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an American. Except in the Supreme Court at Washington
(where the judges wear a plain black robe), there is no such
thing as a wig or gown connected with the administration of
justice. The gentlemen of the bar being banisters and
attorneys too (for there is no division of those functions as
in England) are no more removed from their clients than
attorneys in our Court for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors
are, from theirs. The jury are quite at home, and make
themselves as comfortable as circumstances will permit. The
witness is so little elevated above, or put aloof from, the


crowd in the court, that a stranger entering during a pause
in the proceedings would find it difficult to pick him out
from the rest. And if it chanced to be a criminal trial, his
eyes, in nine cases out of ten, would wander to the dock in
search of the prisoner, in vain ; for that gentleman would
most likely be lounging among the most distinguished orna-
ments of the legal profession, whispering suggestions in his
counsel's ear, or making a toothpick out of an old quill with
his penknife.

I could not but notice these differences, when I visited the
courts at Boston. I was much surprised at first, too, to
observe that the counsel who interrogated the witness under
examination at the time, did so sitting 1 . But seeing that he
was also occupied in writing down the answers, and remem-
bering that he was alone and had no "junior," I quickly
consoled myself with the reflection that law was not quite so
expensive an article here, as at home ; and that the absence
of sundry formalities which we regard as indispensable, had
doubtless a very favourable influence upon the bill of costs.

In every Court, ample and commodious provision is made
for the accommodation of the citizens. This is the case all
through America. In every Public Institution, the right of
the people to attend, and to have an interest in the pro-
ceedings, is most fully and distinctly recognised. There are
no grim door-keepers to dole out their tardy civility by
the sixpenny-worth ; nor is there, I sincerely believe, any
insolence of office of any kind. Nothing national is ex-
hibited for money ; and no public officer is a showman. We
have begun of late years to imitate this good example. I
hope we shall continue to do so ; and that in the fulness of
time, even deans and chapters may be converted.

In the civil court an action was trying, for damages sustained
in some accident upon a railway. The witnesses had been
examined, and counsel was addressing the jury. The learned
gentleman (like a few of his English brethren) was desperately
long-winded, and had a remarkable capacity of saying the


same thing over and over again. His great theme was
" Warren the engine driver, 11 whom he pressed into the service
of every sentence he uttered. I listened to him for about a
quarter of an hour; and, coming out of court at the expiration
of that time, without the faintest ray of enlightenment as to
the merits of the case, felt as if I were at home again.

In the prisoner's cell, waiting to be examined by the
magistrate on a charge of theft, was a boy. This lad,
instead of being committed to a common jail, would be sent
to the asylum at South Boston, and there taught a trade ;
and in the course of time he would be bound apprentice to
some respectable master. Thus, his detection in this offence,
instead of being the prelude to a life of infamy and a miser-
able death, would lead, there was a reasonable hope, to his
being reclaimed from vice, and becoming a worthy member
of society.

I am by no means a wholesale admirer of our legal
solemnities, many of which impress me as being exceedingly
ludicrous. Strange as it may seem too, there is undoubtedly
a degree of protection in the wig and gown a dismissal of
individual responsibility in dressing for the part which
encourages that insolent bearing and language, and that
gross perversion of the office of a pleader for The Truth, so
frequent in our courts of law. Still, I cannot help doubting
whether America, in her desire to shake off the absurdities
and abuses of the old system, may not have gone too far
into the opposite extreme ; and whether it is not desirable,
especially in the small community of a city like this, where
each man knows the other, to surround the administration
of justice with some artificial barriers against the " Hail
fellow, well met" deportment of everyday life. All the aid
it can have in the very high character and ability of the
Bench, not only here but elsewhere, it has, and well deserves
to have; but it may need something more: not to impress
the thoughtful and the well-informed, but the ignorant and
heedless; a class which includes some prisoners and many


witnesses. These institutions were established, no doubt,
upon the principle that those who had so large a share in
making the laws, would certainly respect them. But experi-
ence has proved this hope to be fallacious ; for no men know
better than the Judges of America, that on the occasion of
any great popular excitement the law is powerless, and
cannot, for the time, assert its own supremacy.

The tone of society in Boston is one of perfect politeness,
courtesy, and good breeding. The ladies are unquestionably
very beautiful in face: but there I am compelled to stop.
Their education is much as with us; neither better nor
worse. I had heard some very marvellous stories in this
respect ; but not believing them, was not disappointed. Blue
ladies there are, in Boston ; but like philosophers of that
colour and sex in most other latitudes, they rather desire
to be thought superior than to be so. Evangelical ladies
there are, likewise, whose attachment to the forms of religion,
and horror of theatrical entertainments, are most exemplary.
Ladies who have a passion for attending lectures are to be
found among all classes and all conditions. In the kind of
provincial life which prevails in cities such as this, the Pulpit
has great influence. The peculiar province of the Pulpit in
New England (always excepting the Unitarian Ministry)
would appear to be the denouncement of all innocent and
rational amusements. The church, the chapel, and the
lecture-room, are the only means of excitement excepted ;
and to the church, the chapel, and the lecture-room, the
ladies resort in crowds.

\Yherever religion is resorted to, as a strong drink, and as
an escape from the dull monotonous round of home, those of
its ministers who pepper the highest will be the surest to
please. They who strew the Eternal Path with the greatest
amount of brimstone, and who most ruthlessly tread down
the flowers and leaves that grow by the wayside, will be
voted the most righteous; and they who enlarge with the
greatest pertinacity on the difficulty of getting into heaven,


will be considered by all true believers certain of going there :
though it would be hard to say by what process of reasoning
this conclusion is arrived at. It is so at home, and it is so
abroad. With regard to the other means of excitement, the
Lecture, it has at least the merit of being always new. One
lecture treads so quickly on the heels of another, that none
are remembered ; and the course of this month may be safely
repeated next, with its charm of novelty unbroken, arid its
interest unabated.

The fruits of the earth have their growth in corruption.
Out of the rottenness of these things, there has sprung up
in Boston a sect of philosophers known as Transcendentalists.
On inquiring what this appellation might be supposed to
signify, I was given to understand that whatever was unin-
telligible would be certainly transcendental. Not deriving
much comfort from this elucidation, I pursued the inquiry
still further, and found that the Transcendentalists are
followers of my friend Mr. Carlyle, or I should rather say,
of a follower of his, Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson. This
gentleman has written a volume of Essays, in which, among
much that is dreamy and fanciful (if he will pardon me for
saying so), there is much more that is true and manly,
honest and bold. Transcendentalism has its occasional
vagaries (what school has not?), but it has good healthful
qualities in spite of them ; not least among the number a
hearty disgust of Cant, and an aptitude to detect her in all
the million varieties of her everlasting wardrobe. And
therefore if I were a Bostonian, I think I would be a

The only preacher I heard in Boston was Mr. Taylor, who
addresses himself peculiarly to seamen, and who was once
a mariner himself. I found his chapel down among the
shipping, in one of the narrow, old, water-side streets, with
a gay blue flag waving freely from its roof. In the gallery
opposite to the pulpit were a little choir of male and female
singers, a violoncello, and a violin. The preacher already sat


in the pulpit, which was raised on pillars, and ornamented
behind him with painted drapery of a lively and somewhat
theatrical appearance. He looked a weather-beaten hard-
featured man, of about six or eight and fifty ; with deep
lines graven as it were into his face, dark hair, and a stern,
keen eye. Yet the general character of his countenance was
pleasant and agreeable. The service commenced with a
hymn, to which succeeded an extemporary prayer. It had
the fault of frequent repetition, incidental to all such prayers ;
but it was plain and comprehensive in its doctrines, and
breathed a tone of general sympathy and charity, which is
not so commonly a characteristic of this form of address to
the Deity as it might be. That done he opened his discourse,
taking for his text a passage from the Songs of Solomon,
laid upon the desk before the commencement of the service
by some unknown member of the congregation : " Who is
this coming up from the wilderness, leaning on the arm of
her beloved ! "

He handled his text in all kinds of ways, and twisted it
into all manner of shapes ; but always ingeniously, and with
a rude eloquence, well adapted to the comprehension of his
hearers. Indeed if I be not mistaken, he studied their
sympathies and understandings much more than the display
of his own powers. His imagery was all drawn from the sea,
and from the incidents of a seaman's life; and was often
remarkably good. He spoke to them of " that glorious man,
Lord Nelson," and of Collingwood ; and drew nothing in, as
the saying is, by the head and shoulders, but brought it to
bear upon his purpose, naturally, and with a sharp mind to
its effect. Sometimes, when much excited with his subject,
he had an odd way compounded of John Bunyan, and
Balfour of Burley of taking his great quarto Bible under
his arm and pacing up and down the pulpit with it ; looking
steadily down, meantime, into the midst of the congregation.
Thus, when he applied his text to the first assemblage of his
hearers, and pictured the wonder of the church at their


presumption in forming a congregation among themselves, he
stopped short with his Bible under his arm in the manner I
have described, and pursued his discourse after this manner :
" Who are these who are they who are these fellows ?
where do they come from ? Where are they going to ?
Come from ! What's the answer ? " leaning out of the
pulpit, and pointing downward with his right hand : " From
below ! " starting back again, and looking at the sailors
before him : " From below, my brethren. From under the
hatches of sin, battened down above you by the evil one.
That's where you came from ! " a walk up and down the
pulpit : " and where are you going " stopping abruptly :
" where are you going ? Aloft ! " very softly, and pointing
upward : " Aloft ! "louder : " aloft ! "louder still : " That's
where you are going with a fair wind, all taut and trim,
steering direct for Heaven in its glory, where there are no
storms or foul weather, and where the wicked cease from
troubling, and the weary are at rest." Another walk:
" That's where you're going to, my friends. That's it. That's
the place. That's the port. That's the haven. It's a blessed
harbour still water there, in all changes of the winds and
tides ; no driving ashore upon the rocks, or slipping your
cables and running out to sea, there : Peace Peace Peace
all peace ! " Another walk, and patting the Bible under
his left arm : " What ! These fellows are coming from the
wilderness, are they? Yes. From the dreary, blighted
wilderness of Iniquity, whose only crop is Death. But do
they lean upon anything do they lean upon nothing, these
poor seamen ? " Three raps upon the Bible : " Oh yes. Yes.
They lean upon the arm of their Beloved" three more
raps : " upon the arm of their Beloved " three more, and a
walk : " Pilot, guiding-star, and compass, all in one, to all
hands here it is " three more : " Here it is. They can do
their seaman's duty manfully, and be easy in their minds in
the utmost peril and danger, with this " two more : " They
can come, even these poor fellows can come, from the


wilderness leaning on the arm of their Beloved, and go up
up up ! " raising his hand higher, and higher, at every
repetition of the word, so that he stood with it at last
stretched above his head, regarding them in a strange, rapt
manner, and pressing the book triumphantly to his breast,
until he gradually subsided into some other portion of his

I have cited this, rather as an instance of the preacher's
eccentricities than his merits, though taken in connection
with his look and manner, and the character of his audience,
even this was striking. It is possible, however, that my
favourable impression of him may have been greatly influenced
and strengthened, firstly, by his impressing upon his hearers
that the true observance of religion was not inconsistent with
a cheerful deportment and an exact discharge of the duties
of their station, which, indeed, it scrupulously required of
them ; and secondly, by his cautioning them not to set up
any monopoly in Paradise and its mercies. I never heard
these two points so wisely touched (if indeed I have ever
heard them touched at all), by any preacher of that kind

Having passed the time I spent in Boston, in making
myself acquainted with these things, in settling the course I
should take in my future travels, and in mixing constantly
with its society, I am not aware that I have any occasion to
prolong this chapter. Such of its social customs as I have
not mentioned, however, may be told in a very few words.

The usual dinner-hour is two o'clock. A dinner party
takes place at five; and at an evening party, they seldom
sup later than eleven ; so that it goes hard but one gets
home, even from a rout, by midnight. I never could find
out any difference between a party at Boston and a party in
London, saving that at the former place all assemblies are
held at more rational hours; that the conversation may
possibly be a little louder and more cheerful ; and a guest is
usually expected to ascend to the very top of the house to


take his cloak off'; that he is certain to see, at every dinner,
an unusual amount of poultry on the table ; and at every
supper, at least two mighty bowls of hot stewed oysters, in
any one of which a half-grown Duke of Clarence might be
smothered easily.

There are two theatres in Boston, of good size and con-
struction, but sadly in want of patronage. The few ladies
who resort to them, sit, as of right, in the front rows of
the boxes.

The bar is a large room with a stone floor, and there
people stand and smoke, and lounge about, all the evening :
dropping in and out as the humour takes them. There too
the stranger is initiated into the mysteries of Gin- sling, Cock-
tail, Sangaree, Mint Julep, Sherry-cobbler, Timber Doodle,
and other rare drinks. The house is full of boarders, both
married and single, many of whom sleep upon the premises,
and contract by the week for their board and lodging: the
charge for which diminishes as they go nearer the sky to
roost. A public table is laid in a very handsome hall for
breakfast, and for dinner, and for supper. The party sitting
down together to these meals will vary in number from one
to two hundred : sometimes more. The advent of each of
these epochs in the day is proclaimed by an awful gong,
which shakes the very window-frames as it reverberates
through the house, and horribly disturbs nervous foreigners.
There is an ordinary for ladies, and an ordinary for

In our private room the cloth could not, for any earthly
consideration, have been laid for dinner without a huge glass
dish of cranberries in the middle of the table ; and breakfast
would have been no breakfast unless the principal dish were
a deformed beef-steak with a great flat bone in the centre,
swimming in hot butter, and sprinkled with the very blackest
of all possible pepper. Our bedroom was spacious and airy,
but (like every bedroom on this side of the Atlantic) very
bare of furniture, having no curtains to the French bedstead


or to the window. It had one unusual luxury, however, in
the shape of a wardrobe of painted wood, something smaller
than an English watch-box; or if this comparison should be
insufficient to convey a just idea of its dimensions, they may
be estimated from the fact of my having lived for fourteen
days and nights in the firm belief that it was a shower-



BEFORE leaving Boston, I devoted one day to an excursion
to Lowell. I assign a separate chapter to this visit; not
because I am about to describe it at any great length,
but because I remember it as a thing by itself, and am
desirous that my readers should do the same.

I made acquaintance with an American railroad, on this
occasion, for the first time. As these works are pretty much
alike all through the States, their general characteristics are
easily described.

There are no first and second class carriages as with us ;
but there is a gentlemen's car and a ladies 1 car: the main
distinction between which is that in the first, everybody
smokes; and in the second, nobody does. As a black man
never travels with a white one, there is also a negro car;
which is a great blundering clumsy chest, such as Gulliver
put to sea in, from the kingdom of Brobdingnag. There is
a great deal of jolting, a great deal of noise, a great deal
of wall, not much window, a locomotive engine, a shriek, and
a bell.

The cars are like shabby omnibuses, but larger : holding
thirty, forty, fifty, people. The seats, instead of stretching
from end to end, are placed crosswise. Each seat holds two
persons. There is a long row of them on each side of the
caravan, a narrow passage up the middle, and a door at both


ends. In the centre of the carnage there is usually a stove,
fed with charcoal or anthracite coal ; which is for the most
part red-hot. It is insufferably close; and you see the hot
air fluttering between yourself and any other object you may
happen to look at, like the ghost of smoke.

In the ladies car, there are a great many gentlemen who
have ladies with them. There are also a great many ladies
who have nobody with them : for any lady may travel alone,
from one end of the United States to the other, and be
certain of the most courteous and considerate treatment every-
where. The conductor or check-taker, or guard, or whatever
he may be, wears no uniform. He walks up and down the
car, and in and out of it, as his fancy dictates ; leans against
the door with his hands in his pockets and stares at you, if
you chance to be a stranger ; or enters into conversation with
the passengers about him. A great many newspapers are
pulled out, and a few of them are read. Everybody talks
to you, or to anybody else who hits his fancy. If you are
an Englishman, he expects that that railroad is pretty much
like an English railroad. If you say "No," he says "Yes?"
(interrogatively), and asks in what respect they differ. You
enumerate the heads of difference, one by one, and he says
" Yes ? " (still interrogatively) to each. Then he guesses that
you don't travel faster in England ; and on your replying that
you do, says, "Yes?" again (still interrogatively), and it is
quite evident, don't believe it. After a long pause he remarks,
partly to you, and partly to the knob on the top of his stick,
that " Yankees are reckoned to be considerable of a go-ahead
people too ; " upon which you say " Yes," and then lie says
" Yes " again (affirmatively this time) ; and upon your look-
ing out of window, tells you that behind that hill, and
some three miles from the next station, there is a clever
town in a smart lo-ca-tion, where he expects you have con-
cluded to stop. Your answer in the negative naturally
leads to more questions in reference to your intended route
(always pronounced rout) ; and wherever you are going, you


invariably learn that you can't get there without immense
difficulty and danger, and that all the great sights are some-
where else.

If a lady take a fancy to any male passenger's seat, the
gentleman who accompanies her gives him notice of the fact,
and he immediately vacates it with great politeness. Politics
are much discussed, so are banks, so is cotton. Quiet people
avoid the question of the Presidency, for there will be a new
election in three years and a half, and party feeling runs very
high : the great constitutional feature of this institution being,
that directly the acrimony of the last election is over, the
acrimony of the next one begins ; which is an unspeakable
comfort to all strong politicians and true lovers of their
country : that is to say, to ninety-nine men and boys out of
every ninety -nine and a quarter.

Except when a branch road joins the main one, there is
seldom more than one track of rails ; so that the road is very
narrow, and the view, where there is a deep cutting, by no
means extensive. When there is not, the character of the
scenery is always the same. Mile after mile of stunted
trees : some hewn down by the axe, some blown down by
the wind, some half fallen and resting on their neighbours,
many mere logs half hidden in the swamp, others mouldered
away to spongy chips. The very soil of the earth is made
up of minute fragments such as these ; each pool of stagnant
water has its crust of vegetable rottenness ; on every side
there are the boughs, and trunks, and stumps of trees, in
every possible stage of decay, decomposition, and neglect.
Now you emerge for a few brief minutes on an open country,
glittering with some bright lake or pool, broad as many an
English river, but so small here that it scarcely has a name ;
now catch hasty glimpses of a distant town, with its clean
white houses and their cool piazzas, its prim New England
church and school-house ; when whir-r-r-r ! almost before you
have seen them, comes the same dark screen: the stunted
trees, the stumps, the logs, the stagnant water all so like


the last that you seem to have been transported back again
by magic.

The train calls at stations in the woods, where the wild
impossibility of anybody having the smallest reason to get
out, is only to be equalled by the apparently desperate hope-
lessness of there being anybody to get in. It rushes across
the turnpike road, where there is no gate, no policeman, no
signal : nothing but a rough wooden arch, on which is painted
it whirls headlong, dives through the woods again, emerges
in the light, clatters over frail arches, rumbles upon the
heavy ground, shoots beneath a wooden bridge which inter-
cepts the light for a second like a wink, suddenly awakens
all the slumbering echoes in the main street of a large town,
and dashes on haphazard, pell-mell, neck-or-nothing, down
the middle of the road. There with mechanics working at
their trades, and people leaning from their doors and windows,
and boys flying kites and playing marbles, and men smoking,
and women talking, and children crawling, and pigs burrow-
ing, and unaccustomed horses plunging and rearing, close to
the very rails there on, on, on tears the mad dragon of
an engine with its train of cars; scattering in all directions
a shower of burning sparks from its wood fire; screeching,
hissing, yelling, panting ; until at last the thirsty monster
stops beneath a covered way to drink, the people cluster

Online LibraryCharles DickensThe works of Charles Dickens (Volume 28) → online text (page 7 of 43)