Henry Colman.

European life and manners; in familiar letters to friends (Volume 1) online

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here, is the marble statue of the Greek Slave by Mr. Pow-
ers, the sculptor, formerly of Cincinnati. It is the statue
of a young girl, entirely nude, with a chain upon her hands,
and expressive of grief and shame for her captivity and ex-
posure. He had, it is said, several models to work from.
At first I was disposed to think that his model was not
so good as that of either of the Three Graces selected by
Canova ; but I am inclined to believe that it is as true
to nature ; and certainly it is preeminently beautiful.
Sculpture seems to me ahiiost a divine art, and the sue-


cess of Powers in this case is triumphant ; for he has
disarmed prejudice and silenced ill-natured criticism, and
his work receives, with scarcely an exception, universal

The next subject of public interest, which has en-
grossed everybody's conversation, has been the Queen's
dress ball, at which the guests were expected to appear
in the costumes of a hundred years ago, and consequently
to personate the manners of the Court at that time. I
think I mentioned this to you in my last letter. If I
repeat my accounts you must excuse me, for I am unable
to preserve any thing like copies of my letters, and
hardly a recollection of their contents. I have sent to

E a pictorial paper, which will give you some

notion of the show. I dined that day with Lord and

Lady , and waited until they were dressed for

the occasion. The room was filled with friends before
they left, and there was a perfect crowd in the streets
to see them get into their carriage. It was rather difficult
to understand how she would manage with her hoop in
getting through the door ; but she does every thing
gracefully, and would have gone through a key-hole, for
aught I know, had it been required. Powder was gen-
erally worn by the ladies; wigs by all the gentlemen,
and by many of the ladies. I saw her the next day by
appointment, and I could not help feeling that, when
" unadorned she was adorned the most," and that she
needed neither powder nor paste, nor any external em-
bellishments, to make her as handsome and agreeable as
it is safe for one to look upon. Mr. Everett appeared
as Benjamin Franklin, and, as I was told, "showed off
to great advantage."


I did not attend the ball of course, an invitation being
impossible, as I have never been presented at Court,
and I should not have been certain of it, if I had. 13ut
I have seen, since that time, with the exception of roy-
alty itself, a repetition of the same show. I attended
the Polish full and fancy dress ball, given on Friday last,
for the benefit of the Polish exiles, in which all the prin-
cipal ladies and gentlemen, who were at the Queen's
ball, appeared in the same dresses which they wore on
that occasion. I went, as matter of curiosity, at ten
o'clock, and left for home at three in the morning ; and
I '11 assure you, grand as the occasion was, felt rather
disturbed to be walking home after such an evening's dis-
sipation, by broad day Ught ; for in this latitude, at this
season, the day dawns at two o'clock. I left two-thirds
of the party, when I came away ; and whether they got
home by Saturday night or before Sunday, I cannot say.
I myself, of course, went in no other fancy dress than a
plain suit of black ; and I had a very fair support,
though tRe great majority, indeed nearly the whole of
the company, were in court or fancy dresses. The rooms
were excessively crowded, and the heat intense. No
supper was provided excepting tea and coffee, and lemon-
ade, bread and butter, and small cakes, and ices ; but no
wine or spirits, or meats. The dresses were exceedingly
brilliant, and such an array of glittering diamonds as
were worn by some of the ladies, surpassed any thing
which I have before seen. The ball was given at Al-
mack's, or Willis's rooms, and the company was of the
highest rank and fashion. Minuets were danced, quad-
rilles and waltzes, Highland reels, k,c., <kc. Two very
large rooms for dancing were opened, besides the side


rooms, and yet they were greatly crowded. It is said, for
elegance never, on any public occasion, to have been sur-
passed. I am very glad to have seen it, but once is
enough for me, and I have no desire for a repetition.
Five guineas were given by some persons to obtain a
ticket. At the court ball, it is said, that the dresses of
some of the gentlemen, without diamonds, cost five hun-
dred guineas, or more than ^'2,500, and one lady wore
£60,000, or f 300,000 worth of diamonds. Lord Mor-
peth was one of the most elegantly and expensively
dressed gentlemen, and seemed himself not a little amused
with his wig and appearance. I should at once have
recognized him. The Duchess of Bedford presided, and
was extremely well dressed. The Duchess of Suther-
land was most magnificently apparelled, but she is so
handsome that nothing appears amiss with her ; she
wore powder, but no wig. The Duchess of Roxburgh,
whom I do not know, appeared most splendidly ; and
well she might, as the annual income of the Duke is
stated to be £300,000. There was a large party of
young ladies, who were appointed to dance in a certain
quadrille, dressed in plain white muslin and satin skirts,
with a simple rosette on the front of their gowns and on
their side, and a plain cincture of diamonds round the
head ; with the hair combed plain, and without powder ;
who were much to my taste, and were universally ad-
mired. One of them, with whom I am much acquainted,
appeared extremely well, and I could not help telling
her that I saw no one in the room dressed in better taste
than herself; I did not add, as I might in good faith have
done, that I saw no one by any means so handsome as
herself. The handsomest dresses in the room were I

L,KTTt:K xcvm. 335

think, upon the wliole, several of plain pink lace, over a
satin skirt and plain pink silk dresses. Two or three
ladies appeared as Night, wearing dark velvet hahits,
with black lace veils, reaching almost to the ground,
which were covered with stars, and velvet jockey hats
or bonnets, with stars of diamonds, and the new moon
appearing among the stars, carrying in their hands a sil-
ver wand, surmounted with a crescent, as well as I could
make it out. These dresses attracted great attention, but
I thought were not much admired. The Highland gen-
tlemen, in their country costume, with their legs bare above
the gaiters, and extending some ways above the knees,
especially when they sat down, were perfectly disgusting.
The dresses of the ladies were without exception extreme-
ly modest ; I think I may say more so than I have seen
at many evening and dinner parties. The dancing was
graceful and elegant, and the old figure dances were
very pleasing. I remember perfectly well, when a boy,
to have seen ladies in powder, and the minuets danced
with great elegance and grace. There must have been
a great deal of practice here, to have prepared themselves
so well. The minuet, I hope, will come in fashion again ;
it is very pleasing and full of grace. But I cannot, under
any circumstances, be reconciled to the waltz, which
seems to me, except among brothers and sisters, or mem-
bers of the same family, to border upon indelicacy.

So much for the ball. I have seen it once ; that quite
satisfies me. I am not going to philosophize or moralize
upon it. I am happy to see people enjoy themselves in any
way by which they and others are not injured. I admire
elegance of dress, grace of manner, splendor of decoration
and embellishment, and all that ; and I am glad to see


money collected for useful and benevolent purposes.
If persons cannot be induced to give money for the sake
of charity, let them give it for their own gratification,
that it may be applied to purposes of charity. But,
in this case, there are many things to be said for and
against, which require to be considered, in order to make
up a just judgment, and which I have not time now
to discuss. The elegance, the magnificence, the splen-
dor, the costliness, were much beyond what I have been
accustomed to see. I should have said that many of the
ladies, who wore powder, were a good deal rouged, and
several of them wore patches of court plaster, which
certainly did not improve them.

I was very glad, a week since, to get a little relief in the
country. Mr. Wake, who goes out in this boat to the
United States, and to whom I have given introductions to
several gentlemen, invited me to make a visit at his father's,
about sixty miles from London, and attend a large agri-
cultural meeting in the neighborhood. The father is a
venerable clergyman, and the mother a daughter of the
celebrated lawyer, Mr. Grattan, formerly of Ireland.
His uncle. Sir William Wake, lives directly in the neigh-
borhood, in great elegance and comfort. In these two
fannilies I passed three or four most agreeable days, and re-
turned to town greatly benefited by the excursion ; before
I went I was worth nothing. The parish of this gen-
tleman contains about twenty-five families ; the church,
a venerable building only two steps from the door of the
rectory, would contain, perhaps, a hundred people ; the
living, besides the garden and field, is about two thousand
dollars ; and here, in the midst of every thing tasteful
and elegant, remote from the public roads, and in

LETTKK XtlX. 337

a park of several hundred acres, with gardens and forests,
and cultivated fields around them, these people are lead-
ing a most quiet and philosophical life. I told them
they need not claim any merit for being good, for really
there was no chance for a temptation to do wrong.

I have not yet been able to obtain such lodgings as I
wish in the country, but I hope to shortly, as the weather
for a few days, in London, has been excessively hot and
disagreeable. I am going to-morrow down into Hamp-
shire, to pass a few days at Mr. Nightingale's, where I
anticipate a quiet and useful, and most agreeable visit.


London, 16tli July, 1843.
My Dear M :

I SEND you a little volume of Hymns, used at Finsbury
Chapel, which I hope you will read with the same
delight and rapture with which I often hear them sung.
The music at the Chapel where they are used, is cer-
tainly the best I ever heard in any place ; and the
hearing of it quite worth a voyage across the Atlantic.
In many cases it is absolutely overpowering. I often go
there for the sake of hearing it, and of hearing likewise
the most original preacher that has ever come under my
notice, (Mr. Fox) ; not always to my taste, not always
in accordance with my opinions, but his discourses are
full of thought, and bright with the treasures of the
imagination. Yours truly.




London, 17th July, 1845.
My Dear M :

I AM delighted to hear you are going to recreate
yourself in the country. I dare say you will be glad to
learn that I have escaped the distracting bustle and din
of London, for quiet lodgings at Islington. My new
lodgings, where I have been now three days, promise
well. They are four miles from Charing Cross, in a
quiet, clean street, and every thing seems agreeable. It
is not difficult to find lodgings in London, but it is very
difficult to find exactly such as one would desire. I
certainly applied at fifty places, and excepting where I
am, I could find none that were even decent, under
eighteen, twenty, or thirty shillings and more, per week,
and this " out of season." But here, with small, though
neat accommodations, I am to pay only ten shillings,
without any extras whatever. It can hardly be called
out of London, though it is quite removed from its bustle
and interruptions.

I have been invited to go to Shrewsbury and Chester,
to make a visit, but have declined. Lady Byron, whose
kindness has been unintermitted, wrote to me that she had
procured quiet lodgings for me at Leicester, which I was
compelled to decline. Lord Hatherton desires me to
come to Teddesley, and meet several distinguished per-
sons, and spend some time there ; but that I must decline,
as I do not mean by any inducement to be taken off my


I have seen hosts of Americans ; and to IMiss C-

I have had the pleasure of paying many attentions ; and
when I look hack upon the course of kindness which that
family has shown to me for nearly forty years, beginning
with the grandparents on both sides, father, mother, he,
&LC., I feel that any thing which I can do for her, would
be a very imperfect return. I went sight-seeing with her,
shopping with her, to the theatre, and to the opera twice
with her. Indeed, I never passed so dissipated a week.
She had her carnage all the time, and the horses, I believe,
had little rest. But I must tell you my adventures with

another young lady. Miss D . She came out here

on her way to visit a sister, who resides in Paris. I saw
a note of hers on Monday, requesting the gentleman to

whom it was addressed, Mr. C , to come to her at

the Colonnade Hotel, as she was in great distress. As
he could not go, I immediately volunteered to go, know-
ing as I did her father and friends very well. I intro-
duced myself to her, and she soon recognized me.

I found her weeping bitterly, and insisted upon her
telling me the cause of her trouble. She had never

known Mr. C except on board the boat ; and it was

by mere accident that the servant had found him, (for
she did not know his hotel,) a thing which could
scarcely be done in London, once in a thousand times.
She at last told me that she had been placed, at the
commencement of her voyage, under the care of a Dr.

K , and arrived at the hotel on Saturday evening, at

ten o'clock. On Sunday, after breakfast, he left her
alone in the hotel ; and when in the evening hearing a
noise in his chamber, she sent to inquire for him, a
servant brought her word that he had paid his bill, taken


away his luggage, and gone to private lodgings. In the
morning he came back, and giving her a railroad and
steamboat bill of times and distances, he told her he was
not going to Paris, and she could find her way alone.

For a young lady to be thus left alone all night, in a
strange hotel in the midst of London, not having a single
acquaintance in the town, and to be expected without
any knowledge of the language, or country, to find her
own way to Paris, a thing which I even could not do
without a good deal of trouble, is a most extraordinary
affair. I never heard of such conduct.

She expressed the greatest anxiety to get on, as her
sister was ill, and would be unhappy at her delay. I
then told her I would take her under my care, and if I
could find no other proper person to go with her, I
would go myself, if for no other purpose than to see her
safely landed. I then found lodgings for her with some
friends, who I knew were acquainted with her family,
and for whom I had obtained comfortable apartments
near myself, and told them they must take her into their
family. As I went afterwards to have her passport pre-
pared, I met accidentally with Mr. Fleischman, of the
Patent Office at Washington, whom I knew very well,
and who was on his way to Paris ; and who promised
he would see her safe to her friends.

On Thursday morning, I put her into the cars for
Southampton to Paris, as happy a creature as you ever
saw ; and have since had a most grateful letter from her,
informing me that Mr. F. did not leave her until she
shook hands with her sister.

My good friend, Dr. Parkman, has returned here,
full now of sunshine, with his face, as he would say,


Zionward. I expect my head will be nothing but one
mass of phosphorus, when my face is turned homewards.
Mr. Saltonstall's death I greatly dejjlore. I con-
sidered him a man of uncommon worth, and a blessing
and honor to the town. He was a man of cultivated
mind and refined taste, and a remarkable exception to
those narrow views, which eminence in any one of the
learned professions is too apt to produce. He was dis-
tinguished by his conscientiousness and his enlarged
sentiments, and there was no man, in whose sense of
right and justice, I should have more strongly confided.
To his family, his loss is perfectly irreparable.

I am not disposed to quarrel with the institutions or
customs of any foreign country, but here, they are in
many respects, very different from those in which I have
been educated. With us, you know, education takes
precedence of every thing else, but here rank is always
in the ascendant. A private tutor in general, though
he may be a graduate from Oxford or Cambridge, yet
occupies a- comparatively humble position ; and so, also,
with a governess, even of finished education. As a man
of education and proper self-respect, I could never con-
sent, as I have seen it done, to be called in to prayers
when the servants came in, and not introduced to any of
the company present, and, after prayers, sent, or rather
expected to retire to my own room, where I was to
take my breakfast by myself, or with the children, though
that breakfast or dinner might be served on gold or silver
plate. It is, however, quite remarkable to witness the


idolatry with which rank is here regarded ; and most of the
lower classes seem to me to take more pleasure and pride
in admiring it, than the possessors do in its enjoyment.

I told you I had been at the opera twice with Miss

C , but I could not but feel there might have been

a better use for the four guineas which were paid for our
two tickets. In the course of the afternoon, three
guineas apiece were offered for a ticket. Mr. Wetmore
was kind enough to offer me a seat the same evening in
his box. For his box, which would only admit three
persons, he paid, I think, about seven guineas, or thirty-
six dollars. I will not deny, however, that I enjoyed
the entertainment exceedingly. The scenery and dresses
are splendid beyond description. The tout ensemble of
the house, crowded with persons in full dress, and with
all the rank and fashion of England, is extremely mag-
nificent. The music, excepting the choruses, which
are not to my taste, is, I suppose, as good as the world
affords. But the dancing of Taglioni, whom I have for
years desired to see, far exceeded my expectations. I
never saw so sylph-like and fairy a being. I never,
indeed, before saw a person who could walk upon air.
The singing, however, exquisite as it is, does -not equal
that which I hear whenever I go to Finsbury Chapel.

Since I wrote to you, I have dined with a large party
of gentlemen at Greenwich. There are several London
companies, who dine together frequently. This was the
Cordwainers' Company, one of the oldest in London,
and now embraces many persons of education, who
come in by hereditary descent. These dinners, at which
I have several times been present, are always of the
most luxurious description, the viands most choice, and


the wines the most costly. They are paid for out of the
funds of the company, which, in some cases, have accu-
mulated to an immense amount. Each of the compa-
nies provides for its poor and decayed members. I
confess I had some distrust as to the use of the money,
which afforded such means of doing good, in such
frequent and splendid entertainments ; but my distrust
was quieted, under the acknowledged and proper right
of every man, or body of men, to judge for themselves,
in the disposal of property which has fallen into their
hands. They are responsible, they only, to their own
consciences ; and the community have no other right
than to see that no illegal or immoral appropriation is
made of it. Adieu.


London, IStli August, 1845.
My Dear A :

I HAVE a few spare moments in a shop in Regent
Street, and these shall be given to you. Now, that my
despatches are actually on their way, I begin to respire
a little more freely.

You have been roasting in America ; we have been
freezing here. I wish you would bottle up a little of
your caloric and transmit it with all haste, that we may
have some bread to eat, and feel that it is really August
instead of November, as it would seem. We have had
but one fortnight of wami weather, and I sleep under as
many blankets as I did in January. How my heart


burns with desire to see you and yours. My spirits
often sink far below zero at the thought of how long it
may yet be before I have that happiness.

I do not remember what I last wrote to you, but I think
that since the last packet I have witnessed the proroga-
tion of Parliament, seen the sovereign, the great officers
of state, the assembled nobles and princes, peers and
peeresses of the kingdom, in all of earthly glory which
wealth and art and taste can command, and heard the
speech from the throne. If I should speak of it as
many do, I should pronounce it all mere child's play
— the Parliament house a large baby house — the
Queen a doll, and the peers and peeresses, in their
feathers and jewels, at a child's ball. But there is a
different view to be taken of it. The show was ex-
tremely beautiful, and there was a moral sublimity about
it, which much affected me. This little woman holds
the sovereignty of one hundred and fifty millions of
human beings ; extends her power into all parts of the
civilized globe ; the sun never sets upon her dominions ;
her ships, as birds of the ocean, dot the equatorial
regions all over like flakes of snow on a green field,
and penetrate into the terrific regions of perpetual frost,
where animal life is all but extinct. She holds the
power of life and death, the great questions of war and
peace, is the most active instrument in the civilization
of the world, and embodies in her own person a domin-
ion, perhaps more extensive and brilliant than was ever
swayed before by human hands. Here were learned
and grave judges doing homage to this sovereignty, peers
and nobles kneeling before her in token of obedience,
and much of the wealth and talent and activity and



power and learning of the kingdom crowding around the
bar, which kept them at a respectful distance, and list-
ening in breathless silence to the words of this personi-
fication of political grandeur and power. But I have
no time to moralize. I was fortunate enough to get a
lady's ticket, as well as one for myself, and of gratifying
Miss Joy with the opportunity of being present under
my escort.

I have been at the opera four times this winter, by
invitation, for I have no guineas to throw away, and last
week went with Lady Molesworth, whose daughter holds
a very high place in my regard for her agreeable man-
ners and her bright mind. The music, the scenery, the
singing, the dancing, within certain limits, were mag-
nificent and delightful. I have a large ideality, you
know, and therefore enjoyed it.

You are very coy about writing. I wish this letter
was worth one farthing, but I know it is not, excepting
as it assures you that I am — Yours ever.


London, 18th August, 1845.
My Dear M :

I DO not know that I have now much to tell you that
would interest you. A family, in which I have been
very intimate, have just lost a daughter, one of the most
accomplished and delightful young women I ever saw,
and for whom I had contracted a strong friendship. She
was about thirty-three years old, and has departed, to the


universal grief of the circle in which she moved. Miss

L , an intimate friend both of hers and mine, agreed

with me, in speaking of her some time since, before her
illness, that she was a model of a woman, and, within
our knowledge, had scarcely her superior. Her name

was R , the daughter of a merchant, and she has

died of some internal derangement, after severe suffer-
ing. It is not customary here to call until some time
after the death ; therefore, though I have left my card, I
have not yet seen the family. There is another case
which interests me greatly. One of the young women
who lived as an apprentice in the house where I
lodged, is now in a lingering consumption, and I visit
her as often as I can, as she seems always most happy
to see me. She is a Catholic by religion, and about
twenty-five years old. I scarcely ever saw a more lovely
person ; and as her strength fails, her countenance be-
comes more radiant, and her eyes seem to have a celes-

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