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First Impressions of England and its People
Chapter XVIII


The Penny-a-mile Train and its Passengers. — Aunt Jonathan. — London by Night. — St. Paul’s ; the City as seen from the Dome. —The Lord Mayor’s Coach. — Westminster Abbey. — The Gothic Architecture a less exquisite Production of the Human Mind than the Grecian. — Poets’ Corner. — The Mission of the Poets. — The Tombs of the Kings. — The Monument of James Watt. — A humble Coffee-house and its Frequenters.— The Woes of Genius in London. — Old 110, Thames-street.— The Tower. — The Thames Tunnel. — Longings of the True Londoner for Rural Life and the Country; their Influence on Literature. — The British Museum ; its splendid Collection of Fossil Remains. — Human Skeleton of Guadaloupe. — The Egyptian Room. — Domesticities of the Ancient Egyptians. —Cycle of Reproduction. — The Mummies.

I must again take the liberty, as on a former occasion, of ante-dating a portion of my tour: I did not proceed direct to London from Olney; but as I have nothing interesting to record of my journeyings in the interval, I shall pursue the thread of my narrative as if I had.

For the sake of variety, I had taken the penny-a-mile train; and derived some amusement from the droll humors of my travelling companions, — a humbler, coarser, freer, and, withal, merrier section of the people, than the second-class travellers, whose acquaintance, in at least my railway peregrinations, I had chiefly cultivated hitherto. We had not the happiness of producing any very good jokes among us; but there were many laudable attempts; and, though the wit was only tolerable, the laughter was hearty. There was an old American lady of the company, fresh from Yankee-land, who was grievously teased for the general benefit; but aunt Jonathan, though only indifferently furnished with teeth, had an effective tongue; and Mister Bull, in most of the bouts, came off but second best. The American, too, though the play proved now and then somewhat of a horse character, was evidently conscious that her country lost no honor by her, and seemed rather gratified than otherwise. There were from five-and-twenty to thirty passengers in the van; among the rest, a goodly proportion of town-bred females, who mingled in the fun at least as freely as was becoming, and were smart, when they could, on the American ; and immediately beside the old lady there sat a silent, ruddy country girl, who seemed travelling to London to take service in some family. The old lady had just received a hit from a smart female, to whom she deigned no reply; but, turning round to the country girl, she patted her on the shoulder, and tendered her a profusion of thanks for some nameless obligation which, she said, she owed to her. “La! to me, ma’am?” said the girl. — “Yes, to you, my pretty dear,” said the American: “it is quite cheering to find one modest Englishwoman among so few.” The men laughed outrageously; the females did not like the joke half so well, and bridled up. And thus the war went on. The weather had been unpromising,— the night fell exceedingly dark and foul,— there were long wearisome stoppages at almost every station, — and it was within an hour of midnight, and a full hour and a half beyond the specified time of arrival, ere we entered the great city." I took my place in an omnibus, beside a half-open window, and away the vehicle trundled for the Strand.

The night was extremely dreary; the rain fell in torrents; and the lamps, flickering and flaring in the wind, threw dismal gleams over the half-flooded streets and the wet pavement, revealing the pyramidal rain-drops as .they danced by myriads in the pools, or splashed against the smooth slippery flagstones.

The better shops were all shut, and there were but few lights in the windows : sober, reputable London seemed to have gone to its bed in the hope of better weather in the morning; but here and there, as we hurried past the opening of some lane or alley, I could mark a dazzling glare of light streaming out into the rain from some low cellar, and see forlorn figures of ill-dressed men and draggled women flitting about in a style which indicated that London not sober and not reputable was still engaged in drinking hard drams. Some of the objects we passed presented in the uncertain light a ghostly-like wildness, which impressed me all the more, that I could but guess at their real character. And the guesses, in some instances, were sufficiently wide of the mark. I passed in New Road a singularly picturesque community of statues, which, in the uncertain light, seemed a parliament of spectres, heid in the rain and the wind, to. discuss the merits of the “Interment in Towns” Commission, somewhat in the style the two ghosts discussed, in poor Ferguson’s days, in the Greyfriars’ churchyard, the proposed investment of the Scotch Hospital funds in the Three per Cents. But I found in the morning that the picturesque parliament of ghosts were merely the chance-grouped figures of a stone-cutter’s yard. The next most striking object I saw were the long ranges of pillars in Regent-street. They bore about them an air that I in vain looked for by day, of doleful, tomb-like grandeur, as the columns came in sight, one after one, in the thickening fog, and the lamps threw their paley gleams along the endless architrave. Then came Charing Cross, with its white jetting fountains, sadly disturbed in their play by the wind, and its gloomy, shade-like equestrians. And then I reached a quiet' lodging-house in Hungerford-street, and tumbled, a little after midnight, into a comfortable bed. The morning arose as gloomily as the evening had closed; and the first sounds I heard, as I awoke, were the sharp patter of raindrops on the panes, and the dash of water from the spouts on the pavement below.

Towards noon, however, the rain ceased, and I sallied out to see London. I passed great and celebrated places, — Warren’s great blacking establishment, and the great house of the outfitting Jew and his son, so celebrated in “Punch,” and then the great “Punch’s” own office, with great “Punch” himself, pregnant with joke, and larger than the life, standing sentinel over the door. And after just a little uncertain wandering, the uncertainty of which mattered nothing, as I could not possibly go wrong, wander where I might, I came full upon St. Paul’s, and entered the edifice. It is comfortable to have only twopence to pay for leave to walk over the area of so noble a pile, and to have to pay the twopence, too, to such grave, clerical-looking men as the officials at the receipt of custom. It reminds one of the blessings of a religious establishment in a place where otherwise they might possibly be overlooked : no private company could afford to build such a pile as St. Paul’s, and then show it for twopences. A payment of eighteenpence more opened my way to the summit of the dome, and I saw, laid fairly at my feet, all of London that the smoke and the weather permitted, m its existing state of dishabille, to come into sight. But though a finer morning might have presented me with a more extensive and more richly-colored prospect, it would scarce have given me one equally striking. I stood over the middle of a vast seething cauldron, and looked down through the blue reek on the dim indistinct forms that seemed parboiling within. The denser clouds were rolling away, but their huge volumes still lay folded all around on the outskirts of the prospect. I could see a long reach of the river, with its gigantic bridges striding across; but both ends of the tide, like those of the stream seen by Mirza, were enveloped in darkness ; and the bridges, gray and unsolid-looking themselves, as if cut out of sheets of compressed vapor, seemed leading to a spectral city. Immediately in the foreground there lay a perplexed labyrinth of streets and lanes, and untraceable ranges of buildings, that seemed the huddled-up fragments of a fractured puzzle, — difficult enough of resolution when entire, and rendered altogether unresolvable by the chance that had broken it. As the scene receded, only the larger and more prominent objects came into view, — here a spire, and there a monument, and yonder a square Gothic tower; and as it still further receded, I could see but the dim fragments of things, — bits of churches inwrought into the cloud, and the insulated pediments and columned fronts of public buildings, sketched off in diluted gray. I was reminded of Sir Walter Scott’s recipe for painting a battle : a great cloud to be got up as the first part of the process ; and as the second, here and there an arm or a leg stuck in, and here and there a head or a body. And such was London, the greatest city of the world, as I looked upon it this morning, for the first time, from the golden gallery of St. Paul’s.

The hour of noon struck on the great bell far below my feet; the pigmies in the thoroughfare of St. Paul’s Yard, still further below, were evidently increasing in number and gathering into groups; I could see facps that seemed no bigger than fists thickening in the windows, and dim little figures starting up on the leads of houses; and then, issuing into the Yard from one of the streets, there came a long lin^ of gay coaches, with the identical coach in the midst, all gorgeous and grand, that I remembered to have seen done in Dutch gold, full five-and-thirty years before, on the covers of a splendid sixpenny edition of “ Whittington and his Cat.” Hurrah for Whittington, Lord Mayor of London! Without having once bargained for sucli a thing, — all unaware of what was awaiting me, — I had ascended St. Paul’s to see, as it proved, the Lord Mayor’s procession. To be sure, I was placed rather high for witnessing with the right feeling the gauds and the grandeurs. All human greatness requires to be set in a peculiar light, and does not come out to advantage when seen from either too near or too distant a point of view; and here the sorely-diminished pageant at my feet served rather provokingly to remind one of Addison’s ant-hill scene of the Mayor emmet, with the bit of white rod in its mouth, followed by the long line of Aldermanicand Common Council emmets, all ready to possess themselves of the bit of white rod in their own behalf, should it chance to drop. Still, however, there are few things made of leather and prunello really grander than the Lord Mayor’s procession. Slowly the pageant passed on and away; the groups dispersed in the streets, the faces evanished from the windows, the figures disappeared from the house-top^ ; the entire apparition and its accompaniments melted into thin air, like the vision seen in the midst of the hollow valley of Bagdad; and I saw but the dim city parboiling amid the clouds, and the long leaden-colored reach of the river bounding half the world of London, as the monstrous ocean snake of the Edda more than half encircles the globe.

My next walk led to Westminster Abbey and the New Houses of Parliament, through St. James’ Park. The unpromising character of the day had kept loungers at home; and the dank trees dripped on the wet grass, and loomed large through the gray fog, in a scene of scarce less solitude, though the roar of the city was all around, than the trees of Shenstone at the Leasowes. I walked leisurely once and again along the Abbey, as I had done at St. Paul’s, to mark the general aspect and effect, and fix in my mind the proportions and true contour of the building. And the conclusion forced upon me was just that at which, times without number, I had invariably arrived before. The Gothic architecture, with all its solemn grandeur and beauty, is a greatly lower and less exquisite production of the human intellect than the architecture of Greece. The saintly legends of the middle ages are scarce less decidedly inferior to those fictions of the classic mythology which the greater Greek and Roman writers have sublimed into poetry. I have often felt that the prevailing bias in favor of everything medieeval, so characteristic of the present time, from the theology and legislation of the middle ages, to their style of staining glass and illuminating manuscripts, cannot he other than a temporary eccentricity, — a mere cross freshet, chance-raised by some meteoric accident, — not one of the great permanent ocean-currents of tendency; but never did the conviction press upon me more strongly than when enabled on this occasion to contrast the new architecture of St. Paul’s with the old architecture of Westminster. New! Old! Modern! Ancient! The merits of the controversy lie summed up in these words. The new architecture is the truly ancient architecture, while the old is comparatively modern: but the immortals are always young; whereas the mortals, though their term of life may be as extended as that of Methuselah, grow old apace. The Grecian architecture will be always the new architecture; and, let fashion play whatever vagaries it pleases, the Gothic will be always old. There is a wonderful amount of genius exhibited in the contour and filling up of St. Paul’s. In passing up and down the river, which I did frequently during my short stay in London, my eye never wearied of resting on it: like all great works that have had the beautiful inwrought into their essence by the persevering touches of a master, the more I dwelt on it, the more exquisite it seemed to become. York Minster, the finest of English Gothic buildings, is perhaps equally impressive on a first survey; but it exhibits no such soul of beauty as one dwells upon it, — it lacks the halo that forms around the dome of St. Paul’s. I was not particularly struck by the New Houses of Parliament. They seem prettily got up to order, on a rich pattern, that must have cost the country a vast deal per yard; and have a great many little bits of animation in them, which remind one of the communities of lives that dwell in compound corals, or of the divisible life, everywhere diffused and nowhere concentrated, that resides in poplars and willows; but they want the one animating soul characteristic of the superior natures. Unlike the master-erection of Wren, they will not breathe out beauty into the minds of the future, as pieces of musk continue to exhale their odor for centuries.

I walked through Poets’ Comer, and saw many a familiar name on the walls: among others, the name of Dryden, familiar because he himself had made it so; and the name of Shadwell, familiar because he had quarrelled with Dryden. There also I found the sepulchral slab of old cross John Dennis, famous for but his warfare with Pope and Addison; and there, too, the statue of Addison at full length, not far from the periwigged effigy of the bluff English admiral that had furnished him with so good a joke. There, besides, may be seen the marble of the ancient descriptive poet Drayton; and there the bust of poor eccentric Goldie, with his careless Irish face, who thought Drayton had no claim to such an honor, but whose own claim has been challenged by no one. I had no strong emotions to exhibit when pacing along the pavement in this celebrated place, nor would I have exhibited them if I had: and yet I did feel that I had derived much pleasure in my time from the men whose names conferred honor on the wall. There was poor Goldsmith : he had been my companion for thirty years; I had been first introduced to him through the medium of a common school collection, when a little boy in the humblest English class of a parish school; and I had kept up the acquaintance ever since. There, too, was Addison, whom I had known so long, and, in his true poems, his prose ones, had loved as much; and there were Gay, and Prior, and Cowley, and Thomson, and Chaucer, and Spenser, and Milton; and there, too, on a slab on the floor, with the freshness of recent interment still palpable about it, as if to indicate the race at least not long extinct, was the name of Thomas Campbell. I had got fairly among my patrons and benefactors. How often, shut out for months and years together from all literary converse with the living, had they been almost my only companions, — my unseen associates, who, in the rude work-shed, lightened my labors by the music of their numbers, and who, in my evening walks, that would have been so solitary save for them, expanded my intellect by the solid bulk of their thinking, and gave me eyes, by their exquisite descriptions, to look at nature ! How thoroughly, too, had they served to break down in my mind at least the narrower and more illiberal partialities of country, leaving untouched, however, all that was worthy of being cherished in my attachment to poor old Scotland! I learned to deem the English poet not less my countryman than the Scot, if I but felt the true human heart beating in his bosom; and the intense prejudices which I had imbibed when almost a child, from the fiery narratives of Blind Harry and of Barbour, melted away, like snow-wreaths from before the sun, under the genial influences of the glowing poesy of England. It is not the harp of Orpheus that will effectually tame the wild beast which lies ambushing in human nature, and is ever and. anon breaking- forth on the nations, in cruel, desolating war. The work of giving peace to the earth awaits those divine harmonies which breathe from the Lyre of Inspiration, when swept by the Spirit of God. And yet the harp of Orpheus does exert an auxiliary power. It is of the nature of its songs, — so rich in the human sympathies, so charged with the thoughts, the imaginings, the hopes, the wishes, which it is the constitution of humanity to conceive and entertain, — it is of their nature to make us feel that the nations are all of one blood, — that man is our brother, and the world our country.

The sepulchres of the old English monarchs, with all their obsolete grandeur, impressed me more feebly, though a few rather minute circumstances have, I perceive, left their stamp. Among the royal cemeteries we find the tombs of Mary of Scotland, and her great rival Elizabeth, with their respective effigies lying atop, cut in marble. And though the sculptures exhibit little of the genius of the modern statuary, the great care of their finish, joined to their unideal, unflattering individuality, afford an evidence of their truth which productions of higher talent could scarce possess. How comes it, then, I would fain ask the phrenologist, that by far the finer head of fhe two should be found on the shoulders of the weaker woman? The forehead of Mary — poor Mary, who had a trick of falling in love with "pretty men” but no power of governing them — is of very noble development, — broad, erect, powerful; while that of Elizabeth, — of queenly, sagacious Elizabeth, — who could both fall in love with men and govern them too, and who was unquestionably a great monarch, irrespective of sex, — is a poor, narrow, pinched-up thing, that rises tolerably erect for one-half its height, and then slopes abruptly away. The next things that caught my eye were two slabs of Egyptian porphyry, — a well-marked stone, with the rich purple ground spotted white and pink, — inlaid as panels in the tomb of Edward the First. Whence, in the days of Edward, could the English stone-cutter have procured Egyptian porphyry? I was enabled to form at least a guess on the subject, from possessing a small piece of exactly the same stone, which had been picked up amid heaps of rubbish in the deep rocky ravine of Siloam, and which, as it does not occur in situ in Judea, was supposed to have formed at one time a portion of the Temple. Is it not probable that these slabs, which, so far as is yet known, Europe could not have furnished, were brought by Edward, the last of the crusading princes of England, from the Holy Land, to confer sanctity on his place of burial, — mayhap originally, — though Edward himself never got so far, — from that identical ravine of Siloam which supplied my specimen? It was not uncommon for the crusader to take from Palestine the earth in which his body was to be deposited; and if Edward succeeded in procuring a genuine bit of the true Temple, and an exceedingly pretty bit to boot, it seems in meet accordance with the character of the age that it should have been borne home with him in triumph, to serve a similar purpose. I was a good deal struck, in one of the old chapels, — a little gloomy place, filled with antique regalities sorely faded, and middle-age glories waxed dim, — by stumbling, very unexpectedly, on a noble statue of James Watt. The profoundly contemplative countenance — so happily described by Arago as a very personification of abstract thought — contrasted strongly with the chivalric baubles and meaningless countenances on the surrounding tombs. The new and the old governing forces — the waxing and the waning powers — seemed appropriately typified in that little twilight chapel.

My next free day — for, of the four days I remained in London, I devoted each alternate one to the British Museum — I spent in wandering everywhere, and looking at everything, — in going up and down the river in steamboats, and down and athwart the streets on omnibuses. I took my meals in all sorts of odd-looking places. I breakfasted one morning in an exceedingly poor-looking coffee-house, into which I saw several people dressed in dirty moleskin enter, just that I might see how the people who dress in dirty moleskin live in London. Some of them made, I found, exceedingly little serve as a meal. One thin-faced, middle-aged man brought in a salt herring with him, which he gave to the waiter to get roasted; and the roasted salt herring, with a penny’s worth of bread and a penny’s worth of coffee, formed his breakfast. Another considerably younger ami stouter man, apparently not more a favorite of fortune, brought in with him an exceedingly small hit of meat, rather of the bloodiest, stuck on a wooden pin, which he also got roasted by the waiter, and which he supplemented with a penny’s worth of coffee and but a halfpenny’s worth of bread. I too, that I might experience for one forenoon the sensations of the London poor, had my penny’s worth of coffee, and, as I had neither meat nor herring, my three-halfpenny worth of bread; but both together formed a breakfast rather of the lightest, and so I dined early. There is a passage which I had read in Goldsmith’s “ History of the Earth and Animated Nature” many years before, which came painfully into my mind on this occasion. The poor poet had sad experience in his time of the destitution of London; and when he came to discourse as a naturalist on some of the sterner wants of the species, the knowledge which he brought to bear on the subject was of a deeply tragic cast. “The lower race of animals,” he says, “when satisfied, for the instant moment are perfectly happy; but it is otherwise with man. His mind anticipates distress, and feels the pangs of want even before 32* they arrest him. Thus, the mind being continually harassed by the situation, it at length influences the constitution, and unfits it for all its functions. Some cruel disorder, but nowise like hunger, seizes the unhappy sufferer; so that almost all those men who have thus long lived by chance, and whose every day may be considered as a happy escape from famine, are known at last to die in reality of a disorder caused by hunger, but which, in the common language, is often called a broken heart. Some of these I have known myself when very little able to relieve them; and I have been told by a very active and worthy magistrate, that the number of such as die in London for want is much greater than one would imagine, — I think he talked of two thousand in a year.”

Rather a curious passage this to occur in a work of Natural History. It haunted me a while this morning: the weather, though no longer wet, was exceedingly gloomy; and I felt depressed as I walked along the muddy streets, and realized, with small effort, the condition of the many thousands who, without friends or home, money or employment, have had to endure the mingled pangs of want and anxiety in London. I remembered, in crossing Westminster Bridge to take boat on the Surrey side, that the poet Crabbe walked on it all night, when, friendless, in distress and his last shilling expended, he had dropped, at the door of Edmund Burke, the touching letter on which his last surviving hope depended. The Thames was turbid with the rains, — the tide was out, — and melancholy banks of mud, here and there overtopped by thickets of grievously befouled sedges, lay along its sides. One straggling thicket, just opposite the gloomy Temple Gardens, — so solitary in the middle of a great city, — had caught a tattered jacket; and the empty sleeve, stretched against the taller sedges, seemed a human arm raised above the unsolid ooze.

The scene appeared infinitely better suited than that drawn by the bard of Rhysdale, to remind one

“Of mighty poets in their misery dead.”

Here it was that Otway perished of hunger, — Butler, in great neglect, — starving Chatterton, of poison. And these were the very streets which Richard Savage and Samuel Johnson had so often walked from midnight till morning, having at the time no roof under which to shelter. Pope summons up old Father Thames, in his “Windsor Forest,” to tell a silly enough story: how strangely different, how deeply tragic, would be the real stories which Father Thames could tell! Many a proud heart, quenched in despair, has forever ceased to beat beneath his waters. Curiously enough, the first thing I saw, on stepping ashore at London Bridge, was a placard, intimating that on the previous night a gentleman had fallen over one of the bridges, and offering a reward of twenty shillings for the recovery of the body.

There was a house in Upper Thames-street which I was desirous to see. I had had no direct interest in it for the last five-and-twenty years: the kind relative who had occupied it when I was a boy had long been in his grave, — a far distant one, beyond the Atlantic; and np Upper Thames-street might, for aught I knew, be now inhabited by a Jew or a Mahometan. But I had ^ot some curious little books sent me from it, at a time when my books were few and highly valued; and I could not leave London without first setting myself to seek out the place they had come from. Like the tomb of the lovers, however, which Tristram Shandy journeyed to Lyons to see, and saw, instead, merely the place where the tomb had been, I found that old 110 had disappeared: and a tall modem erection, the property of some great company, occupied its site. I next walked on through the busiest streets I had eyer seen,

“With carts, and cars, and coaches, roaring all,”

to Tower Hill; and saw the crown jewels of England, and the English history done in iron, — for such is the true character of the old armory, containing the mailed effigies of the English kings. I saw, too, the cell in which imprisoned Raleigh wrote his “History of the World;” and the dark narrow dungeon, with its rude stone arch, and its bare w7alls, painfully lettered, as with a nail-point, furnished me with a new vignette, by which to illustrate in imagination some of the most splendid poetry ever written in prose. From the Tower I walked on to explore that most ingenious work and least fortunate undertaking of modern times, — the Thames Tunnel; and found it so extremely like the ordinary prints given of it in the “Penny Magazine ” and elsewhere, that I could scarcely believe I had not seen it before. There were a good many saunterers, like myself, walking up and down along the pavement, now cheapening some of the toys exhibited for sale in the cross arches, and now listening to a Welsh harper who was filling one of the great circular shafts with sound; but not a single passenger did I see. The common English have a peculiar turn for possessing themselves of afozost-impossibilities of the reel-in-the-bottle class ; and a person who drew rather indifferent profiles in black seemed to be driving a busy trade among the visiters. The great charm appeared to lie in the fact that the outlines produced were outlines of their very selves, taken under the Thames. I spent the rest of the day in riding along all the greater streets on the tops of omnibuses, and in threading some of the more characteristic lanes on foot. Nothing more surprised me, in my peripatetic wanderings, than to find, when I had now and then occasion to inquire my way, that the Londoners do not know London. The monster city of which they are so proud seems, like other very great ones of the earth, to have got beyond the familiarities of intimate acquaintance with even the men who respect it most.

I learned not to wonder, as I walked along the endless labyrinth of streets, and saw there was no such thing for a pedestrian as getting fairly into the country, that the literature of London — its purely indigenous literature — should be of so rural a character. The mere wayside beauties of nature, — green trees, and fresh grass, and soft mossy hillocks sprinkled over with harebells and daisies, and hawthorn bushes gray in blossom, and slender woodland streamlets, with yellow primroses looking down upon them from their banks, — things common and of little mark to at least the ordinary men that live among them, — must be redolent of poetry to even the ordinary Londoner, who, removed far from their real presence, contemplates them in idea through an atmosphere of intense desire. There are not a few silly things in what has been termed the Cockney school of poetry: in no other school does a teasing obscurity hover so incessantly on the edge of no meaning, or is the reader so much in danger of embracing, like one of the old mythologic heroes, a cloud for a goddess. But I can scarce join in the laugh raised against its incessant “babble about green fields,” or marvel that, in its ceaseless talk of flowers, its language should so nearly resemble that of Turkish love-letters composed of nosegays. Its style is eminently true to London nature, — which, of course, is simply human nature in London, — in the ardent desire which it breathes for rural quiet, and the green sunshiny solitude of t|ie country. “ Shapes of beauty,” according to one of its masters, — poor Keats, —

“Move away the pall
From the tired spirit.”

And then he tells us what some of those shapes of beauty are,—

“Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills,
That for themselves a cooling covert make
’Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms.”

Keats, the apprentice of a London surgeon, was an overtoiled young man in delicate health, cooped up by his employment the whole week round for years together; and in this characteristic passage, — puerile enough, it must be confessed, and yet poetical too, — we have the genuine expression of the true city calenture under which he languished. But perhaps nowhere in the compass of English poetry is there a more truthful exhibition of the affection than in Wordsworth’s picture of the hapless town girl, poor Susan. She is in the heart of the city, a thoughtless straggler along the busy streets, when a sudden burst of song from an encaged thrush hung against the wall touches the deeply-seated feeling, and transports her far and away into the quiet country, where her days of innocency had been spent.

“What ails her? She sees
A mountain ascending, a vision of trees;
Bright volumes of vapor through Lothbury glide,
And a river flows on through the vale of Cheapside.
Green pastures she views in the midst of the vale,
Down which she so often has tripped with her pail
And a single small cottage, a nest like a dove’s,
The only one dwelling on earth that she loves.”

It is an interesting enough fact, that from the existence of this strong appetite for the rural intensified into poetry by those circumstances which render all attempts at its gratification mere tantalizing snatches, that whet rather than satisfy, the influence of great cities on the literature of a country should be, not to enhance the artificial, but to impart to the natural prominence and value. The “Farmer’s Boy” of Bloomfield was written in a garret in the midst of London; and nowhere perhaps in the empire has it been read with a deeper relish than by the pale country-sick artisans and clerks of the neighboring close courts and blind alleys. Nowhere have Thomson, Cowper, and Crabbe, with the poets of the Lake School, given a larger amount of pleasure than in London ; and when London at length came to produce a school of poetry exclusively its own, it proved one of the graver faults of its productions, that they were too incessantly descriptive, and too exclusively rural.

I spent, as I have said, two days at the British Museum, and wished I could have spent ten. And yet the ten, by extending my index acquaintance with the whole, would have left me many more unsettled points to brood over than the two. It is an astonishing collection; and very astonishing is the history of creation and the human family which it forms. Such, it strikes me, is the proper view in which to regard it: it is a great, many-chaptered work of authentic history, beginning with the consecutive creations, — dwelling at great length on the existing one, — taking up and pursuing through many sections the master production, Man, — exhibiting in the Egyptian section, not only what he did, but what he was, — illustrating in the Grecian and Roman sections the perfectibility of his conceptions in all that relates to external form, — indicating in the middle-age section a refolding of his previously-developed powers, as if they had shrunk under some chill and wintry influence, — exhibiting in the concluding section a broader and more general blow of sentiment and faculty than that of his earlier spring-time, — nay, demonstrating the fact of a more confirmed maturity, in the very existence and arrangement of such a many-volumed History of the Earth and its productions as this great collection constitutes. I found, in the geological department, — splendid, as an accumulation of noble specimens, beyond my utmost conception, — that much still remains to be done in the way of arrangement, — a very great deal even in the way of further addition. The work of imparting order to the whole, though in good hands, seems barely begun; and years must elapse ere it can be completed with reference to even the present stage of geologic knowledge. But how very wonderful will be the record which it will then form of those earlier periods of our planet, — its ages of infancy, childhood, and immature youth, — which elapsed ere its connection with the moral and the responsible began! From the Graptolite of the Grauwacke slate, to the fossil human skeleton of Guadaloupe, what a strange list of births and deaths — of the production and extinction of races — will it not exhibit! Even in its present half-arranged condition, I found the gen eral progressive history of the animal kingdom strikingly indicated. In the most ancient section, — that of the Silurian system, — there are corals, molluscs, crustacea. In the Old Red, — for the fish of the Upper Ludlow rock are wanting, — the vertebrae begin. By the way, I found that almost all the older ichthyolites in this section of the Museum had been of my own gathering, — specimens I had laid open on the shores of the Cromarty Frith some ten or twelve years ago. Upwards through the Coal Measures I saw nothing higher than the reptile fish. With the Lias comes a splendid array of the extinct reptiles. The Museum contains perhaps the finest collection of these in the world. The earlier Tertiary introduces us to the strange mammals of the Paris Basin, — the same system, in its second stage, to the Dinotherium of Darmstadt and the Megatherium of Buenos Ayres. A still later period brings before us the great elephantine family, once so widely distributed over the globe : we arrive at a monstrous skeleton, entire from head to heel: ’tis that of the gigantic mastodon of North America, — a creature that may have been contemporary with the earlier hunter tribes of the New World ; and just beside it, last in the long series, we find the human skeleton of Guadaloupe. Mysterious frame-work of bone locked up in the solid marble, — unwonted prisoner of the rock! — an irresistible voice shall yet call thee from out the stony matrix. The other organisms, thy partners in the show, are incarcerated in the lime forever, — thou but for a term. How strangely has the destiny of the race to which thou belongest re-stamped with new meanings the old phenomena of creation! I marked, as I passed along, the prints of numerous rain-drops indented in a slab of sandstone. And the entire record, from the earliest to the latest times, is a record of death. When that rairi-shower descended, myriads of ages ago, at the close of the Palaeozoic period, the cloud, just where it fronted the sun, must have exhibited its bow of many colors; and then, as now, nature, made vital in the inferior animals, would have clung to life with the instinct of self-preservation, and shrunk with dismay and terror from the approach of death. But the prismatic bow strided across the gloom, in blind obedience to a mere optical law, bearing inscribed on its gorgeous arch no occult meaning; and death, whether by violence or decay, formed in the general economy but a clearing process, through which the fundamental law of increase found space to operate. But when thou wert living, prisoner of the marble, haply as an Indian wife and mother, ages ere the keel of Columbus had disturbed the waves of the Atlantic, the high standing of thy species had imparted new meanings to death and the rainbow. The prismatic arch had become the bow of the covenant, and death a great sign of the unbending justice and purity of the Creator, and of the aberration and fall of the living soul, formed in the Creator’s own image, — reasoning, responsible man.

Of those portions of the Museum which illustrate the history of the human mind in that of the arts, I was most impressed by the Egyptian section. The utensils which it exhibits that associate with the old domesticities of the Egyptians — the little household implements which had ministered to the lesser comforts of the subjects of the Pharaohs — seem really more curious,—at any rate, more strange in their familiarity, — than those exquisite productions of genius, the Laocoons, and Apollo Belvideres, and Venus de Medicis, and Phidian Jupiters, and Elgin marbles, which the Greek and Roman sections exhibit. We have served ourselves heir to what the genius of the ancient nations has produced,—.to their architecture, their sculpture, their literature; our conceptions piece on to theirs with so visible a dependency, that we can scarce imagine what they would have been without them. We have been running new metal into our castings, artistic and intellectual; but it is the ancients who, in most cases, have furnished the moulds. And so, though the human mind walks in an often-returning circle of thought and invention, and we might very possibly have struck out for ourselves not a few of the Grecian ideas, even had they all perished during the middle ages,—just as Shakspeare struck out for himself not a little of the classical thinking and imagery, — we are at least in doubt regarding the extent to which this would have taken place. We know not whether our chance reproduction of Grecian idea would have been such a one as the reproduction of Egyptian statuary exhibited in the aboriginal Mexican sculptures, or the reproduction of Runic tracery palpable in the Polynesian carvings, —or whether our inventions might not have expatiated, without obvious reproduction at all, in types indigenously Gothic. As heirs of the intellectual wealth of the ancients, and inheritors of the treasures which their efforts accumulated, we know not what sort of fortunes we would have carved out for ourselves, had we been left to our own unassisted' exertions. But we surely did not fall heir to the domestic inventions of the Egyptians. Their cooks did not teach ours how to truss fowls; nor did their bakers show ours how to ferment their dough or mould their loaves ; nor could we have learned from them a hundred other household arts, of which we find both the existence and the mode of existence indicated by the antiquities of this section; and yet, the same faculty of invention which they possessed, tied down in our as in their case by the wants of a common nature to expatiate in the same narrow circle of necessity, has reproduced them all. Invention in this case has been but restoration ; and we find that, in the broad sense of the Preacher, it has given us nothing new. What most impressed me, however, were the Egyptians themselves, — the men of three thousand years ago, still existing entire in their framework of bone, muscle, and sinew. It struck me as a very wonderful truth, in the way in which truths great in themselves, but commonplaced by their familiarity, do sometimes strike, that the living souls should still exist which had once animated these withered and desiccated bodies; and that in their separate state they had an interest in the bodies still. This much, amid all their darkness, even the old Egyptians knew; and this we — save where the vitalities of revelation influence — seem to be fast unlearning. It does appear strange, that men ingenious enough to philosophize on the phenomena of the parental relation, on the mysterious connection of parent and child, its palpable adaptation to the feelings of the human heart, and its vast influence on the destinies of the species, should yet find in the doctrine of the resurrection but a mere target against which to shoot their puny materialisms. It does not seem unworthy of the All Wise, by whom the human heart was moulded and the parental relation designed, that the immature “boy” of the present state of existence should be “father to the man” in the next; and that, as spirit shall be identical with spirit, — the responsible agent with the panel at the bar, — so body shall be derived from body, and the old oneness of the individual be thus rendered complete,

Bound each to each by natural piety.”


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