good bathing place.
I followed his advice; and this evening was, if possible, finer than the preceding. Here again, as I had been told I should, I found the Thames with all its gentle windings. Windsor shone nearly as bright over the green vale as those charming houses on Richmond Hill, and the verdure was not less soft and delicate. The field I was in seemed to slope a little towards the Thames. I seated myself near a bush, and there waited the going down of the sun. At a distance I saw a number of people bathing in the Thames. When, after sunset, they were a little dispersed, I drew near the spot I had been directed to; and here, for the first time, I sported in the cool tide of the Thames. The bank was steep, but my landlord had dug some steps that went down into the water, which is extremely convenient for those who cannot swim. Whilst I was there, a couple of smart lively apprentice boys came also from the town, who, with the greatest expedition, threw off their clothes and leathern aprons, and plunged themselves, head foremost, into the water, where they opposed the tide with their sinewy arms till they were tired. They advised me, with much natural civility, to untie my hair, and that then, like them, I might plunge into the stream head foremost.
Refreshed and strengthened by this cool bath, I took a long walk by moonlight on the banks of the Thames. To my left were the towers of Windsor, before me a little village with a steeple, the top of which peeped out among the green trees, at a distance two inviting hills which I was to climb in the morning, and around me the green cornfields. Oh! how indescribably beautiful was this evening and this walk! At a distance among the houses I could easily descry the inn where I lodged, and where I seemed to myself at length to have found a place of refuge and a home; and I thought, if I could but stay there, I should not be very sorry if I were never to find another.
How soon did all these pleasing dreams vanish! On my return the waiters (who, from my appearance, too probably expected but a trifling reward for their attentions to me) received me gruffly, and as if they were sorry to see me again. This was not all; I had the additional mortification to be again roughly accosted by the cross maid who had before shown me to the bed-chamber, and who, dropping a kind of half courtesy, with a suppressed laugh, sneeringly told me I might look out for another lodging, as I could not sleep there, since the room she had by mistake shown me was already engaged. It can hardly be necessary to tell you that I loudly protested against this sudden change. At length the landlord came, and I appealed to him; and he with great courtesy immediately desired another room to be shown me, in which, however, there were two beds, so that I was obliged to admit a companion. Thus was I very near being a second time turned out of an inn.
Directly under my room was the tap-room, from which I could plainly hear too much of the conversation of some low people, who were drinking and singing songs, in which, as far as I could understand them, there were many passages at least as vulgar and nonsensical as ours.
This company, I guessed, consisted chiefly of soldiers and low fellows. I was hardly well lulled to sleep by this hurly-burly, when my chum (probably one of the drinking party below) came stumbling into the room and against my bed. At length, though not without some difficulty, he found his own bed, into which he threw himself just as he was, without staying to pull off either clothes or boots.
This morning I rose very early, as I had proposed, in order to climb the two hills which yesterday presented me with so inviting a prospect, and in particular that one of them on the summit of which a high white house appeared among the dark-green trees; the other was close by.
I found no regular path leading to these hills, and therefore went straight forward, without minding roads, only keeping in view the object of my aim. This certainly created me some trouble. I had sometimes a hedge, and sometimes a hog to walk round; but at length I had attained the foot of the so earnestly wished-for hill with the high white house on its summit, when, just as I was going to ascend it, and was already pleasing myself in the idea with the prospect from the white house, behold I read these words on a board: “Take care! there are steel traps and spring guns here.”
All my labour was lost, and I now went round to the other hill; but here were also steel traps and spring gnus, though probably never intended to annoy such a wanderer as myself, who wished only to enjoy the fine morning air from this eminence.
Thus disappointed in my hopes, I returned to Windsor, much in the same temper and manner as I had yesterday morning from Richmond Hill; where my wishes had also been frustrated.
When I got to my inn, I received from the ill-tempered maid, who seemed to have been stationed there on purpose to plague and vex me, the polite welcome, that on no account should I sleep another night there. Luckily, that was not my intention. I now write to you in the coffee room, where two Germans are talking together, who certainly little suspect how well I understand them; if I were to make myself known to them, as a German, most probably, even these fellows would not speak to me, because I travel on foot. I fancy they are Hanoverians! The weather is so fine that, notwithstanding the inconveniences I have hitherto experienced on this account, I think I shall continue my journey in the same manner.
Oxford, June 25.
To what various, singular, and unaccountable fatalities and adventures are not foot-travellers exposed, in this land of carriages and horses! But, I will begin my relation in form and order.
In Windsor, I was obliged to pay for an old fowl I had for supper, for a bedroom which I procured with some difficulty, and not without murmurs, and in which, to complete my misadventures, I was disturbed by a drunken fellow; and for a couple of dishes of tea, nine shillings, of which the fowl alone was charged six shillings.
As I was going away the waiter, who had served me with so very ill a grace, placed himself on the stairs and said, “Pray remember the waiter.” I gave him three halfpence, on which he saluted me with the heartiest “G-d d-n you, sir!” I had ever heard. At the door stood the cross maid, who also accosted me with, “Pray remember the chambermaid.” “Yes, yes,” said I, “I shall long remember your most ill-mannered behaviour and shameful incivility;” and so I gave her nothing. I hope she was stung and nettled at my reproof; however, she strove to stifle her anger by a contemptuous, loud, hoarse laugh. Thus, as I left Windsor, I was literally followed by abuses and curses.
I am very sorry to say that I rejoiced when I once more perceived the towers of Windsor behind me. It is not proper for wanderers to be prowling near the palaces of kings, and so I sat me down, philosophically, in the shade of a green hedge, and again read Milton, no friend of kings, though the first of poets. Whatever I may think of their inns, it is impossible not to admire and be charmed with this country.
I took my way through Slough, by Salthill, to Maidenhead. At Salthill, which can hardly be called even a village, I saw a barber’s shop, and so I resolved to get myself both shaved and dressed. For putting my hair a little in order, and shaving me, I was forced to pay him a shilling. Opposite to this shop there stands an elegant house and a neat garden.
Between Salthill and Maidenhead, I met with the first very remarkable and alarming adventure that has occurred during my pilgrimage.
Hitherto I had scarcely met a single foot passenger, whilst coaches without number every moment rolled past me, for there are few roads, even in England, more crowded than this western road, which leads to Bath and Bristol as well as to Oxford. I now also began to meet numbers of people on horseback, which is by no means an usual method of travelling.
The road now led me along a low sunken piece of ground between high trees, so that I could not see far before me, when a fellow in a brown frock and round hat, with a stick in his hand a great deal stronger than mine, came up to me. His countenance immediately struck me as having in it something suspicious. He however passed me; but, before I was aware, he turned back and asked me for a halfpenny to buy, as he said, some bread, as he had eaten nothing that day. I felt in my pocket, and found that I had no halfpence: no, nor even a sixpence; in short, nothing but shillings. I told him the circumstance, which I hoped would excuse me; on which he said, with an air and manner the drift of which I could not understand, “God bless my soul!” This drew my attention still closer to the huge brawny fist, which grasped his stick, and that closer attention determined me immediately to put my hand in my pocket and give him a shilling. Meanwhile a coach came up. The fellow thanked me and went on. Had the coach come a moment sooner, I should not easily have given him the shilling, which, God knows, I could not well spare. Whether this was a footpad or not, I will not pretend to say, but he had every appearance of it.
I now came to Maidenhead bridge, which is five-and-twenty English miles from London.
The English milestones give me much pleasure, and they certainly are a great convenience to travellers. They have often seemed to ease me of half the distance of a journey merely by telling me how far I had already gone, and by assuring me that I was on the right road. For, besides the distance from London, every milestone informs you that to the next place is so many miles, and where there are cross-roads there are direction-posts, so that it is hardly possible to lose one’s-self in walking. I must confess that all this journey has seemed but as it were one continued walk for pleasure.
From Maidenhead bridge there is a delightful prospect towards a hill, which extends itself along the right bank of the Thames, and on the top of it there are two beautiful country seats, all surrounded with meadows and parks. The first is called Taplow, and belongs to the Earl of Inchiquin; and a little farther Cliefden, which also belongs to him.
These villas seem all to be surrounded with green meadows, lying along thick woods, and, altogether, are most charming.
From this bridge it is not far to Maidenhead, near which, on the left, is another prospect of a beautiful seat, belonging to Pennyston Powney, Esq.
All this knowledge I have gained chiefly from my English guide; which I have constantly in my hand; and in which everything most worthy of notice in every mile is marked. These notices I get confirmed or refuted by the people at whose houses I stop; who wonder how I, who am a foreigner, have come to be so well acquainted with their country.
Maidenhead is a place of little note; for some mulled ale, which I desired them to make me, I was obliged to pay ninepence. I fancy they did not take me to be either a great, or a very rich man, for I heard them say, as I passed on, “A stout fellow!” This, though perhaps not untrue, did not seem to sound in my ears as very respectful.
At the end of the village was a shoemaker’s shop, just as at the end of Salthill there was a barber’s shop.
From hence I went to Henley, which is eleven miles from Maidenhead, and thirty-six from London.
Having walked pretty fast for six English miles together, and being now only five miles from Henley, I came to a rising ground where there just happened to be a milestone, near which I sat down, to enjoy one of the most delightful prospects, the contemplation of which I recommend to everyone who may ever happen to come to this spot. Close before me rose a soft hill, full of green cornfields, fenced with quick-hedges, and the top of it was encircled with a wood.
At some little distance, in a large semicircle, one green hill rose after another, all around me, gently raising themselves aloft from the banks of the Thames, and on which woods, meadows, arable lands, and villages were interspersed in the greatest and most beautiful variety; whilst at their foot the Thames meandered, in most picturesque windings, among villages, gentlemen’s seats, and green vales.
The banks of the Thames are everywhere beautiful, everywhere charming; how delighted was I with the sight of it when, having lost it for a short time, I suddenly and unexpectedly saw it again with all its beautiful banks. In the vale below, flocks were feeding; and from the hills I heard the sweet chimes of distant bells.
The circumstance that renders these English prospects so enchantingly beautiful, is a concurrence and union of the tout ensemble. Everything coincides and conspires to render them fine, moving pictures. It is impossible to name, or find a spot, on which the eye would not delight to dwell. Any of the least beautiful of any of these views that I have seen in England would, anywhere in Germany, be deemed a paradise.
Reinforced, as it were, by this gratifying prospect, to support fresh fatigues, I now walked a quick pace, both up and down the hills, the five remaining miles to Henley, where I arrived about four in the afternoon.
To the left, just before I got to Henley, on this side of the Thames, I saw on a hill a fine park and a magnificent country seat, at present occupied by General Conway.
Just before my entrance into Henley, I walked a little directly on the banks of the Thames; and sat myself down in the high grass, whilst opposite to me, on the other side, lay the park on the hill. As I was a little tired, I fell asleep, and when I awoke the last rays of the setting sun just shone upon me.
Invigorated by this sweet, though short, slumber, I walked on and entered the town. Its appearance, however, indicated that it was too fine a place for me, and so I determined to stop at an inn on the road-side, such a one as the Vicar of Wakefield well calls, “the resort of indigence and frugality.”
The worst of it was, no one, even in these places of refuge, would take me in. Yet, on this road, I met two farmers, the first of whom I asked whether he thought I could get a night’s lodging at a house which I saw at a distance, by the road side. “Yes, sir, I daresay you may,” he replied. But he was mistaken: when I came there, I was accosted with that same harsh salutation, which though, alas, no longer quite new to me, was still unpleasing to my ears; “We have got no beds; you can’t stay here to-night.” It was the same at the other inn on the road; I was therefore obliged to determine to walk on as far as Nettlebed, which was five miles farther, where I arrived rather late in the evening, when it was indeed quite dark.
Everything seemed to be all alive in this little village; there was a party of militia soldiers who were dancing, singing, and making merry. Immediately on my entrance into the village, the first house that I saw, lying on my left, was an inn, from which, as usual in England, a large beam extended across the street to the opposite house, from which hung dangling an astonishing large sign, with the name of the proprietor.
“May I stay here to-night?” I asked with eagerness. “Why, yes, you may;” an answer which, however cold and surly, made me exceedingly happy.
They showed me into the kitchen, and set me down to sup at the same table with some soldiers and the servants. I now, for the first time, found myself in one of those kitchens which I had so often read of in Fielding’s fine novels; and which certainly give one, on the whole, a very accurate idea of English manners.
The chimney in this kitchen, where they were roasting and boiling, seemed to be taken off from the rest of the room and enclosed by a wooden partition; the rest of the apartment was made use of as a sitting and eating-room. All round on the sides were shelves with pewter dishes and plates, and the ceiling was well stored with provisions of various kinds, such as sugar-loaves, black-puddings, hams, sausages, flitches of bacon, &c.
While I was eating, a post-chaise drove up, and in a moment both the folding-doors were thrown open and the whole house set in motion, in order to receive, with all due respect, these guests, who, no doubt, were supposed to be persons of consequence. The gentlemen alighted, however, only for a moment, and called for nothing but a couple of pots of beer, and then drove away again. Notwithstanding, the people of the house behaved to them with all possible attention, for they came in a post-chaise.
Though this was only an ordinary village, and they certainly did not take me for a person of consequence, they yet gave me a carpeted bedroom, and a very good bed.
The next morning I put on clean linen, which I had along with me, and dressed myself as well as I could. And now, when I thus made my appearance, they did not, as they had the evening before, show me into the kitchen, but into the parlour, a room that seemed to be allotted for strangers, on the ground-floor. I was also now addressed by the most respectful term, “sir;” whereas the evening before I had been called only “master”: by this latter appellation, I believe, it is usual to address only farmers and quite common people.
This was Sunday, and all the family were in their Sunday-clothes. I now began to be much pleased with this village, and so I resolved to stop at it for the day, and attend divine service. For this purpose I borrowed a prayer-book of my host. Mr. Illing was his name, which struck me the more, perhaps, because it is a very common name in Germany. During my breakfast I read over several parts of the English liturgy, and could not help being struck at the circumstance that every word in the whole service seems to be prescribed and dictated to the clergyman. They do not visit the sick but by a prescribed form; as, for instance, they must begin by saying, “Peace be to this house,” &c.
Its being called a prayer-book, rather than, like ours, a hymn-book, arises from the nature of the English service, which is composed very little of singing, and almost entirely of praying. The psalms of David, however, are here translated into English verse, and are generally printed at the end of English prayer-books.
The prayer-book which my landlord lent me was quite a family piece, for all his children’s births and names, and also his own wedding-day, were very carefully set down on it. Even on this account alone the book would not have been uninteresting to me.
At half-past nine the service began. Directly opposite to our house, the boys of the village were all drawn up, as if they had been recruits to be drilled; all well-looking, healthy lads, neat and decently dressed, and with their hair cut short and combed on the forehead, according to the English fashion; their bosoms were open, and the white frills of their shirts turned back on each side. They seemed to be drawn up here at the entrance of the village merely to wait the arrival of the clergyman.
I walked a little way out of the village, where, at some distance, I saw several people coming from another village, to attend divine service here at Nettlebed.
At length came the parson on horseback. The boys pulled off their hats, and all made him very low bows. He appeared to be rather an elderly man, and wore his own hair round and decently dressed, or rather curled naturally.
The bell now rung in, and so I too, with a sort of secret proud sensation, as if I also had been an Englishman, went with my prayer-book under my arm to church, along with the rest of the congregation; and when I got into the church, the clerk very civilly seated me close to the pulpit.
Nothing can possibly be more simple, apt, and becoming than the few decorations of this church.
Directly over the altar, on two tables in large letters, the ten commandments were written. There surely is much wisdom and propriety in thus placing, full in the view of the people, the sum and substance of all morality.
Under the pulpit near the steps that led up to it, was a desk, from which the clergyman read the liturgy, the responses were all regularly made by the clerk; the whole congregation joining occasionally, though but in a low voice; as for instance, the minister said, “Lord, have mercy upon us!” the clerk and the congregation immediately subjoin, “and forgive us all our sins.” In general, when the clergyman offers up a prayer, the clerk and the whole congregation answer only, Amen!
The English service must needs be exceedingly fatiguing to the officiating minister, inasmuch as besides a sermon, the greatest part of the liturgy falls to his share to read, besides the psalms and two lessons.
The joining of the whole congregation in prayer has something exceedingly solemn and affecting in it.
Two soldiers, who sat near me in the church, and who had probably been in London, seemed to wish to pass for philosophers, and wits; for they did not join in the prayers of the church.
The service was now pretty well advanced, when I observed some little stir in the desk, the clerk was busy, and they seemed to be preparing for something new and solemn, and I also perceived several musical instruments. The clergyman now stopped, and the clerk then said in a loud voice, “Let us sing to the praise and glory of God, the forty-seventh psalm.”
I cannot well express how affecting and edifying it seemed to me, to hear this whole orderly and decent congregation, in this small country church, joining together with vocal and instrumental music, in the praise of their Maker. It was the more grateful, as having been performed, not by mercenary musicians, but by the peaceful and pious inhabitants of this sweet village. I can hardly figure to myself any offering more likely to be grateful to God.
The congregation sang and prayed alternately several times, and the tunes of the psalms were particularly lively and cheerful, though at the same time sufficiently grave, and uncommonly interesting. I am a warm admirer of all sacred music, and I cannot but add that that of the Church of England is particularly calculated to raise the heart to devotion; I own it often affected me even to tears.
The clergyman now stood up and made a short but very proper discourse on this text: “Not all they who say, Lord, Lord! shall enter the kingdom of heaven.” His language was particularly plain, though forcible; his arguments were no less plain, convincing, and earnest, but contained nothing that was particularly striking. I do not think the sermon lasted more than half an hour.
This clergyman had not perhaps a very prepossessing appearance; I thought him also a little distant and reserved, and I did not quite like his returning the bows of the farmers with a very formal nod.
I stayed till the service was quite over, and then went out of the church with the congregation, and amused myself with reading the inscriptions on the tombstones in the churchyard, which in general, are simpler, more pathetic, and better written than ours.
There were some of them which, to be sure, were ludicrous and laughable enough.
Among these is one on the tomb of a smith, which on account of its singularity, I here copy and send you.
“My sledge and anvil he declined,
My bellows too have lost their wind;
My fire’s extinct, my forge decayed,
My coals are spent, my iron’s gone,
My nails are drove: my work is done.”
Many of these epitaphs closed with the following quaint rhymes:
“Physicians were in vain;
God knew the best;
So here I rest.”
In the body of the church I saw a marble monument of a son of the celebrated Dr. Wallis, with the following simple and affecting inscription:
“The same good sense which qualified him for every public employment
Taught him to spend his life here in retirement.”
All the farmers whom I saw there were dressed, not as ours are, in coarse frocks, but with some taste, in fine good cloth; and were to be distinguished from the people of the town, not so much by their dress, as by the greater simplicity and modesty of their behaviour.
Some soldiers, who probably were ambitious of being thought to know the world, and to be wits, joined me, as I was looking at the church, and seemed to be quite ashamed of it, as they said it was only a very miserable church. On which I took the liberty to inform them, that no church could be miserable which contained orderly and good people.
I stayed here to dinner. In the afternoon there was no service; the young people however, went to church, and there sang some few psalms; others of the congregation were also present. This was conducted with so much decorum, that I could hardly help considering it as actually a kind of church-service. I stayed with great pleasure till this meeting also was over.
I seemed indeed to be enchanted, and as if I could not leave this village. Three times did I get off, in order to go on farther, and as often returned, more than half resolved to spend a week, or more, in my favourite Nettlebed.
But the recollection that I had but a few weeks to stay in England, and that I must see Derbyshire, at length drove me away. I cast many a longing, lingering look on the little church-steeple, and those hospitable friendly roofs, where, all that morning, I had found myself so perfectly at home.
It was now nearly three o’clock in the afternoon when I left this place, and I was still eighteen miles from Oxford. However, I seemed resolved to make more than one stage of it to Oxford, that seat of the muses, and so, by passing the night about five miles from it, to reach it in good time next morning.
The road from Nettlebed seemed to me but as one long fine gravel walk in a neat garden. And my pace in it was varied, like that of one walking in a garden: I sometimes walked quick, then slow, and then sat down and read Milton.
When I had got about eight miles from Nettlebed, and was now not far from Dorchester, I had the Thames at some distance on my left, and on the opposite side I saw an extensive hill, behind which a tall mast seemed to rise. This led me to suppose that on the other side of the hill there must needs also be a river. The prospect I promised myself from this hill could not possibly be passed, and so I went out of the road to the left over a bridge across the Thames, and mounted the hill, always keeping the mast in view. When I had attained the summit, I found (and not without some shame and chagrin) that it was all an illusion. There was, in fact, nothing before me but a great plain, and the mast had been fixed there, either as a maypole only, or to entice curious people out of their way.
I therefore now again, slowly and sullenly, descended the hill, at the bottom of which was a house, where several people were looking out of the window, and, as I supposed, laughing at me. Even if it were so, it seemed to be but fair, and so it rather amused, than vexed me, and I continued to jog on, without much regretting my waste journey to the mast.
Not far from Dorchester, I had another delightful view. The country here became so fine, that I positively could not prevail on myself to quit it, and so I laid myself down on the green turf, which was so fresh and sweet, that I could almost have been contented, like Nebuchadnezzar, to have grazed on it. The moon was at the full; the sun darted its last parting rays through the green hedges, to all which was added, the overpowering fragrance of the meadows, the diversified song of the birds, the hills that skirted the Thames, some of them of a light, and others of a dark-green hue, with the tufted tops of trees dispersed here and there among them. The contemplation of all these delightful circumstances well-nigh overcame me.
I arrived rather late at Dorchester. This is only a small place, but there is in it a large and noble old church. As I was walking along, I saw several ladies with their heads dressed, leaning out of their windows, or standing before the houses, and this made me conclude that this was too fine a place for me, and so I determined to walk on three-quarters of a mile farther to Nuneham, which place is only five miles from Oxford. When I reached Nuneham, I was not a little tired, and it was also quite dark.
The place consists of two rows of low, neat houses, built close to each other, and as regular and uniform as a London street. All the doors seemed to be shut, and even a light was to be seen only in a few of them.
At length quite at the end of the place, I perceived a great sign hanging across the street, and the last house to the left was the inn, at which everything seemed to be still in motion.
I entered without ceremony, and told them my errand, which was, that I intended to sleep there that night. “By no means,” was the answer, “it was utterly impossible; the whole house was full, and all their beds engaged, and, as I had come so far, I might even as well walk on the remaining five miles to Oxford.”
Being very hungry, I requested that, at least, they would give me something to eat. To this they answered that, as I could not stay all night there, it would be more proper for me to sup where I lodged, and so I might go on.
At length, quite humbled by the untowardness of my circumstances, I asked for a pot of beer, and that they did vouchsafe to give me, for ready money only; but a bit of bread to eat with it (for which also I would willingly have paid) they peremptorily refused me.
Such unparalleled inhospitality I really could not have expected in an English inn, but resolving, with a kind of spiteful indignation, to see how far their inhumanity would carry them, I begged that they would only let me sleep on a bench, and merely give me house-room, adding, that if they would grant me that boon only, I would pay them the same as for a bed, for, that I was so tired, I could not possibly go any farther. Even in the moment that I was thus humbly soliciting this humble boon, they banged the door to full in my face.
As here, in a small village, they had refused to receive me, it seemed to be presumption to hope that I should gain admittance at Oxford. What could I do? I was much tired, and so, as it was not a very cold night, I resolved to pass it in the open air; in this resolution, bouncing from this rude inn, I went to look out for a convenient spot for that purpose in an adjoining field, beneath some friendly tree. Just as I had found a place, which I thought would do, and was going to pull off my great coat to lay under my head by way of pillow, I heard someone behind me, following me with a quick pace. At first I was alarmed, but my fears were soon dispelled by his calling after me, and asking “if I would accept of company.”
As little as anyone is to be trusted who thus follows you into a field in a dark night, yet it was a pleasure to me to find that there were still some beings not quite inhuman, and at least one person who still interested himself about me, I therefore stopped, and as he came up to me he said that if I was a good walker, we might keep each other company, as he was also going to Oxford. I readily accepted of his proposal, and so we immediately set off together.
Now, as I could not tell whether my travelling companion was to be trusted or not, I soon took an opportunity to let him know that I was poor, and much distressed. To confirm this, I told him of the inhumanity with which I had just been treated at the inn, where they refused a poor wanderer so much as a place to lay his head, or even a morsel of bread for his money.
My companion somewhat excused the people by saying that the house was really full of people who had been at work in the neighbourhood, and now slept there. But that they had refused me a bit of bread he certainly could not justify. As we went along, other topics of conversation were started, and among other things he asked me where I came from that day.
I answered from Nettlebed, and added, that I had attended divine service there that morning.
“As you probably passed through Dorchester this afternoon,” said he, “you might have heard me preach also, had you come into the church there, for that is my curacy, from which I am just come, and am now returning to Oxford.” “So you are a clergyman;” said I, quite overjoyed that, in a dark night, I had met a companion on the road, who was of the same profession as myself. “And I, also,” said I, “am a preacher of the gospel, though not of this country.” And now I thought it right to give him to understand, that it was not, as I had before intimated, out of absolute poverty, but with a view of becoming better acquainted with men and manners, that I thus travelled on foot. He was as much pleased with this agreeable meeting as myself, and before we took a step farther, we cordially shook hands.
He now began to address me in Latin, and on my answering him in that language, which I attempted to pronounce according to the English manner of speaking it, he applauded me not a little for my correct pronunciation. He then told me, that some years ago, in the night also, and nearly at the same spot where he found me, he had met another German, who likewise spoke to him in Latin; but this unknown countryman of mine had pronounced it so very badly, that he said it was absolutely unintelligible.
The conversation now turned on various theological matters; and among others on the novel notions of a Dr. Priestly, whom he roundly blamed. I was not at all disposed to dispute that point with him, and so, professing with great sincerity, a high esteem for the Church of England, and great respect and regard for its clergy, I seemed to gain his good opinion.
Beguiling the tediousness of the road by such discourse, we were now got, almost without knowing it, quite to Oxford.
He told me I should now see one of the finest and most beautiful cities, not only in England, but in all Europe. All he lamented, was, that on account of the darkness of the night, I should not immediately see it.
This really was the case: “And now,” said he, as we entered the town, “I introduce you into Oxford by one of the finest, the longest, and most beautiful streets, not only in this city, but in England, and I may safely add in all Europe.”
The beauty and the magnificence of the street I could not distinguish; but of its length I was perfectly sensible by my fatigue; for we still went on, and still through the longest, the finest, and most beautiful street in Europe, which seemed to have no end; nor had I any assurance that I should be able to find a bed for myself in all this famous street. At length my companion stopped to take leave of me, and said he should now go to his college.
“And I,” said I, “will seat myself for the night on this stone bench and await the morning, as it will be in vain for me, I imagine, to look for shelter in a house at this time of night.”
“Seat yourself on a stone!” said my companion, and shook his head. “No, no! come along with me to a neighbouring ale-house, where it is possible they mayn’t be gone to bed, and we may yet find company.” We went on a few houses further, and then knocked at a door. It was then nearly twelve. They readily let us in; but how great was my astonishment, when, on being shown into a room on the left, I saw a great number of clergymen, all with their gowns and bands on, sitting round a large table, each with his pot of beer before him. My travelling companion introduced me to them, as a German clergyman, whom he could not sufficiently praise for my correct pronunciation of the Latin, my orthodoxy, and my good walking.
I now saw myself in a moment, as it were, all at once transported into the midst of a company, all apparently very respectable men, but all strangers to me. And it appeared to me extraordinary that I should, thus at midnight, be in Oxford, in a large company of Oxonian clergy, without well knowing how I had got there. Meanwhile, however, I took all the pains in my power to recommend myself to my company, and in the course of conversation, I gave them as good an account as I could of our German universities, neither denying nor concealing that, now and then, we had riots and disturbances. “Oh, we are very unruly here, too,” said one of the clergymen as he took a hearty draught out of his pot of beer, and knocked on the table with his hand. The conversation now became louder, more general, and a little confused; they enquired after Mr. Bruns, at present professor at Helmstadt, and who was known by many of them.
Among these gentlemen there was one of the name of Clerk, who seemed ambitious to pass for a great wit, which he attempted by starting sundry objections to the Bible. I should have liked him better if he had confined himself to punning and playing on his own name, by telling us again and again, that he should still be at least a Clerk, even though he should never become a clergyman. Upon the whole, however, he was, in his way, a man of some humour, and an agreeable companion.
Among other objections to the Scriptures, he started this one to my travelling companion, whose name I now learnt was Maud, that it was said in the Bible that God was a wine-bibber. On this Mr. Maud fell into a violent passion, and maintained that it was utterly impossible that any such passage should be found in the Bible. Another divine, a Mr. Caern referred us to his absent brother, who had already been forty years in the church, and must certainly know something of such a passage if it were in the Bible, but he would venture to lay any wager his brother knew nothing of it.
“Waiter! fetch a Bible!” called out Mr. Clerk, and a great family Bible was immediately brought in, and opened on the table among all the beer jugs.
Mr. Clerk turned over a few leaves, and in the book of Judges, 9th chapter, verse xiii, he read, “Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man?”
Mr. Maud and Mr. Caern, who had before been most violent, now sat as if struck dumb. A silence of some minutes prevailed, when all at once, the spirit of revelation seemed to come on me, and I said, “Why, gentlemen, you must be sensible that it is but an allegorical expression;” and I added, “how often in the Bible are kings called gods!”
“Why, yes, to be sure,” said Mr. Maud and Mr. Caern, “it is an allegorical expression; nothing can be more clear; it is a metaphor, and therefore it is absurd to understand it in a literal sense.” And now they, in their turn, triumphed over poor Clerk, and drank large draughts to my health in strong ale; which, as my company seemed to like so much, I was sorry I could not like. It either intoxicated or stupefied me; and I do think it overpowers one much sooner than so much wine would. The conversation now turned on many other different subjects. At last, when morning drew near, Mr. Maud suddenly exclaimed, “D-n me, I must read prayers this morning at All-Souls!” D-n me is an abbreviation of G-d d-n me; which, in England, does not seem to mean more mischief or harm than any of our or their common expletives in conversation, such as O gemini! or, The deuce take me!
Before Mr. Maud went away, he invited me to go and see him in the morning, and very politely offered himself to show me the curiosities of Oxford. The rest of the company now also dispersed; and as I had once (though in so singular a manner) been introduced into so reputable a society, the people of the house made no difficulty of giving me lodging, but with great civility showed me a very decent bed-chamber.
I am almost ashamed to own, that next morning, when I awoke, I had got so dreadful a headache, from the copious and numerous toasts of my jolly and reverend friends, that I could not possibly get up; still less could I wait on Mr. Maud at his college.
The inn where I was goes by the name of the Mitre. Compared to Windsor, I here found prince-like attendance. Being, perhaps, a little elevated the preceding evening, I had in the gaiety, or perhaps in the vanity of my heart, told the waiter, that he must not think, because I came on foot, that therefore I should give him less than others gave. I assured him of the contrary. It was probably not a little owing to this assurance that I had so much attention shown to me.
I now determined to stay at least a couple of days at Oxford; it was necessary and proper, if for no other reason, yet merely that I might have clean linen. No people are so cleanly as the English, nor so particular about neat and clean linen. For, one afternoon, my shirt not having been lately changed, as I was walking through a little street, I heard two women, who were standing at a door, call after me, “Look at the gentleman there! a fine gentleman, indeed, who cannot afford even a clean shirt!”
I dined below with the family, and a few other persons, and the conversation in general was agreeable enough. I was obliged to tell them many wonderful stories (for who are so illiterate or insensible as not to be delighted with the marvellous!) concerning Germany and the King of Prussia. They could not sufficiently admire my courage in determining to travel on foot, although they could not help approving of the motive. At length, however, it came out, and they candidly owned, that I should not have been received into their house, had I not been introduced as I was.
I was now confirmed in my suspicions, that, in England, any person undertaking so long a journey on foot, is sure to be looked upon and considered as either a beggar or a vagabond, or some necessitous wretch, which is a character not much more popular than that of a rogue; so that I could now easily account for my reception in Windsor and at Nuneham. But, with all my partiality for this country, it is impossible even in theory, and much less so in practice, to approve of a system which confines all the pleasures and benefits of travel to the rich. A poor peripatetic is hardly allowed even the humble merit of being honest.
As I still intended to pursue my journey to Derbyshire, I was advised (at least till I got further into the country) to take a place in a post-coach. They told me that the further I got from London, the more reasonable and humble I should find the people; everything would be cheaper, and everybody more hospitable. This determined me to go in the post-coach from Oxford to Birmingham; where Mr. Pointer, of London, had recommended me to a Mr. Fothergill, a merchant there; and from thence to continue my journey on foot.
Monday I spent at Oxford, but rather unpleasantly, on account of my headache. Mr. Maud himself came to fetch me, as he had promised he would, but I found myself unable to go with him.
Notwithstanding this, in the afternoon, I took a little walk up a hill, which lies to the north of Oxford; and from the top of which I could see the whole city; which did not, however, appear to me nearly so beautiful and magnificent as Mr. Maud had described it to me during our last night’s walk.
The colleges are mostly in the Gothic taste, and much overloaded with ornaments, and built with grey stone; which, perhaps, while it is new, looks pretty well, but it has now the most dingy, dirty, and disgusting appearance that you can possibly imagine.
Only one of these colleges is in the modern style. The houses of the city are in general ordinary, in some parts quite miserable; in some streets they are only one story high, and have shingled roofs. To me Oxford seemed to have but a dull and gloomy look; and I cannot but wonder how it ever came to be considered as so fine a city, and next to London.
I remained on the hill, on which there was a flight of steps that led to a subterraneous walk, till sunset, and saw several students walking here, who wore their black gowns over their coloured clothes, and flat square hats, just like those I had seen worn by the Eton scholars. This is the general dress of all those who belong to the universities, with the exception of a very trifling difference, by which persons of high birth and rank are distinguished.
It is probably on account of these gowns that the members of the university are called Gownsmen, to distinguish them from the citizens, who are called Townsmen; and when you want to mention all the inhabitants of Oxford together, you say, “the whole town, Gownsmen and Townsmen.”
This dress, I must own, pleases me far beyond the boots, cockades, and other frippery, of many of our students. Nor am I less delighted with the better behaviour and conduct which, in general, does so much credit to the students of Oxford.
The next morning Mr. Maud, according to his promise, showed me some of the things most worthy of notice in Oxford. And first he took me to his own room in his own college, which was on the ground floor, very low and dark, and resembled a cell, at least as much as a place of study. The name of this college is Corpus Christi. He next conducted me to All Souls’ College, a very elegant building, in which the chapel is particularly beautiful. Mr. Maud also showed me, over the altar here, a fine painting of Mengs, at the sight of which he showed far more sensibility than I thought him possessed of. He said that notwithstanding he saw that painting almost daily, he never saw it without being much affected.
The painting represented Mary Magdalene when she first suddenly sees Jesus standing before her, and falls at His feet. And in her countenance pain, joy, grief, in short almost all the strongest of our passions, are expressed in so masterly a manner, that no man of true taste was ever tired of contemplating it; the longer it is looked at the more it is admired. He now also showed me the library of this college, which is provided with a gallery round the top, and the whole is most admirably regulated and arranged. Among other things, I here saw a description of Oxford, with plates to illustrate it: and I cannot help observing what, though trite, is true, that all these places look much better, and are far more beautiful on paper, than they appeared to me to be as I looked at them where they actually stand.
Afterwards Mr. Maud conducted me to the Bodleian Library, which is not unworthy of being compared to the Vatican at Rome; and next to the building which is called the Theatre, and where the public orations are delivered. This is a circular building with a gallery all round it, which is furnished with benches one above the other, on which the doctors, masters of arts, and students sit, and directly opposite to each other are erected two chairs, or pulpits, from which the disputants harangue and contend.
Christ Church and Queen’s College are the most modern, and, I think, indisputably the best built of all the colleges. Balliol College seems particularly to be distinguished on account of its antiquity, and its complete Gothic style of building.
Mr. Maud told me that a good deal of money might be sometimes earned by preaching at Oxford; for all the members of a certain standing are obliged in their turn to preach in the church of the university; but many of them, when it comes to their turn, prefer the procuring a substitute; and so not unfrequently pay as high as five or six guineas for a sermon.
Mr. Maud also told me he had been now eighteen years at this university, and might be made a doctor whenever he chose it: he was a master of arts, and according to his own account gave lectures in his college on the classics. He also did the duty and officiated as curate, occasionally, in some of the neighbouring villages. Going along the street we met the English poet laureate, Warton, now rather an elderly man; and yet he is still the fellow of a college. His greatest pleasure next to poetry is, as Mr. Maud told me, shooting wild ducks.
Mr. Maud seemed upon the whole to be a most worthy and philanthropic man. He told me, that where he now officiated the clerk was dead, and had left a numerous family in the greatest distress; and that he was going to the place next day, on purpose to try if he could bring about the election of the son, a lad about sixteen years of age, in the place of his deceased father, as clerk, to support a necessitous family.
At the Mitre, the inn where I lodged, there was hardly a minute in which some students or others did not call, either to drink, or to amuse themselves in conversation with the daughter of the landlord, who is not only handsome, but sensible, and well behaved.
They often spoke to me much in praise of a German, of the name of Mitchel, at least they pronounced it so, who had for many years rendered himself famous as a musician. I was rejoiced to hear one of my countrymen thus praised by the English; and wished to have paid him a visit, but I had not the good fortune to find him at home.
Castleton, June 30th.
Before I tell you anything of the place where I now am, I will proceed regularly in my narrative, and so begin now where I left off in my last letter. On Tuesday afternoon Mr. Maud took me to the different walks about Oxford, and often remarked, that they were not only the finest in England, but he believed in Europe. I own I do not think he over-rated their merit. There is one in particular near the river, and close to some charming meadows, behind Corpus Christi College, which may fairly challenge the world.
We here seated ourselves on a bench, and Mr. Maud drew a review from his pocket, where, among other things, a German book of Professor Beckman’s was reviewed and applauded. Mr. Maud seemed, on this occasion, to show some respect for German literature. At length we parted. He went to fill up the vacancy of the clerk’s place at Dorchester, and I to the Mitre, to prepare for my departure from Oxford, which took place on Wednesday morning at three o’clock, in the post-coach. Considering the pleasing, if not kind attention shown me here, I own I thought my bill not unreasonable; though to be sure, it made a great hole in my little purse.
Within this coach there was another young man, who, though dressed in black, yet to judge from the cockade in his hat might be an officer. The outside was quite full with soldiers and their wives. The women of the lower class here wear a kind of short cloak made of red cloth: but women in general, from the highest to the lowest, wear hats, which differ from each other less in fashion than they do in fineness.
Fashion is so generally attended to among the English women, that the poorest maid-servant is careful to be in the fashion. They seem to be particularly so in their hats or bonnets, which they all wear: and they are in my opinion far more becoming than the very unsightly hoods and caps which our German women, of the rank of citizens, wear. There is, through all ranks here, not near so great a distinction between high and low as there is in Germany.
I had, during this day, a little headache; which rendered me more silent and reserved to my company than is either usual in England or natural to me. The English are taxed, perhaps too hastily, with being shy and distant to strangers. I do not think this was, even formerly, their true character; or that any such sentiment is conveyed in Virgil’s “Hospitibus feros.” Be this as it may, the case was here reversed. The Englishman here spoke to me several times in a very friendly manner, while I testified not the least inclination to enter into conversation with him.
He however owned afterwards that it was this very apparent reserve of mine that first gained me his good opinion.
He said he had studied physic, but with no immediate view of practising it. His intention, he said, was to go to the East Indies, and there, first, to try his fortune as an officer. And he was now going to Birmingham, merely to take leave of his three sisters, whom he much loved, and who were at school there.
I endeavoured to merit his confidence by telling him in my turn of my journey on foot through England; and by relating to him a few of the most remarkable of my adventures. He frankly told me he thought it was venturing a great deal, yet he applauded the design of my journey, and did not severely censure my plan. On my asking him why Englishmen, who were so remarkable for acting up to their own notions and ideas, did not, now and then, merely to see life in every point of view, travel on foot. “Oh,” said he, “we are too rich, too lazy, and too proud.”
And most true it is, that the poorest Englishman one sees, is prouder and better pleased to expose himself to the danger of having his neck broken on the outside of a stage, than to walk any considerable distance, though he might walk ever so much at his ease. I own I was frightened and distressed when I saw the women, where we occasionally stopped, get down from the top of the coach. One of them was actually once in much danger of a terrible fall from the roof, because, just as she was going to alight, the horses all at once unexpectedly went on. From Oxford to Birmingham is sixty-two miles; but all that was to be seen between the two places was entirely lost to me, for I was again mewed up in a post-coach, and driven along with such velocity from one place to another, that I seemed to myself as doing nothing less than travelling.
My companion, however, made me amends in some measure for this loss. He seemed to be an exceedingly good-tempered and intelligent man; and I felt in this short time a prepossession in his favour one does not easily form for an ordinary person. This, I flattered myself, was also the case with him, and it would mortify me not a little to think he had quite forgotten me, as I am sure I shall never forget him.
Just as we had been sometime eagerly conversing about Shakespeare, we arrived, without either of us having thought of it, at Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s birthplace, where our coach stopped, that being the end of one stage. We were still two-and-twenty miles from Birmingham, and ninety-four from London. I need not tell you what our feelings were, on thus setting our feet on classic ground.
It was here that perhaps the greatest genius nature ever produced was born. Here he first lisped his native tongue; here first conceived the embryos of those compositions which were afterwards to charm a listening world; and on these plains the young Hercules first played. And here, too, in this lowly hut, with a few friends, he happily spent the decline of his life, after having retired from the great theatre of that busy world whose manners he had so faithfully portrayed.
The river Avon is here pretty broad, and a row of neat though humble cottages, only one storey high, with shingled roofs, are ranged all along its banks. These houses impressed me strongly with the idea of patriarchal simplicity and content.
We went to see Shakespeare’s own house, which, of all the houses at Stratford I think is now the worst, and one that made the least appearance. Yet, who would not be proud to be the owner of it? There now however lived in it only two old people, who show it to strangers for a trifle, and what little they earn thus is their chief income.
Shakespeare’s chair, in which he used to sit before the door, was so cut to pieces that it hardly looked like a chair; for every one that travels through Stratford cuts off a chip as a remembrance, which he carefully preserves, and deems a precious relic, I also cut myself a piece of it, but reverencing Shakespeare as I do, I am almost ashamed to own to you it was so small that I have lost it, and therefore you will not see it on my return.
As we travelled, I observed every spot with attention, fancying to myself that such or such a spot might be the place where such a genius as Shakespeare’s first dawned, and received those first impressions from surrounding nature which are so strongly marked in all his works. The first impressions of childhood, I knew, were strong and permanent; of course I made sure of seeing here some images at least of the wonderful conceptions of this wonderful man. But my imagination misled me, and I was disappointed; for I saw nothing in the country thereabouts at all striking, or in any respect particularly beautiful. It was not at all wild and romantic; but rather distinguished for an air of neatness and simplicity.
We arrived at Birmingham about three o’clock in the afternoon. I had already paid sixteen shillings at Stratford for my place in the coach from Oxford to Birmingham. At Oxford they had not asked anything of me, and indeed you are not obliged in general in England, as you are in Germany, to pay your passage beforehand.
My companion and myself alighted at the inn where the coach stopped. We parted with some reluctance, and I was obliged to promise him that, on my return to London, I would certainly call on him, for which purpose he gave me his address. His father was Dr. Wilson, a celebrated author in his particular style of writing.
I now inquired for the house of Mr. Fothergill, to whom I was recommended, and I was readily directed to it, but had the misfortune to learn, at the same time, that this very Mr. Fothergill had died about eight days before. As, therefore, under these circumstances, my recommendation to him was likely to be but of little use, I had the less desire to tarry long at Birmingham, and so, without staying a minute longer, I immediately inquired the road to Derby, and left Birmingham. Of this famous manufacturing town, therefore, I can give you no account.
The road from Birmingham onwards is not very agreeable, being in general uncommonly sandy. Yet the same evening I reached a little place called Sutton, where everything, however, appeared to be too grand for me to hope to obtain lodgings in it, till quite at the end of it I came to a small inn with the sign of the Swan, under which was written Aulton, brickmaker.
This seemed to have something in it that suited me, and therefore I boldly went into it; and when in I did not immediately, as heretofore, inquire if I could stay all night there, but asked for a pint of ale. I own I felt myself disheartened by their calling me nothing but master, and by their showing me into the kitchen, where the landlady was sitting at a table and complaining much of the toothache. The compassion I expressed for her on this account, as a stranger, seemed soon to recommend me to her favour, and she herself asked me if I would not stay the night there? To this I most readily assented; and thus I was again happy in a lodging for another night.
The company I here met with consisted of a female chimney-sweeper and her children, who, on my sitting down in the kitchen, soon drank to my health, and began a conversation with me and the landlady.
She related to us her history, which I am not ashamed to own I thought not uninteresting. She had married early, but had the hard luck to be soon deprived of her husband, by his being pressed as a soldier. She neither saw nor heard of him for many years, so concluded he was dead. Thus destitute, she lived seven years as a servant in Ireland, without any one’s knowing that she was married. During this time her husband, who was a chimney-sweeper, came back to England and settled at Lichfield, resumed his old trade, and did well in it. As soon as he was in good circumstances, he everywhere made inquiry for his wife, and at last found out where she was, and immediately fetched her from Ireland. There surely is something pleasing in this constancy of affection in a chimney-sweeper. She told us, with tears in her eyes, in what a style of grandeur he had conducted her into Lichfield; and how, in honour to her, he made a splendid feast on the occasion. At this same Lichfield, which is only two miles from Sutton, and through which she said the road lay which I was to travel to-morrow, she still lived with this same excellent husband, where they were noted for their industry, where everybody respected them, and where, though in the lowest sphere, they are passing through life neither uselessly nor unhappily.
The landlady, during her absence, told me as in confidence, that this chimney-sweeper’s husband, as meanly as I might fancy she now appeared, was worth a thousand pounds, and that without reckoning in their plate and furniture, that he always wore his silver watch, and that when he passed through Sutton, and lodged there, he paid like a nobleman.
She further remarked that the wife was indeed rather low-lived; but that the husband was one of the best-behaved, politest, and civilest men in the world. I had myself taken notice that this same dingy companion of mine had something singularly coarse and vulgar in her pronunciation. The word old, for example, she sounded like auld. In other respects, I had not yet remarked any striking variety or difference from the pronunciation of Oxford or London.
To-morrow the chimney-sweeper, said she, her husband, would not be at home, but if I came back by the way of Lichfield, she would take the liberty to request the honour of a visit, and to this end she told me her name and the place of her abode.
At night the rest of the family, a son and daughter of the landlady, came home, and paid all possible attention to their sick mother. I supped with the family, and they here behaved to me as if we had already lived many years together.
Happening to mention that I was, if not a scholar, yet a student, the son told me there was at Sutton a celebrated grammar-school, where the school-master received two hundred pounds a year settled salary, besides the income arising from the scholars.
And this was only in a village. I thought, and not without some shame and sorrow, of our grammar-schools in Germany, and the miserable pay of the masters.
When I paid my reckoning the next morning, I observed the uncommon difference here and at Windsor, Nettlebed, and Oxford. At Oxford I was obliged to pay for my supper, bed, and breakfast at least three shillings, and one to the waiter. I here paid for my supper, bed, and breakfast only one shilling, and to the daughter, whom I was to consider as chambermaid, fourpence; for which she very civilly thanked me, and gave me a written recommendation to an inn at Lichfield, where I should be well lodged, as the people in Lichfield were, in general, she said, very proud. This written recommendation was a masterpiece of orthography, and showed that in England, as well as elsewhere, there are people who write entirely from the ear, and as they pronounce. In English, however, it seems to look particularly odd, but perhaps that may be the case in all languages that are not native.
I took leave here, as one does of good friends, with a certain promise that on my return I would certainly call on them again.
At noon I got to Lichfield, an old-fashioned town with narrow dirty streets, where for the first time I saw round panes of glass in the windows. The place to mime wore an unfriendly appearance; I therefore made no use of my recommendation, but went straight through, and only bought some bread at a baker’s, which I took along with me.
At night I reached Burton, where the famous Burton ale is brewed. By this time I felt myself pretty well tired, and therefore proposed to stay the night here. But my courage failed me, and I dropped the resolution immediately on my entering the town. The houses and everything else seemed to wear as grand an appearance, almost, as if I had been still in London. And yet the manners of some of its inhabitants were so thoroughly rustic and rude, that I saw them actually pointing at me with their fingers as a foreigner. And now, to complete my chagrin and mortification, I came to a long street, where everybody on both sides of the way were at their doors, and actually made me run the gauntlet through their inquiring looks. Some even hissed at me as I passed along. All my arguments to induce me to pluck up my courage, such as the certainty that I should never see these people again nor they me, were of no use. Burton became odious and almost insupportable to me; and the street appeared as long and tired me as much, as if I had walked a mile. This strongly-marked contemptuous treatment of a stranger, who was travelling through their country merely from the respect he bore it, I experienced nowhere but at Burton.
How happy did I feel when I again found myself out of their town, although at that moment I did not know where I should find a lodging for the night, and was, besides, excessively tired. But I pursued my journey, and still kept in the road to Derby, along a footpath which I knew to be right. It led across a very pleasant mead, the hedges of which were separated by stiles, over which I was often obliged to clamber. When I had walked some distance without meeting with an inn on the road, and it had already begun to be dark, I at last sat me down near a small toll-house, or a turnpike-gate, in order to rest myself, and also to see whether the man at the turnpike could and would lodge me.
After I had sat here a considerable time, a farmer came riding by, and asked me where I wanted to go? I told him I was so tired that I could go no farther. On this the good-natured and truly hospitable man, of his own accord and without the least distrust, offered to take me behind him on his horse and carry me to a neighbouring inn, where he said I might stay all night.
The horse was a tall one, and I could not easily get up. The turnpike-man, who appeared to be quite decrepid and infirm, on this came out. I took it for granted, however, that he who appeared to have hardly sufficient strength to support himself could not help me. This poor looking, feeble old man, however, took hold of me with one arm, and lifted me with a single jerk upon the horse so quick and so alertly that it quite astonished me.
And now I trotted on with my charming farmer, who did not ask me one single impertinent question, but set me down quietly at the inn, and immediately rode away to his own village, which lay to the left.
This inn was called the Bear, and not improperly; for the landlord went about and growled at his people just like a bear, so that at first I expected no favourable reception. I endeavoured to gentle him a little by asking for a mug of ale, and once or twice drinking to him. This succeeded; he soon became so very civil and conversable, that I began to think him quite a pleasant fellow. This device I had learnt of the “Vicar of Wakefield,” who always made his hosts affable by inviting them to drink with him. It was an expedient that suited me also in another point of view, as the strong ale of England did not at all agree with me.
This innkeeper called me sir; and he made his people lay a separate table for himself and me; for he said he could see plainly I was a gentleman.
In our chat, we talked much of George the Second, who appeared to be his favourite king, much more so than George the Third. And among others things, we talked of the battle at Dettingen, of which he knew many particulars. I was obliged also in my turn to tell him stories of our great King of Prussia, and his numerous armies, and also what sheep sold for in Prussia. After we had been thus talking some time, chiefly on political matters, he all at once asked me if I could blow the French horn? This he supposed I could do, only because I came from Germany; for he said he remembered, when he was a boy, a German had once stopped at the inn with his parents who blew the French horn extremely well. He therefore fancied this was a talent peculiar to the Germans.
I removed this error, and we resumed our political topics, while his children and servants at some distance listened with great respect to our conversation.
Thus I again spent a very agreeable evening; and when I had breakfasted in the morning, my bill was not more than it had been at Sutton. I at length reached the common before Derby on Friday morning. The air was mild, and I seemed to feel myself uncommonly cheerful and happy. About noon the romantic part of the country began to open upon me. I came to a lofty eminence, where all at once I saw a boundless prospect of hills before me, behind which fresh hills seemed always to arise, and to be infinite.
The ground now seemed undulatory, and to rise and fall like waves; when at the summit of the rise I seemed to be first raised aloft, and had an extensive view all around me, and the next moment, when I went down the hill, I lost it.
In the afternoon I saw Derby in the vale before me, and I was now an hundred and twenty-six miles from London. Derby is but a small, and not very considerable town. It was market-day when I got there, and I was obliged to pass through a crowd of people: but there was here no such odious curiosity, no offensive staring, as at Burton. At this place too I took notice that I began to be always civilly bowed to by the children of the villages through which I passed.
From Derby to the baths of Matlock, which is one of the most romantic situations, it was still fifteen miles. On my way thither, I came to a long and extensive village, which I believe was called Duffield. They here at least did not show me into the kitchen, but into the parlour; and I dined on cold victuals.
The prints and pictures which I have generally seen at these inns are, I think, almost always prints of the royal family, oftentimes in a group, where the king, as the father of the family, assembles his children around him; or else I have found a map of London, and not seldom the portrait of the King of Prussia; I have met with it several times. You also sometimes see some of the droll prints of Hogarth. The heat being now very great, I several times in this village heard the commiserating exclamation of “Good God Almighty!” by which the people expressed their pity for me, as being a poor foot passenger.
At night I again stopped at an inn on the road, about five miles from Matlock. I could easily have reached Matlock, but I wished rather to reserve the first view of the country till the next day than to get there when it was dark.
But I was not equally fortunate in this inn, as in the two former. The kitchen was full of farmers, among whom I could not distinguish the landlord, whose health I should otherwise immediately have drank. It is true I heard a country girl who was also in the kitchen, as often as she drank say, “Your health, gentlemen all!” But I do not know how it was, I forgot to drink any one’s health, which I afterwards found was taken much amiss. The landlord drank twice to my health sneeringly, as if to reprimand me for my incivility; and then began to join the rest in ridiculing me, who almost pointed at me with their fingers. I was thus obliged for a time to serve the farmers as a laughing-stock, till at length one of them compassionately said, “Nay, nay, we must do him no harm, for he is a stranger.” The landlord, I suppose, to excuse himself, as if he thought he had perhaps before gone too far said, “Ay, God forbid we should hurt any stranger,” and ceased his ridicule; but when I was going to drink his health, he slighted and refused my attention, and told me, with a sneer, all I had to do was to seat myself in the chimney-corner, and not trouble myself about the rest of the world. The landlady seemed to pity me, and so she led me into another room where I could be alone, saying, “What wicked people!”
I left this unfriendly roof early the next morning, and now quickly proceeded to Matlock.
The extent of my journey I had now resolved should be the great cavern near Castleton, in the high Peak of Derbyshire. It was about twenty miles beyond Matlock.
The country here had quite a different appearance from that at Windsor and Richmond. Instead of green meadows and pleasant hills, I now saw barren mountains and lofty rocks; instead of fine living hedges, the fields and pasture lands here were fenced with a wall of grey stone; and of this very same stone, which is here everywhere to be found in plenty, all the houses are built in a very uniform and patriarchal manner, inasmuch as the rough stones are almost without any preparation placed one upon another, and compose four walls, so that in case of necessity, a man might here without much trouble build himself a house. At Derby the houses seem to be built of the same stone.
The situation of Matlock itself surpassed every idea I had formed of it. On the right were some elegant houses for the bathing company, and lesser cottages suspended like birds’ nests in a high rock; to the left, deep in the bottom, there was a fine bold river, which was almost hid from the eye by a majestic arch formed by high trees, which hung over it. A prodigious stone wall extended itself above a mile along its border, and all along there is a singularly romantic and beautiful secret walk, sheltered and adorned by many beautiful shrubs.
The steep rock was covered at the top with green bushes, and now and then a sheep, or a cow, separated from the grazing flock, came to the edge of the precipice, and peeped over it.
I have got, in Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” which I am reading thoroughly through, just to the part where he describes Paradise, when I arrived here and the following passage, which I read at the brink of the river, had a most striking and pleasing effect on me. The landscape here described was as exactly similar to that I saw before me, as if the poet had taken it from hence
“ - delicious Paradise,
Now nearer, crowns with her enclosure green,
As with a rural mound, the champion head
Of a steep wilderness, whose hairy sides
With thicket overgrown, grotesque and wild,
Access denied.” - Book IV. v. 132.
From Matlock Baths you go over Matlock Bridge, to the little town of Matlock itself, which, in reality, scarcely deserves the name of a village, as it consists of but a few and miserable houses. There is here, on account of the baths, a number of horses and carriages, and a great thoroughfare. From hence I came through some villages to a small town of the name of Bakewell. The whole country in this part is hilly and romantic. Often my way led me, by small passes, over astonishing eminences, where, in the deep below me, I saw a few huts or cottages lying. The fencing of the fields with grey stone gave the whole a wild and not very promising appearance. The hills were in general not wooded, but naked and barren; and you saw the flocks at a distance grazing on their summit.
As I was coming through one of the villages, I heard a great farmer’s boy eagerly ask another if he did not think I was a Frenchman. It seemed as if he had been waiting some time to see the wonder; for, he spoke as though his wish was now accomplished.
When I was past Bakewell, a place far inferior to Derby, I came by the side of a broad river, to a small eminence, where a fine cultivated field lay before me. This field, all at once, made an indescribable and very pleasing impression on me, which at first, I could not account for; till I recollected having seen, in my childhood, near the village where I was educated, a situation strikingly similar to that now before me here in England.
This field, as if it had been in Germany, was not enclosed with hedges, but every spot in it was uninterruptedly diversified with all kinds of crops and growths of different green and yellowish colours, which gave the whole a most pleasing effect; but besides this large field, the general view of the country, and a thousand other little circumstances which I cannot now particularly enumerate, served to bring back to my recollection the years of my youth.
Here I rested myself a while, and when I was going on again I thought of the place of my residence, on all my acquaintances, and not a little on you, my dearest friend, and imagined what you would think and say, if you were to see your friend thus wandering here all alone, totally unknown, and in a foreign land. And at that moment I first seriously felt the idea of distance, and the thought that I was now in England, so very far from all I loved, or who loved me, produced in me such sensations as I have not often felt.
It was perhaps the same with you, my dearest friend, when on our journey to Hamburg we drove from Perlsbeg, to your birthplace, the village of Boberow; where, among the farmers, you again found your own playmates, one of whom was now become the bailiff of the place. On your asking them whether they knew you, one and all of them answered so heartily, “O, yes, yes - why, your are Master Frederic.” The pedantic school-master, you will remember, was not so frank. He expressed himself in the stiff town phrase of, “He had not the honour of knowing you, as during your residence in that village, when a child, he had not been in loco.”
I now came through a little place of the name of Ashford, and wished to reach the small village of Wardlow, which was only three miles distant, when two men came after me, at a distance, whom I had already seen at Matlock, who called to me to wait for them. These were the only foot passengers since Mr. Maud, who had offered to walk with me.
The one was a saddler, and wore a short brown jacket and an apron, with a round hat. The other was very decently dressed, but a very silent man, whereas the saddler was quite talkative.
I listened with astonishment when I heard him begin to speak of Homer, of Horace, and of Virgil; and still more when he quoted several passages, by memory, from each of these authors, pronouncing the words, and laying his emphasis, with as much propriety as I could possibly have expected, had he been educated at Cambridge or at Oxford. He advised me not to go to Wardlow, where I should find bad accommodations, but rather a few miles to Tideswell, where he lived. This name is, by a singular abbreviation, pronounced Tidsel, the same as Birmingham is called by the common people Brummidgeham.
We halted at a small ale-house on the road-side, where the saddler stopped to drink and talk, and from whence he was in no haste to depart. He had the generosity and honour, however, to pay my share of the reckoning, because, as he said, he had brought me hither.
At no great distance from the house we came to a rising ground, where my philosophical saddler made me observe a prospect, which was perhaps the only one of the kind in England. Below us was a hollow, not unlike a huge kettle, hollowed out of the surrounding mass of earth; and at the bottom of it a little valley, where the green meadow was divided by a small rivulet, that ran in serpentine windings, its banks graced with the most inviting walks; behind a small winding, there is just seen a house where one of the most distinguished inhabitants of this happy vale, a great philosopher, lives retired, dedicating almost all his time to his favourite studies. He has transplanted a number of foreign plants into his grounds. My guide fell into almost a poetic rapture as he pointed out to me the beauties of this vale, while our third companion, who grew tired, became impatient at our tediousness.
We were now led by a steep road to the vale, through which we passed, and then ascended again among the hills on the other side.
Not far from Tideswell our third companion left us, as he lived in a neighbouring place. As we now at length saw Tideswell lying before us in the vale, the saddler began to give me an account of his family, adding, by way of episode, that he never quarrelled with his wife, nor had ever once threatened her with his fist, much less, ever lifted it against her. For his own sake, he said, he never called her names, nor gave her the lie. I must here observe, that it is the greatest offence you can give any one in England to say to him, you lie.
To be called a liar is a still greater affront, and you are a damned liar, is the very acme of vulgar abuse.
Just as in Germany, no one will bear the name of a scoundrel, or knave, or as in all quarrels, the bestowing such epithets on our adversary is the signal for fighting, so the term of a liar in England is the most offensive, and is always resented by blows. A man would never forgive himself, nor be forgiven, who could bear to be called a liar.
Our Jackey in London once looked at me with astonishment, on my happening to say to him in a joke, you are a liar. I assure you I had much to do before I could pacify him.
If one may form a judgment of the character of the whole nation, from such little circumstances as this, I must say this rooted hatred of the word liar appears to me to be no bad trait in the English.
But to return to my travelling companion, who further told me that he was obliged to earn his livelihood, at some distance from home, and that he was now returning for the first time, for these two months, to his family.
He showed me a row of trees near the town which he said his father had planted, and which, therefore, he never could look at but with emotion, though he passed them often as he went backwards and forwards on his little journeys to and from his birthplace. His father, he added, had once been a rich man, but had expended all his fortune to support one son. Unfortunately for himself as well as his family, his father had gone to America and left the rest of his children poor, notwithstanding which, his memory was still dear to him, and he was always affected by the sight of these trees.
Tideswell consists of two rows of low houses, built of rough grey stone. My guide, immediately on our entrance into the place, bade me take notice of the church, which was very handsome, and notwithstanding its age, had still some pretensions to be considered as an edifice built in the modern taste.
He now asked me whether he should show me to a great inn or to a cheap one, and as I preferred the latter, he went with me himself to a small public-house, and very particularly recommended me to their care as his fellow-traveller, and a clever man not without learning.
The people here also endeavoured to accommodate me most magnificently, and for this purpose gave me some toasted cheese, which was Cheshire cheese roasted and half melted at the fire. This, in England it seems, is reckoned good eating, but, unfortunately for me, I could not touch a bit of it; I therefore invited my landlord to partake of it, and he indeed seemed to feast on it. As I neither drank brandy nor ale, he told me I lived far too sparingly for a foot traveller; he wondered how I had strength to walk so well and so far.
I avail myself of this opportunity to observe that the English innkeepers are in general great ale drinkers, and for this reason most of them are gross and corpulent; in particular they are plump and rosy in their faces. I once heard it said of one of them, that the extravasated claret in his phiz might well remind one, as Falstaff says of Bardolph, of hell-fire.
The next morning my landlady did me the honour to drink coffee with me, but helped me very sparingly to milk and sugar. It was Sunday, and I went with my landlord to a barber, on whose shop was written “Shaving for a penny.” There were a great many inhabitants assembled there, who took me for a gentleman, on account, I suppose, of my hat, which I had bought in London for a guinea, and which they all admired. I considered this as a proof that pomp and finery had not yet become general thus far from London.
You frequently find in England, at many of the houses of the common people, printed papers, with sundry apt and good moral maxims and rules fastened against the room door, just as we find them in Germany. On such wretched paper some of the most delightful and the finest sentiments may be read, such as would do honour to any writer of any country.
For instance, I read among other things this golden rule on such an ordinary printed paper stuck against a room door, “Make no comparisons;” and if you consider how many quarrels, and how much mischief arise in the world from odious comparisons of the merits of one with the merits of another, the most delightful lessons of morality are contained in the few words of the above-mentioned rule.
A man to whom I gave sixpence conducted me out of the town to the road leading to Castleton, which was close to a wall of stones confusedly heaped one upon another, as I have before described. The whole country was hilly and rough, and the ground covered with brown heath. Here and there some sheep were feeding.
I made a little digression to a hill to the left, where I had a prospect awfully beautiful, composed almost entirely of naked rocks, far and near, among which, those that were entirely covered with black heath made a most tremendous appearance.
I was now a hundred and seventy miles from London, when I ascended one of the highest hills, and all at once perceived a beautiful vale below me, which was traversed by rivers and brooks and enclosed on all sides by hills. In this vale lay Castleton, a small town with low houses, which takes its name from an old castle, whose ruins are still to be seen here.
A narrow path, which wound itself down the side of the rock, led me through the vale into the street of Castleton, where I soon found an inn, and also soon dined. After dinner I made the best of my way to the cavern.
A little rivulet, which runs through the middle of the town, led me to its entrance.
I stood here a few moments, full of wonder and astonishment at the amazing height of the steep rock before me, covered on each side with ivy and other shrubs. At its summit are the decayed wall and towers of an ancient castle which formerly stood on this rock, and at its foot the monstrous aperture or mouth to the entrance of the cavern, where it is pitch dark when one looks down even at mid-day.
As I was standing here full of admiration, I perceived, at the entrance of the cavern, a man of a rude and rough appearance, who asked me if I wished to see the Peak, and the echo strongly reverberated his coarse voice.
Answering as I did in the affirmative, he next further asked me if I should want to be carried to the other side of the stream, telling me at the same time what the sum would be which I must pay for it.
This man had, along with his black stringy hair and his dirty and tattered clothes, such a singularly wild and infernal look, that he actually struck me as a real Charon. His voice, and the questions he asked me, were not of a kind to remove this notion, so that, far from its requiring any effort of imagination, I found it not easy to avoid believing that, at length, I had actually reached Avernus, was about to cross Acheron, and to be ferried by Charon.
I had no sooner agreed to his demand, than he told me all I had to do was boldly to follow him, and thus we entered the cavern.
To the left, in the entrance of the cavern, lay the trunk of a tree that had been cut down, on which several of the boys of the town were playing.
Our way seemed to be altogether on a descent, though not steep, so that the light which came in at the mouth of the cavern near the entrance gradually forsook us, and when we had gone forward a few steps farther, I was astonished by a sight which, of all other, I here the least expected. I perceived to the right, in the hollow of the cavern, a whole subterranean village, where the inhabitants, on account of its being Sunday, were resting from their work, and with happy and cheerful looks were sitting at the doors of their huts along with their children.
We had scarcely passed these small subterranean houses when I perceived a number of large wheels, on which on week days these human moles, the inhabitants of the cavern, make ropes.
I fancied I here saw the wheel of Ixion, and the incessant labour of the Danaides.
The opening through which the light came seemed, as we descended, every moment to become less and less, and the darkness at every step to increase, till at length only a few rays appeared, as if darting through a crevice, and just tinging the small clouds of smoke which, at dusk, raised themselves to the mouth of the cavern.
This gradual growth, or increase of darkness, awakens in a contemplative mind a soft melancholy. As you go down the gentle descent of the cavern, you can hardly help fancying the moment is come when, without pain or grief, the thread of life is about to be snapped; and that you are now going thus quietly to that land of peace where trouble is no more.
At length the great cavern in the rock closed itself, in the same manner as heaven and earth seem to join each other, when we came to a little door, where an old woman came out of one of the huts, and brought two candles, of which we each took one.
My guide now opened the door, which completely shut out the faint glimmering of light, which, till then, it was still possible to perceive, and led us to the inmost centre of this dreary temple of old Chaos and Night, as if, till now, we had only been traversing the outer courts. The rock was here so low, that we were obliged to stoop very much for some few steps in order to get through; but how great was my astonishment, when we had passed this narrow passage and again stood upright, at once to perceive, as well as the feeble light of our candles would permit, the amazing length, breadth, and height of the cavern; compared to which the monstrous opening through which we had already passed was nothing!
After we had wandered here more than an hour, as beneath a dark and dusky sky, on a level, sandy soil, the rock gradually lowered itself, and we suddenly found ourselves on the edge of a broad river, which, from the glimmering of our candles amid the total darkness, suggested sundry interesting reflections. To the side of this river a small boat was moored, with some straw in its bottom. Into this boat my guide desired me to step, and lay myself down in it quite flat; because, as he said, towards the middle of the river, the rock would almost touch the water.
When I had laid myself down as directed, he himself jumped into the water, and drew the boat after him.
All around us was one still, solemn, and deadly silence; and as the boat advanced, the rock seemed to stoop, and come nearer and nearer to us, till at length it nearly touched my face; and as I lay, I could hardly hold the candle upright. I seemed to myself to be in a coffin rather than in a boat, as I had no room to stir hand or foot till we had passed this frightful strait, and the rock rose again on the other side, where my guide once more handed me ashore.
The cavern was now become, all at once, broad and high: and then suddenly it was again low and narrow.
I observed on both sides as we passed along a prodigious number of great and small petrified plants and animals, which, however, we could not examine, unless we had been disposed to spend some days in the cavern.
And thus we arrived at the opposite side, at the second river or stream, which, however, was not so broad as the first, as one may see across it to the other side; across this stream my guide carried me on his shoulders, because there was here no boat to carry us over.
From thence we only went a few steps farther, when we came to a very small piece of water which extended itself lengthways, and led us to the end of the cavern.
The path along the edge of this water was wet and slippery, and sometimes so very narrow, that one can hardly set one foot before the other.
Notwithstanding, I wandered with pleasure on this subterranean shore, and was regaling myself with the interesting contemplation of all these various wonderful objects, in this land of darkness and shadow of death, when, all at once, something like music at a distance sounded in mine ears.
I instantly stopped, full of astonishment, and eagerly asked my guide what this might mean? He answered, “Only have patience, and you shall soon see.”
But as we advanced, the sounds of harmony seemed to die away; the noise became weaker and weaker; and at length it seemed to sink into a gentle hissing or hum, like distant drops of falling rain.
And how great was my amazement when, ere long, I actually saw and felt a violent shower of rain falling from the rock, as from a thick cloud, whose drops, which now fell on our candles, had caused that same melancholy sound which I had heard at a distance.
This was what is here called a mizzling rain, which fell from the ceiling or roof of the cavern, through the veins of the rock.
We did not dare to approach too near with our candles, as they might easily have been extinguished by the falling drops; and so we perhaps have been forced to seek our way back in vain.
We continued our march therefore along the side of the water, and often saw on the sides large apertures in the rock, which seemed to be new or subordinate caverns, all which we passed without looking into. At length my guide prepared me for one of the finest sights we had yet seen, which we should now soon behold.
And we had hardly gone on a few paces, when we entered what might easily have been taken for a majestic temple, with lofty arches, supported by beautiful pillars, formed by the plastic hand of some ingenious artist.
This subterranean temple, in the structure of which no human hand had borne a part, appeared to me at that moment to surpass all the most stupendous buildings in the world, in point of regularity, magnificence, and beauty.
Full of admiration and reverence, here, even in the inmost recesses of nature, I saw the majesty of the Creator displayed; and before I quitted this temple, here, in this solemn silence and holy gloom, I thought it would be a becoming act of true religion to adore, as I cordially did, the God of nature.
We now drew near the end of our journey. Our faithful companion, the water, guided us through the remainder of the cavern, where the rock is arched for the last time, and then sinks till it touches the water, which here forms a semicircle, and thus the cavern closes, so that no mortal can go one step farther.
My guide here again jumped into the water, swam a little way under the rock, and then came back quite wet, to show me that it was impossible to go any further, unless this rock could be blown up with powder, and a second cavern opened. I now thought all we had to do was to return the nearest way; but there were new difficulties still to encounter, and new scenes to behold still more beautiful than any I had yet seen.
My guide now turned and went back towards the left, where I followed him through a large opening in the rock.
And here he first asked me if I could determine to creep a considerable distance through the rock, where it nearly touched the ground. Having consented to do so, he told me I had only to follow him, warning me at the same time to take great care of my candle.
Thus we crept on our hands and feet, on the wet and muddy ground, through the opening in the rock, which was often scarcely large enough for us to get through with our bodies.
When at length we had got through this troublesome passage, I saw in the cavern a steep hill, which was so high that it seemed to lose itself as in a cloud, in the summit of the rock.
This hill was so wet and slippery, that as soon as I attempted to ascend, I fell down. My guide, however, took hold of my hand and told me I had only resolutely to follow him.
We now ascended such an amazing height, and there were such precipices on each side, that it makes me giddy even now when I think of it.
When we at length had gained the summit, where the hill seemed to lose itself in the rock, my guide placed me where I could stand firm, and told me to stay there quietly. In the meantime he himself went down the hill with his candle, and left me alone.
I lost sight of him for some moments, but at length I perceived, not him, indeed, but his candle, quite in the bottom, from whence it seemed to shine like a bright and twinkling star.
After I had enjoyed this indescribably beautiful sight for some time, my guide came back, and carried me safely down the hill again on his shoulders. And as I now stood below, he went up and let his candle shine again through an opening of the rock, while I covered mine with my hand; and it was now as if on a dark night a bright star shone down upon me, a sight which, in point of beauty, far surpassed all that I had ever seen.
Our journey was now ended, and we returned, not without trouble and difficulty, through the narrow passage. We again entered the temple we had a short time before left; again heard the pattering of the rain, which sounded as rain when we were near it, but which at a distance seemed a sonorous, dull, and melancholy hum; and now again we returned across the quiet streams through the capacious entrance of the cavern to the little door, where we had before taken our leave of daylight, which, after so long a darkness, we now again hailed with joy.
Before my guide opened the door, he told me I should now have a view of a sight that would surpass all the foregoing. I found that he was in the right, for when he had only half opened the door, it really seemed as if I was looking into Elysium.
The day seemed to be gradually breaking, and night and darkness to have vanished. At a distance you again just saw the smoke of the cottages, and then the cottages themselves; and as we ascended we saw the boys still playing around the hewn trunk, till at length the reddish purple stripes in the sky faintly appeared through the mouth of the hole; yet, just as we came out, the sun was setting in the west.
Thus had I spent nearly the whole afternoon till it was quite evening in the cavern; and when I looked at myself, I was, as to my dress, not much unlike my guide; my shoes scarcely hung to my feet, they were so soft and so torn by walking so long on the damp sand, and the hard pointed stones.
I paid no more than half-a-crown for seeing all that I had seen, with a trifle to my guide; for it seems he does not get the half-crown, but is obliged to account for it to his master, who lives very comfortably on the revenue he derives from this cavern, and is able to keep a man to show it to strangers.
When I came home I sent for a shoemaker. There was one who lived just opposite; and he immediately came to examine my shoes. He told me he could not sufficiently wonder at the badness of the work, for they were shoes I had brought from Germany. Notwithstanding this, he undertook, as he had no new ones ready, to mend them for me as well as he could. This led me to make a very agreeable acquaintance with this shoemaker; for when I expressed to him my admiration of the cavern, it pleased him greatly that in so insignificant a place as Castleton there should be anything which could inspire people with astonishment, who came from such distant countries; and thereupon offered to take a walk with me, to show me, at no great distance, the famous mountain called Mam Tor, which is reckoned among the things of most note in Derbyshire.
This mountain is covered with verdure on its summit and sides; but at the end it is a steep precipice. The middle part does not, like other mountains, consist of rock, but of a loose earth, which gives way, and either rolls from the top of the precipice in little pieces, or tears itself loose in large masses, and falls with a thundering crash, thus forming a hill on its side which is continually increasing.
From these circumstances probably is derived the name of Mam Tor, which literally signifies Mother Hill; for Tor is either an abbreviation of, or the old word for, Tower, and means not only a lofty building, but any eminence. Mam is a familiar term, that obtains in all languages, for Mother; and this mountain, like a mother, produces several other small hills.
The inhabitants here have a superstitious notion that this mountain, notwithstanding its daily loss, never decreases, but always keeps its own, and remains the same.
My companion told me a shocking history of an inhabitant of Castleton who laid a wager that he would ascend this steep precipice.
As the lower part is not quite so steep, but rather slanting upwards, he could get good hold in this soft loose earth, and clambered up, without looking round. At length he had gained more than half the ascent, and was just at the part where it projects and overlooks its basis. From this astonishing height the unfortunate man cast down his eyes, whilst the threatening point of the rock hung over him, with tottering masses of earth.
He trembled all over, and was just going to relinquish his hold, not daring to move backwards or forwards; in this manner he hung for some time between heaven and earth, surrounded by despair. However, his sinews would bear it no longer, and therefore, in an effort of despair, he once more collected all his strength and got hold of first one loose stone, and then another, all of which would have failed him had he not immediately caught hold of another. By these means, however, at length, to his own, as well as to the astonishment of all the spectators, he avoided almost instant and certain death, safely gained the summit of the hill, and won his wager.
I trembled as I heard this relation, seeing the mountain and the precipice in question so near to me, I could not help figuring to myself the man clambering up it.
Not far from hence is Elden Hole, a cavity or pit, or hole in the earth, of such a monstrous depth, that if you throw in a pebble stone, and lay your ear to the edge of the hole, you hear it falling for a long time.
As soon as it comes to the bottom it emits a sound as if some one were uttering a loud sigh. The first noise it makes on its being first parted with affects the ear like a subterranean thunder. This rumbling or thundering noise continues for some time, and then decreases as the stone falls against first one hard rock and then another at a greater and a greater depth, and at length, when it has for some time been falling, the noise stops with a kind of whizzing or a hissing murmur. The people have also a world of superstitious stories relating to this place, one of which is that some person once threw into it a goose, which appeared again at two miles’ distance in the great cavern I have already mentioned, quite stripped of its feathers. But I will not stuff my letters with many of these fabulous histories.
They reckon that they have in Derbyshire seven wonders of nature, of which this Elden Hole, the hill of Mam Tor, and the great cavern I have been at are the principal.
The remaining four wonders are Pool’s Hole, which has some resemblance to this that I have seen, as I am told, for I did not see it; next St. Anne’s Well, where there are two springs which rise close to each other, the one of which is boiling hot, the other as cold as ice; the next is Tide’s Well, not far from the town of that name through which I passed. It is a spring or well, which in general flows or runs underground imperceptibly, and then all at once rushes forth with a mighty rumbling or subterranean noise, which is said to have something musical in it, and overflows its banks; lastly Chatsworth, a palace or seat belonging to the Dukes of Devonshire, at the foot of a mountain whose summit is covered with eternal snow, and therefore always gives one the idea of winter, at the same time that the most delightful spring blooms at its foot. I can give you no further description of these latter wonders, as I only know them by the account given me by others. They were the subjects with which my guide, the shoemaker, entertained me during our walk.
While this man was showing me everything within his knowledge that he thought most interesting, he often expressed his admiration on thinking how much of the world I had already seen; and the idea excited in him so lively a desire to travel, that I had much to do to reason him out of it. He could not help talking of it the whole evening, and again and again protested that, had he not got a wife and child, he would set off in the morning at daybreak along with me; for here in Castleton there is but little to be earned by the hardest labour or even genius. Provisions are not cheap, and in short, there is no scope for exertion. This honest man was not yet thirty.
As we returned, he wished yet to show me the lead mines, but it was too late. Yet, late as it was, he mended my shoes the same evening, and I must do him the justice to add in a very masterly manner.
But I am sorry to tell you I have brought a cough from the cavern that does not at all please me; indeed, it occasions me no little pain, which makes me suppose that one must needs breathe a very unwholesome damp air in this cavern. But then, were that the case, I do not comprehend how my friend Charon should have held it out so long and so well as he has.
This morning I was up very early in order to view the ruins, and to climb a high hill alongside of them. The ruins are directly over the mouth of the hole on the hill, which extends itself some distance over the cavern beyond the ruins, and always widens, though here in front it is so narrow that the building takes up the whole.
From the ruins all around there is nothing but steep rock, so that there is no access to it but from the town, where a crooked path from the foot of the hill is hewn in the rock, but is also prodigiously steep.
The spot on which the ruins stand is now all overgrown with nettles and thistles. Formerly, it is said, there was a bridge from this mountain to the opposite one, of which one may yet discover some traces, as in the vale which divides the two rocks we still find the remains of some of the arches on which the bridge rested. This vale, which lies at the back of the ruins and probably over the cavern, is called the Cave’s Way, and is one of the greatest thoroughfares to the town. In the part at which, at some distance, it begins to descend between these two mountains, its descent is so gentle that one is not at all tired in going down it; but if you should happen to miss the way between the two rocks and continue on the heights, you are in great danger of falling from the rock, which every moment becomes steeper and steeper.
The mountain on which the ruins stand is everywhere rocky. The one on the left of it, which is separated by the vale, is perfectly verdant and fertile, and on its summit the pasture hands are divided by stones, piled up in the form of a wall. This green mountain is at least three times as high as that on which the ruins stand.
I began to clamber up the green mountain, which is also pretty steep; and when I had got more than half way up without having once looked back, I was nearly in the same situation as the adventurer who clambered up Mam Tor Hill, for when I looked round, I found my eye had not been trained to view, unmoved, so prodigious a height. Castleton with the surrounding country lay below me like a map, the roofs of the houses seemed almost close to the ground, and the mountain with the ruins itself seemed to be lying at my feet.
I grew giddy at the prospect, and it required all my reason to convince me that I was in no danger, and that, at all events, I could only scramble down the green turf in the same manner as I had got up. At length I seemed to grow accustomed to this view till it really gave me pleasure, and I now climbed quite to the summit and walked over the meadows, and at length reached the way which gradually descends between the two mountains.
At the top of the green mountain I met with some neat country girls, who were milking their cows, and coming this same way with their milk-pails on their heads.
This little rural party formed a beautiful group when some of them with their milk-pails took shelter, as it began to rain, under a part of the rock, beneath which they sat down on natural stone benches, and there, with pastoral innocence and glee, talked and laughed till the shower was over.
My way led me into the town, from whence I now write, and which I intend leaving in order to begin my journey back to London, but I think I shall not now pursue quite the same road.
When I took my leave of the honest shoemaker in Castleton, who would have rejoiced to have accompanied me, I resolved to return, not by Tideswell, but by Wardlow, which is nearer.
I there found but one single inn, and in it only a landlady, who told me that her husband was at work in the lead mines, and that the cavern at Castleton, and all that I had yet seen, was nothing to be compared to these lead mines. Her husband, she said, would be happy to show them to me.
When I came to offer to pay her for my dinner she made some difficulty about it, because, as I had neither drank ale or brandy, by the selling of which she chiefly made her livelihood, she said she could not well make out my bill. On this I called for a mug of ale (which I did not drink) in order to enable me the better to settle her reckoning.
At this same time I saw my innkeeper of Tideswell, who, however, had not, like me, come on foot, but prancing proudly on horseback.
As I proceeded, and saw the hills rise before me, which were still fresh in my memory, having so recently become acquainted with them in my journey thither, I was just reading the passage in Milton relative to the creation, in which the Angel describes to Adam how the water subsided, and
“Immediately the mountains huge appear
Emergent, and their broad bare backs upheave
Into the clouds, their tops ascend the sky.”
Book VII., 1. 285.
It seemed to me, while reading this passage, as if everything around me were in the act of creating, and the mountains themselves appeared to emerge or rise, so animated was the scene.
I had felt something not very unlike this on my journey hither, as I was sitting opposite to a hill, whose top was covered with trees, and was reading in Milton the sublime description of the combat of the angels, where the fallen angels are made, with but little regard to chronology, to attack their antagonists with artillery and cannon, as if it had been a battle on earth of the present age. The better angels, however, defend themselves against their antagonists by each seizing on some hill by the tufts on its summit, tearing them up by the root, and thus bearing them in their hands to fling them at their enemy:
“ - they ran, they flew,
From their foundation loos’ning to and fro,
They pluck’d the seated hills with all their load,
Rocks, waters, woods, and by the shaggy tops
Uplifting bore them in their hands - .”
Book VI., 1. 642.
I seemed to fancy to myself that I actually saw an angel there standing and plucking up a hill before me and shaking it in the air.
When I came to the last village before I got to Matlock, as it was now evening and dark, I determined to spend the night there, and inquired for an inn, which, I was told, was at the end of the village; and so on I walked, and kept walking till near midnight before I found this same inn. The place seemed to have no end. On my journey to Castleton I must either not have passed through this village or not have noticed its length. Much tired, and not a little indisposed, I at length arrived at the inn, where I sat myself down by the fire in the kitchen, and asked for something to eat. As they told me I could not have a bed here, I replied I absolutely would not be driven away, for that if nothing better could be had I would sit all night by the fire. This I actually prepared to do, and laid my head on the table in order to sleep.
When the people in the kitchen thought that I was asleep, I heard them taking about me, and guessing who or what I might be. One woman alone seemed to take my part, and said, “I daresay he is a well-bred gentleman;” another scouted that notion, merely because, as she said, “I had come on foot;” and “depend on it,” said she, “he is some poor travelling creature!” My ears yet ring with the contemptuous tone with which she uttered, “poor travelling creature!” It seems to express all the wretchedness of one who neither has house nor home - a vagabond and outcast of society.
At last, when these unfeeling people saw that I was determined, at all events, to stay there all night, they gave me a bed, but not till I had long given up all hopes of getting one. And in the morning, when they asked me a shilling for it, I gave them half-a-crown, adding, with something of an air, that I would have no change. This I did, though perhaps foolishly, to show them that I was not quite “a poor creature.” And now they took leave of me with great civility and many excuses; and I now continued my journey much at my ease.
When I had passed Matlock I did not go again towards Derby, but took the road to the left towards Nottingham. Here the hills gradually disappeared; and my journey now lay through meadow grounds and cultivated fields.
I must here inform you that the word Peake, or Pike, in old English signifies a point or summit. The Peak of Derbyshire, therefore, means that part of the country which is hilly, or where the mountains are highest.
Towards noon I again came to an eminence, where I found but one single solitary inn, which had a singular inscription on its sign. It was in rhyme, and I remember only that it ended with these words, “Refresh, and then go on.” “Entertainment for man and horse.” This I have seen on several signs, but the most common, at all the lesser ale-houses, is, “A. B. C. or D. dealer in foreign spirituous liquors.”
I dined here on cold meat and salad. This, or else eggs and salad, was my usual supper, and my dinner too, at the inns at which I stopped. It was but seldom that I had the good fortune to get anything hot. The salad, for which they brought me all the ingredients, I was always obliged to dress myself. This, I believe, is always done in England.
The road was now tolerably pleasant, but the country seemed here to be uniform and unvaried, even to dulness. However, it was a very fine evening, and as I passed through a village just before sunset several people who met me accosted me with a phrase which, at first, I thought odd, but which I now think civil, if not polite. As if I could possibly want information on such a point as they passed me, they all very courteously told me, “’Twas a fine evening,” or “A pleasant night.”
I have also often met people who as they passed me obligingly and kindly asked: “How do you do?” To which unexpected question from total strangers I have now learned to answer, “Pretty well, I thank you; how do you do?” This manner of address must needs appear very singular to a foreigner, who is all at once asked by a person whom he has never seen before how he does.
After I had passed through this village I came to a green field, at the side of which I met with an ale-house. The mistress was sitting at the window. I asked her if I could stay the night there. She said No!” and shut the window in my face.
This unmannerliness recalled to my recollection the many receptions of this kind to which I have now so often been exposed, and I could not forbear uttering aloud my indignation at the inhospitality of the English. This harsh sentiment I soon corrected, however, as I walked on, by recollecting, and placing in the opposite scale, the unbounded and unequalled generosity of this nation, and also the many acts of real and substantial kindness which I had myself experienced in it.
I at last came to another inn, where there was written on the sign: “The Navigation Inn,” because it is the depot, or storehouse, of the colliers of the Trent.
A rougher or ruder kind of people I never saw than these colliers, whom I here met assembled in the kitchen, and in whose company I was obliged to spend the evening.
Their language, their dress, their manners were, all of them, singularly vulgar and disagreeable, and their expressions still more so, for they hardly spoke a word, without adding “a G-d d-- me” to it, and thus cursing, quarrelling, drinking, singing, and fighting, they seemed to be pleased, and to enjoy the evening. I must do them the justice to add, that none of them, however, at all molested me or did me any harm. On the contrary, every one again and again drank my health, and I took care not to forget to drink theirs in return. The treatment of my host at Matlock was still fresh in my memory, and so, as often as I drank, I never omitted saying, “Your healths, gentlemen all!”
When two Englishmen quarrel, the fray is carried on, and decided, rather by actions than by words; though loud and boisterous, they do not say much, and frequently repeat the same thing over and over again, always clinching it with an additional “G-- d-- you!” Their anger seems to overpower their utterance, and can vent only by coming to blows.
The landlady, who sat in the kitchen along with all this goodly company, was nevertheless well dressed, and a remarkably well-looking woman. As soon as I had supped I hastened to bed, but could not sleep; my quondam companions, the colliers, made such a noise the whole night through. In the morning, when I got up, there was not cue to be seen nor heard.
I was now only a few miles from Nottingham, where I arrived towards noon.
This, of all the towns I have yet seen, except London, seemed to me to be one of the best, and is undoubtedly the cleanest. Everything here wore a modern appearance, and a large place in the centre, scarcely yielded to a London square in point of beauty.
From the town a charming footpath leads you across the meadows to the high-road, where there is a bridge over the Trent. Not far from this bridge was an inn, where I dined, though I could get nothing but bread-and-butter, of which I desired to have a toast made.
Nottingham lies high, and made a beautiful appearance at a distance, with its neat high houses, red roofs, and its lofty steeples. I have not seen so fine a prospect in any other town in England.
I now came through several villages, as Ruddington, Bradmore, and Buny, to Castol, where I stayed all night.
This whole afternoon I heard the ringing of bells in many of the villages. Probably it is some holiday which they thus celebrate. It was cloudy weather, and I felt myself not at all well, and in these circumstances this ringing discomposed me still more, and made me at length quite low-spirited and melancholy.
At Castol there were three inns close to each other, in which, to judge only from the outside of the houses, little but poverty was to be expected. In the one at which I at length stopped there was only a landlady, a sick butcher, and a sick carter, both of whom had come to stay the night. This assemblage of sick persons gave me the idea of an hospital, and depressed me still more. I felt some degree of fever, was very restless all night, and so I kept my bed very late the next morning, until the woman of the house came and aroused me by saying she had been uneasy on my account. And now I formed the resolution to go to Leicester in the post-coach.
I was now only four miles from Loughborough, a small, and I think, not a very handsome town, where I arrived late at noon, and dined at the last inn on the road that leads to Leicester. Here again, far beyond expectation, the people treated me like a gentleman, and let me dine in the parlour.
From Loughborough to Leicester was only ten miles, but the road was sandy and very unpleasant walking.
I came through a village called Mountsorrel, which perhaps takes its name from a little hill at the end of it. As for the rest, it was all one large plain, all the way to Leicester.
Towards evening I came to a pleasant meadow just before I got to Leicester, through which a footpath led me to the town, which made a good appearance as I viewed it lengthways, and indeed much larger than it really is.
I went up a long street before I got to the house from which the post-coaches set out, and which is also an inn. I here learnt that the stage was to set out that evening for London, but that the inside was already full; some places were, however, still left on the outside.
Being obliged to bestir myself to get back to London, as the time drew near when the Hamburg captain, with whom I intend to return, had fixed his departure, I determined to take a place as far as Northampton on the outside.
But this ride from Leicester to Northampton I shall remember as long as I live.
The coach drove from the yard through a part of the house. The inside passengers got in in the yard, but we on the outside were obliged to clamber up in the public street, because we should have had no room for our heads to pass under the gateway.
My companions on the top of the coach were a farmer, a young man very decently dressed, and a blackamoor.
The getting up alone was at the risk of one’s life, and when I was up I was obliged to sit just at the corner of the coach, with nothing to hold by but a sort of little handle fastened on the side. I sat nearest the wheel, and the moment that we set off I fancied that I saw certain death await me. All I could do was to take still safer hold of the handle, and to be more and more careful to preserve my balance.
The machine now rolled along with prodigious rapidity, over the stones through the town, and every moment we seemed to fly into the air, so that it was almost a miracle that we still stuck to the coach and did not fall. We seemed to be thus on the wing, and to fly, as often as we passed through a village, or went down a hill.
At last the being continually in fear of my life became insupportable, and as we were going up a hill, and consequently proceeding rather slower than usual, I crept from the top of the coach and got snug into the basket.
“O, sir, sir, you will be shaken to death!” said the black, but I flattered myself he exaggerated the unpleasantness of my post.
As long as we went up hill it was easy and pleasant. And, having had little or no sleep the night before, I was almost asleep among the trunks and the packages; but how was the case altered when we came to go down hill! then all the trunks and parcels began, as it were, to dance around me, and everything in the basket seemed to be alive, and I every moment received from them such violent blows that I thought my last hour was come. I now found that what the black had told me was no exaggeration, but all my complaints were useless. I was obliged to suffer this torture nearly an hour, till we came to another hill again, when quite shaken to pieces and sadly bruised, I again crept to the top of the coach, and took possession of my former seat. “Ah, did not I tell you that you would be shaken to death?” said the black, as I was getting up, but I made him no reply. Indeed, I was ashamed; and I now write this as a warning to all strangers to stage-coaches who may happen to take it into their heads, without being used to it, to take a place on the outside of an English post-coach, and still more, a place in the basket.
About midnight we arrived at Harborough, where I could only rest myself a moment, before we were again called to set off, full drive, through a number of villages, so that a few hours before daybreak we had reached Northampton, which is, however, thirty-three miles from Leicester.
From Harborough to Leicester I had a most dreadful journey, it rained incessantly; and as before we had been covered with dust, we now were soaked with rain. My neighbour, the young man who sat next me in the middle, that my inconveniences might be complete, every now and then fell asleep; and as, when asleep, he perpetually bolted and rolled against me, with the whole weight of his body, more than once he was very near pushing me entirely off my seat.
We at last reached Northampton, where I immediately went to bed, and have slept almost till noon. To-morrow morning I intend to continue my journey to London in some other stage-coach.
London, 15th July, 1782.
The journey from Northampton to London I can again hardly call a journey, but rather a perpetual motion, or removal from one place to another, in a close box; during your conveyance you may, perhaps, if you are in luck, converse with two or three people shut up along with you.
But I was not so fortunate, for my three travelling companions were all farmers, who slept so soundly that even the hearty knocks of the head with which they often saluted each other, did not awake them.
Their faces, bloated and discoloured by their copious use of ale and brandy, looked, as they lay before me, like so many lumps of dead flesh. When now and then they woke, sheep, in which they all dealt, was the first and last topic of their conversation. One of the three, however, differed not a little from the other two; his face was sallow and thin, his eyes quite sunk and hollow, his long, lank fingers hung quite loose, and as if detached from his hands. He was, in short, the picture of avarice and misanthropy. The former he certainly was; for at every stage he refused to give the coachman the accustomed perquisite, which every body else paid; and every farthing he was forced to part with, forced a “G-d d--n” from his heart. As he sat in the coach, he seemed anxious to shun the light; and so shut up every window that he could come at, except when now and then I opened them to take a slight view of the charms of the country through which we seemed to be flying, rather than driving.
Our road lay through Newport Pagnell, Dunstable, St. Albans, Barnet, to Islington, or rather to London itself. But these names are all I know of the different places.
At Dunstable, if I do not mistake, we breakfasted; and here, as is usual, everything was paid for in common by all the passengers; as I did not know this, I ordered coffee separately; however, when it came, the three farmers also drank of it, and gave me some of their tea.
They asked me what part of the world I came from; whereas we in Germany generally inquired what countryman a person is.
When we had breakfasted, and were again seated in the coach, all the farmers, the lean one excepted, seemed quite alive again, and now began a conversation on religion and on politics.
One of them brought the history of Samson on the carpet, which the clergyman of his parish, he said, had lately explained, I dare say very satisfactorily; though this honest farmer still had a great many doubts about the great gate which Samson carried away, and about the foxes with the firebrands between their tails. In other respects, however, the man seemed not to be either uninformed or sceptical.
They now proceeded to relate to each other various stories, chiefly out of the Bible; not merely as important facts, but as interesting narratives, which they would have told and listened to with equal satisfaction had they met them anywhere else. One of them had only heard these stories from his minister in the church, not being able to read them himself.
The one that sat next to him now began to talk about the Jews of the Old Testament, and assured us that the present race were all descended from those old ones. “Ay, and they are all damned to all eternity!” said his companion, as coolly and as confidently as if at that moment he had seen them burning in the bottomless pit.
We now frequently took up fresh passengers, who only rode a short distance with us, and then got out again. Among others was a woman from London, whose business was the making of brandy. She entertained us with a very circumstantial narrative of all the shocking scenes during the late riot in that city. What particularly struck me was her saying that she saw a man, opposite to her house, who was so furious, that he stood on the wall of a house that was already half burnt down, and there, like a demon, with his own hands pulled down and tossed about the bricks which the fire had spared, till at length he was shot, and fell back among the flames.
At length we arrived at London without any accident, in a hard rain, about one o’clock. I had been obliged to pay sixteen shillings beforehand at Northampton, for the sixty miles to London. This the coachman seemed not to know for certain, and therefore asked me more earnestly if I was sure I had paid: I assured him I had, and he took my word.
I looked like a crazy creature when I arrived in London; notwithstanding which, Mr. Pointer, with whom I left my trunk, received me in the most friendly manner, and desired me during dinner to relate to him my adventures.
The same evening I called on Mr. Leonhardi, who, as I did not wish to hire a lodging for the few days I might be obliged to wait for a fair wind, got me into the Freemasons’ Tavern. And here I have been waiting these eight days, and the wind still continues contrary for Hambro’; though I do now most heartily wish for a fair wind, as I can no longer make any improvement by my stay, since I must keep myself in constant readiness to embark whenever the wind changes; and therefore I dare go no great distance.
Everybody here is now full of the Marquis of Rockingham’s death, and the change of the ministry in consequence of it. They are much displeased that Fox has given up his seat; and yet it is singular, they still are much concerned, and interest themselves for him, as if whatever interested him were the interest of the nation. On Tuesday there was a highly important debate in Parliament. Fox was called on to assign the true reasons of his resignation before the nation. At eleven o’clock the gallery was so full that nobody could get a place, and the debates only began at three, and lasted this evening till ten.
About four Fox came. Every one was full of expectation. He spoke at first with great vehemence, but it was observed that he gradually became more and more moderate, and when at length he had vindicated the step he had taken, and showed it to be, in every point of view, just, wise, and honourable, he added, with great force and pathos, “and now I stand here once more as poor as ever I was.” It was impossible to hear such a speech and such declarations unmoved.
General Conway then gave his reasons why he did not resign, though he was of the same political principles as Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke; he was of the same opinion with them in regard to the independency of America; the more equal representation of the people in Parliament, and the regulations necessary in Ireland; but he did not think the present minister, Lord Shelburne, would act contrary to those principles. As soon as he did, he should likewise resign, but not before.
Burke now stood up and made a most elegant though florid speech, in praise of the late Marquis of Rockingham. As he did not meet with sufficient attention, and heard much talking and many murmurs, he said, with much vehemence and a sense of injured merit, “This is not treatment for so old a member of Parliament as I am, and I will be heard!” - on which there was immediately a most profound silence. After he had said much more in praise of Rockingham, he sub-joined, that with regard to General Conway’s remaining in the ministry, it reminded him of a fable he had heard in his youth, of a wolf, who, on having clothed himself as a sheep, was let into the fold by a lamb, who indeed did say to him, “Where did you get those long nails, and those sharp teeth, mamma?” But nevertheless let him in; the consequence of which was he murdered the whole flock. Now with respect to General Conway, it appeared to him, just as though the lamb certainly did perceive the nails and teeth of the wolf, but notwithstanding, was so good-tempered to believe that the wolf would change his nature, and become a lamb. By this, he did not mean to reflect on Lord Shelburne: only of this he was certain, that the present administration was a thousand times worse than that under Lord North (who was present).
When I heard Mr. Pitt speak for the first time, I was astonished that a man of so youthful an appearance should stand up at all; but I was still more astonished to see how, while he spoke, he engaged universal attention. He seems to me not to be more than one-and-twenty. This same Pitt is now minister, and even Chancellor of the Exchequer.
It is shocking to a foreigner, to see what violent satires on men, rather than on things, daily appear in the newspapers, of which they tell me there are at least a dozen, if not more, published every day. Some of them side with the Ministry, and still more I think with the Opposition. A paper that should be quite impartial, if that were possible, I apprehend would be deemed so insipid as to find no readers. No longer ago than yesterday, it was mentioned in one of these newspapers, that when Fox, who is fallen, saw so young a man as Pitt made the minister, he exclaimed with Satan, who, in “Paradise Lost,” on perceiving the man approved by God, called out, “O hateful sight!”
On Thursday the king went with the usual solemnity to prorogue the Parliament for a stated time. But I pass this over as a matter that has already been so often described.
I have also, during this period, become acquainted with Baron Grothaus, the famous walker, to whom I had also a letter of recommendation from Baron Groote of Hambro’. He lives in Chesterfield House, not far from General Paoli, to whom he has promised to introduce me, if I have time to call on him again.
I have suffered much this week from the violent cough I brought with me from the hole in Derbyshire, so that I could not for some days stir; during which time Messrs. Schonborn and Leonhardi have visited me very attentively, and contributed much to my amendment.
I have been obliged to relate as much about my journey out of London here as I probably shall in Germany of all England in general. To most people to whom I give an account of my journey, what I have seen is quite new. I must, however, here insert a few remarks on the elocution, or manner of speaking, of this country, which I had forgot before to write to you.
English eloquence appears to me not to be nearly so capable of so much variety and diffusion as ours is. Add to this, in their Parliamentary speeches, in sermons in the pulpit, in the dialogues on the stage; nay, even in common conversation, their periods at the end of a sentence are always accompanied by a certain singular uniform fall of the voice, which, notwithstanding its monotony has in it something so peculiar, and so difficult, that I defy any foreigner ever completely to acquire it. Mr. Leonhardi in particular seemed to me, in some passages which he repeated out of Hamlet, to have learnt to sink his voice in the true English manner; yet any one might know from his speaking that he is not an Englishman. The English place the accent oftener on the adjectives than they do on the substantive, which, though undoubtedly the most significant word in any sentence, has frequently less stress laid on it than you hear laid on mere epithets. On the stage they pronounce the syllables and words extremely distinct, so that at the theatres you may always gain most instruction in English elocution and pronunciation.
This kingdom is remarkable for running into dialect: even in London they are said to have one. They say, for example, “it a’nt” instead of “it is not;” “I don’t know,” for “I do not know;” “I don’t know him,” for “I do not know him;” the latter of which phrases has often deceived me, as I mistook a negative for an affirmative.
The word “sir,” in English, has a great variety of significations. With the appellation of “sir,” an Englishman addresses his king, his friend, his foe, his servant, and his dog; he makes use of it when asking a question politely; and a member of Parliament, merely to fill up a vacancy, when he happens to be at a loss. “Sir?” in an inquiring tone of voice, signifies what is your desire? “Sir!” in a humble tone - gracious Sovereign! - “Sir!” in surly tone, a box on the ear at your service! To a dog it means a good beating. And in a speech in Parliament, accompanied by a pause, it signifies, I cannot now recollect what it is I wish to say farther.
I do not recollect to have heard any expression repeated oftener than this, “Never mind it!” A porter one day fell down, and cut his head on the pavement: “O, never mind it!” said an Englishman who happened to be passing by. When I had my trunk fetched from the ship in a boat, the waterman rowed among the boats, and his boy, who stood at the head of his boat, got a sound drubbing, because the others would not let him pass: “O, never mind it!” said the old one, and kept rowing on.
The Germans who have been here any time almost constantly make use of Anglicisms, such as “es will nicht thun” (it will not do), instead of es ist nicht hinlänglich (it is not sufficient), and many such. Nay, some even say, “Ich habe es nicht geminded” (I did not mind it), instead of ich habe mich nicht daran errinnert, oder daran gedacht (I did not recollect it, or I did not think of it).
You can immediately distinguish Englishmen when they speak German, by their pronunciation according to the English manner; instead of Ich befinde mich wohl, they say Ich befirmich u’hol (I am very well), the w being as little noticed as u quickly sounded.
I have often heard, when directing any one in the street, the phrase, “Go down the street as far as ever you can go, and ask anybody.” Just as we say, “Every child can direct you.”
I have already noticed in England they learn to write a much finer hand than with us. This probably arises from their making use of only one kind of writing, in which the letters are all so exact that you would take it for print.
In general, in speaking, reading, in their expressions, and in writing, they seem, in England, to have more decided rules than we have. The lowest man expresses himself in proper phrases, and he who publishes a book, at least writes correctly, though the matter be ever so ordinary. In point of style, when they write, they seem to be all of the same country, profession, rank, and station.
The printed English sermons are beyond all question the best in the world; yet I have sometimes heard sad, miserable stuff from their pulpits. I have been in some churches where the sermons seem to have been transcribed or compiled from essays and pamphlets; and the motley composition, after all, very badly put together. It is said that there are a few in London, by whom some of the English clergy are supposed to get their sermons made for money.
London, 18th July.
I write to you now for the last time from London; and, what is still more, from St. Catherine’s, one of the most execrable holes in all this great city, where I am obliged to stay, because the great ships arrive in the Thames here, and go from hence, and we shall sail as soon as the wind changes. This it has just now done, yet still it seems we shall not sail till to-morrow. To-day therefore I can still relate to you all the little that I have farther noticed.
On Monday morning I moved from the Freemasons’ Tavern to a public-house here, of which the master is a German; and where all the Hambro’ captains lodge. At the Freemasons’ Tavern, the bill for eight days’ lodging, breakfast, and dinner came to one guinea and nine shillings and nine pence. Breakfast, dinner, and coffee were always, with distinction, reckoned a shilling each. For my lodging I paid only twelve shillings a week, which was certainly cheap enough.
At the German’s house in St. Catherine’s, on the contrary, everything is more reasonable, and you here eat, drink, and lodge for half-a-guinea a week. Notwithstanding, however, I would not advise anybody who wishes to see London, to lodge here long; for St. Catherine's is one of the most out-of-the-way and inconvenient places in the whole town.
He who lands here first sees this miserable, narrow, dirty street, and this mass of ill-built, old, ruinous houses; and of course forms, at first sight, no very favourable idea of this beautiful and renowned city.
From Bullstrode Street, or Cavendish Square, to St. Catherine’s, is little less than half a day’s journey. Nevertheless, Mr. Schonborn has daily visited me since I have lived here; and I have always walked back half-way with him. This evening we took leave of each other near St. Paul’s, and this separation cost me not a few tears.
I have had a very agreeable visit this afternoon from Mr. Hansen, one of the assistants to the “Zollner book for all ranks of men” who brought me a letter from the Rev. Mr. Zollner at Berlin, and just arrived at London when I was going away. He is going on business to Liverpool. I have these few days past, for want of better employment, walked through several parts of London that I had not before seen. Yesterday I endeavoured to reach the west end of the town; and I walked several miles, when finding it was grown quite dark, I turned back quite tired, without having accomplished my end.
Nothing in London makes so disgusting an appearance to a foreigner, as the butchers’ shops, especially in the environs of the Tower. Guts and all the nastiness are thrown into the middle of the street, and cause an insupportable stench.
I have forgot to describe the ’Change to you; this beautiful building is a long square in the centre of which is an open area, where the merchants assemble. All round, there are covered walks supported by pillars on which the name of the different commercial nations you may wish to find are written up, that among the crowd of people you may be able to find each other. There are also stone benches made under the covered walks, which after a ramble from St. Catherine’s, for example, hither, are very convenient to rest yourself.
On the walls all kinds of handbills are stuck up. Among others I read one of singular contents. A clergyman exhorted the people not to assent to the shameful Act of Parliament for the toleration of Catholics, by suffering their children to their eternal ruin to be instructed and educated by them; but rather to give him, an orthodox clergyman of the Church of England, this employ and this emolument.
In the middle of the area is a stone statue of Charles the Second. As I sat here on a bench, and gazed on the immense crowds that people London, I thought that, as to mere dress and outward appearance, these here did not seem to be materially different from our people at Berlin.
Near the ’Change is a shop where, for a penny or even a halfpenny only, you may read as many newspapers as you will. There are always a number of people about these shops, who run over the paper as they stand, pay their halfpenny, and then go on.
Near the ’Change there is a little steeple with a set of bells which have a charming tone, but they only chime one or two lively tunes, though in this part of the City you constantly hear bells ringing in your ears.
It has struck me that in London there is no occasion for any elementary works or prints, for the instruction of children. One need only lead them into the City, and show them the things themselves as they really are. For here it is contrived, as much as possible, to place in view for the public inspection every production of art, and every effort of industry. Paintings, mechanisms, curiosities of all kinds, are here exhibited in the large and light shop windows, in the most advantageous manner; nor are spectators wanting, who here and there, in the middle of the street, stand still to observe any curious performance. Such a street seemed to me to resemble a well regulated cabinet of curiosities.
But the squares, where the finest houses are, disdain and reject all such shows and ornaments, which are adapted only to shopkeepers’ houses. The squares, moreover, are not nearly so crowded or so populous as the streets and the other parts of the city. There is nearly as much difference between these squares and the Strand in London, in point of population and bustle, as there is between Millbank and Fredericksstadt in Berlin.
I do not at present recollect anything further, my dear friend, worth your attention, which I can now write to you, except that everything is ready for our departure to-morrow. I paid Captain Hilkes, with whom I came over from Hambro’, four guineas for my passage and my board in the cabin. But Captain Braunschweig, with whom I am to return, charges me five guineas; because provisions, he says, are dearer in London than at Hambro’. I now have related to you all my adventures and all my history from the time that I took leave of you in the street, my voyage hither with Captain Hilkes excepted. Of this, all that I think it necessary to mention is, that, to my great dissatisfaction, it lasted a fortnight, and three days I was sea-sick. Of my voyage back I will give you a personal account. And now remember me to Biester, and farewell till I see you again.
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