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and, in this manner, Westminster Palace became, permanently, the place for
holding the meetings of these bodies. The buildings, ancient and modern,
form a cluster on the banks of the river, and are separated from the abbey
by a street. I believe their site was once an island.

Westminster Hall was built as the banqueting room of the palace. There is
no uniformity in the architecture of the pile, which is exceedingly
complicated and confused. My examination, at this time, was too hurried
for details; and I shall refer you to a later visit to England for a
description. A vacant space at the abbey end of the palace is called Old
Palace-yard, which sufficiently indicates the locality of the ancient
royal residence; and a similar, but larger space or square, at the
entrance to the hall, is known as New Palace-yard. Two sides of the latter
are filled with the buildings of the pile; namely, the courts of law, the
principal part of the hall, and certain houses that are occupied by some
of the minor functionaries of the establishment, with buildings to contain
records, etc. The latter are mean, and altogether unworthy of the
neighbourhood. They were plastered on the exterior, and observing a hole
in the mortar, I approached and found to my surprise, that here, in the
heart of the English capital, as a part of the legislative and judicial
structures, in plain view, and on the most frequented square of the
vicinity, were houses actually built of wood, and covered with lath and

The next morning I sent for a hair-dresser. As he entered the room I made
him a sign, without speaking, to cut my hair. I was reading the morning
paper, and my operator had got half through with his job, without a
syllable being exchanged between us, when the man of the comb suddenly
demanded, "What is the reason, sir, that the Americans think everything in
their own country so much better than it is everywhere else?" You will
suppose that the _brusquerie_, as well as the purport of this
interrogatory, occasioned some surprise. How he knew I was an American at
all I am unable to say, but the fellow had been fidgeting the whole time
to break out upon me with this question.

I mention the anecdote, in order to show you how lively and general the
feeling of jealousy has got to be among our transatlantic kinsmen. There
will be a better occasion to speak of this hereafter.

London was empty. The fashionable streets were actually without a soul,
for minutes at a time; and, without seeing it, I could not have believed
that a town which, at certain times, is so crowded as actually to render
crossing its streets hazardous, was ever so like a mere wilderness of
houses. During these recesses in dissipation and fashion, I believe that
the meanest residents disappear for a few months.

Our fellow-traveller, Mr. L - - , however, was in London, and we passed a
day or two in company. As he is a votary of music, he took me to hear
Madame Pasta. I was nearly as much struck with the extent and magnificence
of the Opera-house, as I had been with the architecture of the Abbey. The
brilliant manner in which it was lighted, in particular, excited my
admiration, for want of light is a decided and a prominent fault of all
scenic exhibitions at home, whether they are made in public or in private.
Madame Pasta played _Semiramide_ "How do you like her?" demanded L - - , at
the close of the first act. "Extremely; I scarce know which to praise the
most, the command and the range of her voice, or her powers as a mere
actress. But, don't you think her exceedingly like the _Signorina?_" The
present Madame Malibran was then singing in New York, under the name of
Signorina Garcia. L - - laughed, and told me the remark was well enough,
but I had not put the question in exactly the proper form. "Do you not
think the Signorina exceedingly like Madame Pasta?" would have been
better. I had got the matter wrong end foremost.

L - - reminded me of our having amused ourselves on the passage with the
nasal tones of the chorus at New York. He now directed my attention to
the same peculiarity here. In this particular I saw no difference; nor
should there be any, for I believe nearly all who are on the American
stage, in any character, are foreigners, and chiefly English.

The next day we went to old Drury, where we found a countryman, and
townsman, Mr. Stephen Price, in the chair of Sheridan. The season was
over, but we were shown the whole of the interior. It is also a
magnificent structure in extent and internal embellishment, though a
very plain brick pile externally. It must have eight or ten times the
cubic contents of the largest American theatre. The rival building,
Covent Garden, is within a few hundred feet of it, and has much more of
architectural pretension, though neither can lay claim to much. The
taste of the latter is very well, but it is built of that penny-saving
material, stuccoed bricks.

We dined with Mr. Price, and on the table was some of our own
justly-celebrated Madeira. L - - , who is an oracle on these subjects,
pronounced it injured. He was told it was so lately arrived from New York,
that there had not been time to affect it. This fact, coupled with others
that have since come to my knowledge, induce me to believe that the change
of tastes, which is so often remarked in liquors, fruits, and other
eatables, is as much wrought on ourselves, as in the much-abused viands.
Those delicate organs which are necessary to this particular sense may
readily undergo modifications by the varieties of temperature. We know
that taste and its sister sense, smelling, are both temporarily destroyed
by colds. The voice is signally affected by temperature. In cold climates
it is clear and soft; in warm, harsh and deep. All these facts would serve
to sustain the probability of the theory that a large portion of the
strictures that are lavished on the products of different countries,
should be lavished on our own capricious organs. _Au reste_, the
consequence is much the same, let the cause be what it will.

Mr. M - - , an Englishman, who has many business concerns with America,
came in while we were still at table, and I quitted the house in his
company. It was still broad daylight. As we were walking together, arm and
arm, my companion suddenly placed a hand behind him, and said, "My fine
fellow, you are there, are you?" A lad of about seventeen had a hand in
one of his pockets, feeling for his handkerchief. The case was perfectly
clear, for Mr. M - - had him still in his gripe when I saw them. Instead
of showing apprehension or shame, the fellow began to bluster and
threaten. My companion, after a word or two of advice, hurried me from the
spot. On expressing the surprise I felt at his permitting such a hardened
rogue to go at large, he said that our wisest course was to get away. The
lad was evidently supported by a gang, and we might be beaten as well as
robbed, for our pains. Besides, the handkerchief was not actually taken,
attendance in the courts was both expensive and vexatious, and he would be
bound over to prosecute. In England, the complainant is compelled to
prosecute, which is, in effect, a premium on crime! We retain many of the
absurdities of the common law, and, among others, some which depend on a
distinction between the intention and the commission of the act; but I do
not know that any of our States are so unjust as to punish a citizen, in
this way, because he has already been the victim of a rogue.

After all, I am not so certain our law is much better; but I believe more
of the _onus_ of obtaining justice falls on the injured party here than it
does with us: still we are both too much under the dominion of the common

The next day I was looking at a bronze statue of Achilles, at Hyde Park
Corner, which had been erected in honour of the Duke of Wellington. The
place, like every other fashionable haunt at that season, was
comparatively deserted. Still, there might have been fifty persons in
sight. "Stop him! stop him!" cried a man, who was chasing another directly
towards me. The chase, to use nautical terms, began to lighten ship by
throwing overboard first one article and then another. As these objects
were cast in different directions, he probably hoped that his pursuer,
like Atalantis, might stop to pick them up. The last that appeared in the
air was a hat, when, finding himself hemmed in between three of us, the
thief suffered himself to be taken. A young man had been sleeping on the
grass, and this land-pirate had absolutely succeeded in getting his shoes,
his handkerchief, and his hat; but an attempt to _take off his cravat_ had
awoke the sleeper. In this case, the prisoner was marched off under sundry
severe threats of vengeance; for the _robbee_ was heated with the run, and
really looked so ridiculous that his anger was quite natural.

My business was now done, and I left London in a night-coach for
Southampton. The place of rendezvous was the White Horse Cellar, in
Piccadilly - a spot almost as celebrated for those who are _in transitu_,
as was the Isthmus of Suez of old. I took an inside seat this time, for
the convenience of a nap. At first, I had but a single fellow-traveller.
Venturing to ask him the names of one or two objects that we passed, and
fearing he might think my curiosity impertinent, I apologized for it, by
mentioning that I was a foreigner. "A foreigner!" he exclaimed; "why,
you speak English as well as I do myself!" I confess I had thought,
until that moment, that the advantage, in this particular, was
altogether on my side; but it seems I was mistaken. By way of relieving
his mind, however, I told him I was an American. "An American!" and he
seemed more puzzled than ever. After a few minutes of meditation on what
he had just heard, he civilly pointed to a bit of meadow through which
the Thames meanders, and good-naturedly told me it was Runnymeade. I
presume my manner denoted a proper interest, for he now took up the
subject of the English Barons, and entered into a long account of their
modern magnificence and wealth. This is a topic that a large class in
England, who only know their aristocracy by report, usually discuss with
great unction. They appear to have the same pride in the superiority of
their great families, that the American slave is known to feel in the
importance of his master. I say this seriously, and not with a view to
sneer, but to point out to you a state of feeling that, at first, struck
me as very extraordinary. I suppose that the feelings of both castes
depend on a very natural principle. The Englishman, however, as he is
better educated, has one respectable feature in his deference. He exults
with reason in the superiority of his betters over the betters of most
other people: in this particular he is fully borne out by the fact.
Subsequent observation has given me occasion to observe, that the
English gentleman, in appearance, attainments, manliness, and perhaps I
might add, principles, although this and deportment are points on which
I should speak with less confidence, stands at the head of his class in
Christendom. This should not be, nor would it be, were the gentlemen of
America equal to their fortunes, which, unhappily, they are not. Facts
have so far preceded opinions at home, as to leave but few minds capable
of keeping in their company. But this is a subject to which we may also
have occasion to return.

The coach stopped, and we took up a third inside. This man proved to be
a radical. He soon began to make side-hits at the "nobility and gentry,"
and, mingled with some biting truths, he uttered a vast deal of
nonsense. While he was in the midst of his denunciations, the coach
again stopped, and one of the outsides was driven into it by the night
air. He was evidently a gentleman, and the guard afterwards told me he
was a Captain Somebody, and a nephew of a Lord Something, to whose
country place he was going. The appearance of the captain checked the
radical for a little while; but, finding that the other was quiet, he
soon returned to the attack. The aristocrat was silent, and the admirer
of aristocracy evidently thought himself too good to enter into a
dispute with one of the mere people; for _to admire_ aristocracy was, in
his eyes, something like an _illustration_; but wincing under one of the
other's home-pushes, he said, "These opinions may do very well for this
gentleman," meaning me, who as yet had not uttered a syllable - "who is
an American; but I must say, I think them out of place in the mouth of
an Englishman." The radical regarded me a moment, and inquired if what
the other had just said was true. I answered that it was. He then began
an eulogium on America; which, like his Jeremiad on England, had a good
many truths blended with a great deal of nonsense. At length, he
unfortunately referred to me, to corroborate one of his most capital
errors. As this could not be done conscientiously, for his theory
depended on the material misconstruction of giving the whole legislative
power to Congress, I was obliged to explain the mistake into which he
had fallen. The captain and the _toady_ were both evidently pleased; nor
can I say, I was sorry the appeal had been made, for it had the effect
of silencing a commentator, who knew very little of his subject. The
captain manifested his satisfaction, by commencing a conversation, which
lasted until we all went to sleep. Both the captain and the radical
quitted us in the night.

Men like the one just described do the truth a great deal of harm. Their
knowledge does not extend to first principles, and they are always for
maintaining their positions by a citation of facts. One half of the latter
are imagined; and even that which is true is so enveloped with collateral
absurdities, that when pushed, they are invariably exposed. These are the
travellers who come among us Liberals, and go back Tories. Finding that
things fall short of the political Elysiums of their imaginations, they
fly into the opposite extreme, as a sort of _amende honorable_ to their
own folly and ignorance.

At the distance of a few miles from Winchester, we passed an encampment of
gipsies, by the way-side. They were better-looking than I had expected to
see them, though their faces were hardly perceptible in the grey of the
morning. They appeared well fed and very comfortably bivouacked. Why do
not these people appear in America? or, do they come, and get absorbed,
like all the rest, by the humane and popular tendencies of the country?
What a homage will it be to the institutions, if it be found that even a
gipsy cease to be a gipsy in such a country! Just as the sun rose, I got
out to our lodgings and went to bed.

After a sound sleep of two or three hours, I rose and went to the
drawing-room. A lady was in it, seated in a way to allow me to see no
more than a small part of her side-face. In that little, I saw the
countenance of your aunt's family. It was the sister whom we had never
seen, and who had hastened out of Hertfordshire to meet us. There are
obvious reasons why such a subject cannot be treated in this letter, but
the study of two sisters who had been educated, the one in England and
the other in America, who possessed so much in common, and yet, who were
separated by so much that was not in common, was to me a matter of
singular interest. It showed me, at a glance, the manner in which the
distinctive moral and physical features of nations are formed; the
points of resemblance being just sufficient to render the points of
difference more obvious.

A new and nearer route to Netley had been discovered during my absence,
and our unpractised Americans had done little else than admire ruins for
the past week. The European who comes to America plunges into the virgin
forest with wonder and delight; while the American who goes to Europe
finds his greatest pleasure, at first, in hunting up the memorials of the
past. Each is in quest of novelty, and is burning with the desire to gaze
at objects of which he has often read.

The steam-boat made but one or two voyages a week between Southampton
and Havre, and we were obliged to wait a day or two for the next trip.
The intervening time was passed in the manner just named. Every place of
any importance in England has some work or other written on the subject
of its history, its beauties, and its monuments. It is lucky to escape a
folio. Our works on Southampton, (which are of moderate dimensions,
however,) spoke of some Roman remains in the neighbourhood. The spot was
found, and, although the imagination was of greater use than common in
following the author's description, we stood on the spot with a species
of antiquarian awe.

Southampton had formerly been a port of some importance. Many of the
expeditions sent against France embarked here, and the town had once
been well fortified, for the warfare of the period. A good deal of the
old wall remains. All of this was industriously traced out; while the
bow-windows, long passages, and old maids, found no favour in our eyes.

One simple and touching memorial I well remember. There is a ferry
between the town and the grounds near Netley Abbey. A lady had caught a
cold, which terminated in death, in consequence of waiting on the shore,
during a storm, for the arrival of a boat. To protect others from a
similar calamity, she had ordered a very suitable defence against the
weather to be built on the fatal spot, and to be kept in repair for
ever. The structure is entirely of stone, small and exceedingly simple
and ingenious. The ground plan is that of a Greek cross. On this
foundation are reared four walls, which, of course, cross each other in
the centre at right angles. A little above the height of a man, the
whole is amply roofed. Let the wind blow which way it will, you perceive
there is always shelter. There is no external wall, and the diameter of
the whole does not exceed ten feet, if it be as much. This little work
is exceedingly English, and it is just as unlike anything American as
possible. It has its origin in benevolence, is original in the idea, and
it is picturesque. We might accomplish the benevolence, but it would be
of a more public character: the picturesque is a thing of which we
hardly know the meaning; and as for the originality, the dread of doing
anything different from his neighbour would effectually prevent an
American from erecting such a shelter; even charity with us being
subject to the control of the general voice. On the other hand, what a
clever expedient would have been devised, in the first instance, in
America, to get across the ferry without taking cold! All these little
peculiarities have an intimate connexion with national character and
national habits. The desire to be independent and original causes a
multitude of silly things to be invented here, while the apprehension of
doing anything different from those around them causes a multitude of
silly things to be _perpetuated_ in America; and yet we are children of
the same parents! When profit is in view, we have but one soul and that
is certainly inventive enough; but when money has been made, and is to
be spent, we really do not seem to know how to set about it, except by


Quit England. - Approach to France. - Havre. - Our Reception there. - Female
Commissionnaire. - Clamour of Drums. - Port of Havre. - Projected
Enterprize. - American Enterprize. - Steam-boat
Excursion. - Honfleur. - Rouen. - French Exaction. - American
Porters. - Rouen Cathedral. - Our Cicerone. - A Diligence. - Picturesque
Road. - European Peasantry. - Aspect of the Country. - Church at
Louviers. - Village near Vernon. - Rosny. - Mantes. - Bourbon Magnificence.
- Approach to Paris - Enter Paris.


On quitting England, we embarked from the very strand where Henry V.
embarked for the fruitless field of Agincourt. A fearful rumour had gone
abroad that the Camilla (the steam-boat) had been shorn of a wing, and
there were many rueful faces in the boat that took us off to the vessel.
In plainer speech, one of the boilers was out of order, and the passage
was to be made with just half the usual propelling power. At that
season, or indeed at any season, the only probable consequence was loss
of time. With a strong head-wind, it is true, the Camilla might have
been compelled to return; but this might also have happened with the use
of both the boilers.

Our adventurers did not see things in this light. The division of
employments, which produces prices so cheap and good, makes bad
travellers. Our boat's cargo embarked with fear and trembling, and "She
has but one boiler!" passed from mouth to mouth amid ominous faces. A
bachelor-looking personage, of about fifty, with his person well
swaddled in July, declared in a loud voice, that we were "all going on
board to be drowned." This startled A - - , who, having full faith in my
nautical experience, asked what we were to think of it? It was a mere
question between ten hours and fifteen, and so I told her. The females,
who had just before been trembling with alarm, brightened at this, and
two or three of them civilly thanked me for the information they had
thus obtained incidentally! - "Boat, sir! boat!" "Thank 'ee, sir; thank
'ee, sir."

We found two or three parties on board of a higher condition than
common. Apprehension cast a shade over the cold marble-like polish of
even the English aristocrat; for if, as Mrs. Opie has well observed,
there is nothing "so like a lord in a passion as a commoner in a
passion," "your fear" is also a sad leveller. The boat was soon under
way, and gradually our cargo of mental apprehensions settled into the
usual dolorous physical suffering of landsmen in rough water. So much
for excessive civilization. The want of a boiler under similar
circumstances, would have excited no feeling whatever among a similar
number of Americans, nineteen in twenty of whom, thanks to their
rough-and-tumble habits, would know exactly what to think of it.

I was seated, during a part of the day, near a group of young men, who
were conversing with a lady of some three or four and twenty. They
expressed their surprise at meeting her on board. She told them it was a
sudden whim; that no one knew of her movements; she meant only to be gone
a fortnight, to take a run into Normandy. In the course of the
conversation I learned that she was single, and had a maid and a footman
with her. In this guise she might go where she pleased; whereas, had she
taken "an escort" in the American fashion, her character would have
suffered. This usage, however, is English rather than European. Single
women on the Continent, except in extraordinary cases, are obliged to
maintain far greater reserve even than with us; and there, single or
married, they cannot travel under the protection of any man who is not
very nearly connected with them, domestics and dependants excepted.

The debates about proceeding at all had detained us so long, and the
"one boiler" proved to be so powerless, that night set in, and we had
not yet made the coast of France. The breeze had been fresh, but it
lulled towards sunset, though not before we began to feel the influence
of the tides. About midnight, however, I heard some one exclaim, "Land!"
and we all hastened on deck, to take a first look at France.

The boat was running along beneath some cliffs. The moon was shining
bright, and her rays lighted up the chalky sides of the high coast,
giving them a ghostly hue. The towers of two lighthouses also glittered
on a headland near by. Presently a long sea-wall became visible, and,
rounding its end, we shot into smooth water. We entered the little port
of Havre between artificial works, on one of which stands a low,
massive, circular tower, that tradition attributes to no less a
personage than Julius Caesar.

What a change in so short a time! On the other side of the Channel,
beyond the usual demands for employment, which were made in a modest
way, and the eternal "Thank'ee, sir," there was a quiet in the people
that was not entirely free from a suspicion of surliness. Here every man
seemed to have two voices, both of which he used as if with no other
desire than to hear himself speak. Notwithstanding the hour, which was
past midnight, the quay was well lined, and a dozen officials poured on
board the boat to prevent our landing. Custom-house officers, gendarmes,
with enormous hats, and female commissionaires, were counteracting each
other at every turn. At length we were permitted to land, being ordered
up to a building near by. Here the females were taken into a separate

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperRecollections of Europe → online text (page 5 of 29)