James Johnson.

The recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides online

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prudent speculators. Rail-roads can only succeed in a limited number of favourable
localities. In all England there is no locality so favourable for this mode of transport as
the space between Manchester and Liverpool. It is extremely problematical whether
the great lines of northern and western roads will repay the expense of rail-ways. Many
lines at present projected, will be almost certain failures. The common steam-car-
riage, however, for ordinary roads, is likely to become much more general than rail-way
steamers. As neither of the modes of transport are calculated to abridge the labour of
man, but only of horses, they cannot but prove beneficial to the country provided spe-
culation does not overstock the market.


Having passed and repassed between Liverpool and Manchester,
several times, and in the different classes of conveyance, I marked accu-
rately the phenomena of this most astonishing effort of human ingenuity,
to abridge labour and save time. When the train is at full speed say
thirty or more miles in the hour the sensations and the noise, pro-
duced by the vibrations of the machinery and the rotation of so many
wheels, resemble a good deal those which would result from a troop of
horse at full gallop, but all the animals in the most perfect unison of
action and motion. Neither the vibrations, the sounds, nor the sight of
surrounding objects, convey any unpleasant feeling to the passenger :
on the contrary, to me, they communicated an exceedingly pleasurable
sensation, but of a nature that cannot be described in words*.

The most disagreeable circumstance in the conveyance, occurs at the
moment when the check is given to the engine, preparatory to each halt.
At that instant, every carriage strikes against its neighbour, so that a
general collision takes place along the whole line, communicating a kind
of electric shock to the passengers. To this, however, we soon get
accustomed, and the collision is greatly diminished by the intervention
of springs to break the force of the shock.

Although the whole passage between Liverpool and Manchester is a
series of enchantments, surpassing any in the " Arabian Nights," be-
cause they are realities not fictions ; yet there are certain epochs in
the transit, which are peculiarly exciting. These are, the starlings
the ascents the descents the tunnels the Chat-moss the meetings.
At the instant of starting, or rather before, the AUTOMATON belches
forth an explosion of steam, and seems, for a second or two, quiescent.
But quickly the explosions are reiterated, with shorter and shorter in-
tervals, till they become too rapid to be counted, though still distinct,
These belchings or explosions more nearly resemble the pantings of a
lion or a tiger, than any sound that has ever vibrated on my ear. Dur-
ing the ascent, they become slower and slower, till the AUTOMATON ac-
tually labours like an animal out of breath, from the tremendous efforts
to gain the highest point of the elevation. The progression is propor-
tionate ; and before the said point is gained, the train is not moving
faster than a horse could pace. With the slow motion of the mighty
and animated machine, the breathing becomes more laborious the
growl more distinct till, at length, the animal appears exhausted, and

* All rapid movements through the air are productive of a mixture of pleasing as
well as of disagreeable sensations. The swing offers an illustration familiar to us all.
When the o^pillutions are moderate, pleasure is the result when immoderate, they occa-
sion pain. How applicable is this rule to moral as veil as physical enjoyments !


groans like the tiger when nearly overpowered in -combat by the buf-

The moment that the height is reached, and the descent commences,
the pan tings rapidly increase the engine, with its train, starts off with
augmenting velocity, and, in a few seconds, it is flying down the decli-
vity like lightning, and with a uniform growl or roar, like a continuous
discharge of distant artillery. At this period, the whole train is going
at the rate of thirty-five or forty miles an hour ! I was on the outside,
and in front of the first carriage, just over the engine. The scene was
magnificent, I had almost said, terrific. Although it was a dead calm,
the wind appeared to be blowing a hurricane, such was the velocity with
which we darted through the air. Yet all was steady ; and there was
something in the precision of the machinery that inspired a degree of
confidence over fear of safety over danger. A man may travel from
the Pole to the Equator from the Straits of Malacca to the Isthmus of
Darien, and he will see nothing so astonishing as this. The pangs of
Etna and Vesuvius excite feelings of horror as well as of terror the con-
vulsion of the elements, during a thunder storm, carries with it nothing
of pride, much less of pleasure, to counteract the awe inspired by the
fearful workings of perturbed nature ; but the scene which is here pre-
sented, and which I cannot adequately describe, engenders a proud con-
sciousness of superiority in human ingenuity, more intense and convin-
cing, than any effort or product of the poet, the painter, the philosopher,
or the divine. The projections or transits of the train through the tun-
nels and arches, are very electrifying. The deafening peal of thunder,
the sudden immersion in gloom, and the clash of reverberated sounds in
confined space, combine to produce a momentary shudder, or idea of
destruction ; a thrill of annihilation, which is instantly dispelled on
emerging into the cheerful light.

The meetings or crossings of the steam trains, flying in opposite
directions, are scarcely less agitating to the nerves, than their transits
through the tunnels. The velocity of their course, the propinquity, or
apparent identity of the iron orbits along which these meteors move,
call forth the involuntary, but fearful thought of a possible collision,
with all its horrible consequences ! The period of suspense, however,
though exquisitely painful, is but momentary ; and, in a few seconds,
the object of terror is far out of sight behind.

Nor is the rapid passage across the CnAT-Mos$, unworthy of notices
The ingenuity with which two narrow rods of iron are made to bear

* Those who have witnessed a pitched battle between the tiger and buffalo in Bengal,
will understand what I mean.


whole trains of waggons, laden with many hundred tons of commerce,
and bounding across a wide semi-fluid morass, previously impassable by
man or beast, is beyond all praise, and deserving of eternal record.
Only conceive a slender bridge, of two minute iron rails, several miles in
length, level as Waterloo, elastic as whalebone, yet firm as adamant !
Along this splendid triumph of human genius this veritable via tri-
umphalis the train of carriages bounds with the velocity of the stricken
deer ; the vibrations of the resilient moss causing the ponderous engine
and its enormous suite to glide along the surface of an extensive quag-
mire as safely as a practised skater skims the icy mirror of a frozen

The first class or train is the most fashionable, but the second and
third are the most amusing. I travelled one day from Liverpool to
Manchester in the lumber train. Many of the carriages were occupied
by the swinish multitude, and others by a multitude of swine. These
last were, " neat as imported," from the Emerald Isle, and therefore
were naturally vociferous, if not eloquent. It Avas evident that the other
passengers would have been considerably annoyed by the ORATORS of
this last group, had there not been stationed in each carriage, an offi-
cer, somewhat analogous to the usher of the black rod, but whose desig-
nation on the rail-road, I found to be " COMPTROLLER of the GAMMON."
No sooner did one of the long-faced gentlemen raise his note too high,
or wag his jaw too long, than the " Comptroller of the Gammon" gave
him a whack over the snout, with the butt end of his shillelagh a
snubber which never failed to stop his oratory for the remainder of the
journey !

It is to be hoped that so valuable a discovery will not be overlooked
by a reformed Parliament; and that a " COMPTROLLER of the GAMMON"
will henceforth be a standing, certainly not a sinecure office, in St.
Stephen's. Probably an amateur or fancy operator of this kind may be
found among the representatives themselves, who will volunteer to fill
the office.

To conclude. Even in its present infancy of improvement, the
steam-carriage, on the rail-road, appears to me to be a safer vehicle than
the stage-coach. The rapid rate of driving, occasioned by competition,
renders the outside of a coach dangerous, while the inside is disagreeable
and fatiguing. The spirit of the horse can never be tempered to the
precision of machinery and steam.



Strong excitement is naturally followed by exhaustion or languor.
The gyrations of the spinning-jennies in Glasgow and Lanark kept my
brain in a state of vertigo, till I ascended Skiddaw, and contemplated
the magnificent panorama of nature, in a temperature little above the
freezing point. Between Liverpool and Manchester, our velocipede
movements caused such a state of sensorial excitement, that I dared not
even to reconnoitre the immeasurable FACTORY-SYSTEM, where ten mil-
lion of orbs were perpetually whirling round the grand centre of calico
and cotton ! There is a good deal also in names, as influencing the
imagination. How would Manchester or Birmingham sound, as the
title or theatre of an heroic poem ? I do not deny that some striking
scenes might be worked up between the weavers and knife-grinders of
these great towns or that the trades' unions might turn out a corps
d'armee little inferior in numbers to the Grecian " Unions " on the
plains of Troy. But the atmosphere of Manchester was so impregnated
with the miasmata of manufacture, that the body was all for work, and
the mind rendered incapable of exertion! Fearing, therefore, that
Manchester might prove a cave of Trophonius or that its ale and
porter might act like the waters of Lethe, and cause oblivion of all I
had seen and heard on the tour, I made a precipitate retreat, and
posted off for Derby.

As we approach BUXTON, the road, for many miles, is a continued
ascent, till at length a cold, dreary, inhospitable region is attained, as
frigid as Skiddaw. Buxton itself is situated in a slight depression of
the mountainous summit ; and it is very fortunate that VULCAN has
placed one of his forges under the town, to supply its kettles and tea-
urns with boiling water for the use of strangers. This is a wonderful
place. The cold winds give you rheumatism and the hot waters cure
you of it ! Not wanting or wishing for either the disease or the remedy,
I left Buxton without giving Sir Charles Scudamore a fee, or parboiling
my body in one of his stew-pans.

I soon arrived at a place far more to my taste than BUXTON, namely,
MATLOCK. This is most beautifully situated in a winding dell, through
which a fine river (the DERWENT) runs, its banks clothed with wood,
behind which, the white rocks of marble and limestone tower almost
perpendicularly to various heights, from fifty to five hundred feet,
assuming all kinds of fantastic shapes. Matlock is clustered on the
right bank of the river, and partly perched on ledges, terraces, and


slopes of rock embowered in little groves and woods, protected from
all winds and forming one of the most romantic and delightful retreats
that invalids could possibly select. I had rather live in Matlock, if its
wines were all water, than in Buxton, if its waters were all wine.


However it may be in respect to learning and science generally, ENG-
LAND is the only country in the world that has taken out a regular
degree as MASTER of ARTS a degree not acquired in the retirement
and solitude of " academic bowers and learned halls ;" but amidst the
clattering of hammers, the roaring of furnaces, the clanking of engines,
and the grating of files. England has not been cursed and impoverished
by mines of gold and silver ! The sooty entrails of Northumbria are
worth all the gems of Golconda and the mines of Peru. The English,
and especially the mechanics of Birmingham, par excellence, are the
only people who have discovered the philosopher's stone the only real
alchymists! With two elements, abundantly supplied by the skies
above, and by the earth below water and fire these ingenious and
industrious islanders can transmute, with unparalleled celerity, the
basest metals into the most precious commodities many of them more
valuable than their weight in gold commodities that are envied, coveted,
and imitated by every race of people, from Pekin to Cincinnati from
Otaheite to Iceland. Their muskets gleam and their bayonets bristle
on every battle-field in the world : their heraldry may therefore be
proud, for their arms are emblazoned on the four quarters of the globe.

That dense canopy of smoke, exhaled from every point of England's
surface, and deepening the gloom of her cloudy atmosphere those
volumes of carbonaceous vapour, so offensive to the senses of foreigners
- may well be England's pride; for they emanate from the source of
England's power, and England's wealth. Britain will never be excelled
in arts and in arms till her skies become as blue as those of Greece and

I have already alluded to BILSTON. It is one of the most singular
localities which I have ever witnessed. Had Hesiod, Virgil, Ovid, or
Milton, passed through BitsxoN in a dark night, they would have been
furnished with excellent materials for a picture of Tartarus. Far as
the eye can range, in every direction, the earth is belching forth fire,
the air is lurid with flame, while the continued roar of the blast-fur-
naces resembles what one would imagine to result from the destructive


torrent of the burning Phlegethon, consuming everything that lay in its
course ! How human lungs can breathe such an ignited atmosphere,
loaded as it is with mephitic gases and carbonaceous vapour, I know
not ! I should very much doubt whether a colony of salamanders
would long exist in this " torrid zone:" The punishments of Ixion,
the Danaides, and Sisyphus, were trivial to those of the smelters in
Bilston ! The fact of that arch-fiend CHOLERA having ventured into
this volcanic, or, at all events, Vulcanic region, where he reaped an
abundant harvest, might have taught our Scotch and English doctors
the futility of attempting to smoke him out, by fumigations of gun-
powder, tar, and chloride of lime ! ! After a campaign in Bilston, they
might as well have tried to exorcise this enemy of mankind by means of
ottar of roses or eau de Cologne ! It may naturally be asked, " How
do the inhabitants live here?" The convicts in the Pontine fens have
given the answeis long ago " We do not live, we die here." Be this
as it may, Bilston and Birmingham give life and death to the people
of every nation and tongue on the face of this globe ! They supply
knives, forks, and all kinds of culinary implements for dressing and
carving their food not forgetting swords, daggers, and muskets to thin
the population, on more efficient principles of political economy than
were ever enumerated by Malthus and Martineau.


We now arrived in a place where there are four grand sights the
bones of the mammoth a fine living elephant a cameleopard and a
tame lioness. These are, the ruins of KENILWORTH Warwick Castle
Guy's Cliff and Stoneleigh Abbey. They are all situated within an
easy ride of that nourishing fountain of Hygeia LEAMINGTON SPA.
They are all worthy of a visit by every one who can venture to be eight
or ten hours out of the hands of Dr. Loudon or Dr. Jephson. Not
being in want of physic from either of these sons of Esculapius, I roamed
about, and viewed the lions for a day or two, making Leamington my
head-quarters but preferring beef and wine to salt and water *.

* The master of the BATH HOTKL has a keen eye. Having travelled outside of the
mail, " ut mos est," to use the words of Horace, he detected my descent from the box-
seat, and soon gave me my mittimus, when I solicited permission to sleep under his
roof 1 No, no. Outside passengers in the coach, are always outside lodgers at this
hotel ! I would advise this clever fellow not to trust too much to externals. In my
own case, he probably judged right in supposing me a scurvy outside passenger, not fit
for the interior of his hotel; but, on other occasions, he may overshoot the mark, and
do his establishment some injury. Perbum sat.


Though in excellent health, I perceived that my glass was nearly run
and this melancholy reflection led me to contemplate only one of the
four lions, with sufficient interest to have a place in my evening reflec-
tions. This lion was, of course, the scene of a splendid novel from the
pen of the Northern Wizard.

Of the few ruins which yet totter on the soil of Great Britain, those
of Kenilworth Castle are not the least calculated to afford some idea of
feudal splendour and haronial hospitality. The Baths of Caracalla or
Dioclesian are more stupendous in architecture, and perhaps not inferior
in extent. But they were the productions and property, not merely of
emperors, but of empires ; whereas Kenilworth belonged to a subject
to an English earl, and spread its towers, courts, and battlements over
seven acres of ground, being capable of feasting and lodging the court of
Elizabeth, and half the county in which it stood. Sir Walter Scott has
acknowledged that the tower over one of its gates, and which is yet
standing, is equal in size, and superior in architecture, to the generality
of chieftain castles in Scotland ; and no one can stand on Cresar's
Tower or other elevated portion of the remains of Kenilworth, without
gazing in astonishment at the gigantic ruins around him, and feeling
himself bewildered in the attempt to form any clear conception of the
original magnificent pile, ere the hand of time had hurled its loftiest
turrets to the ground, shivered its towers of strength, prostrated its
mighty walls in the dust, and mantled its venerable fragments with the
verdant and friendly ivy. But the wand of the magician has waved
over this spot, and marvellous are the resuscitations and transformations
that have ensued ! Not only has the scythe of Time been broken by
the Wizard's rod, and its devastations arrested ; but the stream of Time
itself has been rebuked, and rolled back for three centuries, by a second
Prospero, now no more, of whom it may be said, as of Shakspearc,


" Existence saw him spurn her bounded reign,
And panting Time toii'd after him in vain."

At the nod of this magician, the wreaths of ivy fade away, like mists
before the rising sun and, painted as distinctly as the banks of Gias-
mere on the watery mirror beneath, we see the towers of Kenilworth
rise in all their majesty the gigantic walls stretch their embattled and
protecting arms around gardens, parterres, base-courts, castles, keeps
of " uncertain antiquity," and all the appendages of feudal sovereignty
while, beyond the walls, the eye wanders over lake and forest, corn-
field and meadow, chase grounds and hamlets, till earth and sky blend
into an indistinct line of far distant horizon.


But what are these panoramic pictures of inanimate life (to use a
paradoxical expression) compared with the glowing portraits that start
into existence before us, at the signal of the Conjurer ? We gee the
maiden and majestic queen, with no small share of Henry the Eighth's
hoiling and merciless blood flowing through her veins, and blazing with
jewels, advance, on a milk-white palfrey, surrounded by her courtiers,
and entering the portals of her favourite's castle or seated on her
throne, and listening to the flattery of sycophants, or the amorous sighs
of Leicester conferring equal rank on the infamous Varney and gallant
Raleigh or dragging the petrified Amy Robsart from her retreat in the
grotto or finally bursting with rage and mortified pride at hearing the
confession of "her favourite earl ! From the stately queen, the mental
eye fixes itself on the lord of the mansion, all gold and smiles without
all despair and hell-born passion within ! Then comes the mistress of
the castle, without a corner to lay her head, without a chamber to re-
pose her wearied limbs : deserted by him who was her natural protec-
tor, and protected by him, whom she herself had deserted ! Tressilian,
the rejected lover but the firm friend, passes in review. We see him
fight and fall but an unseen arm arrests that w r hich was directing the
deadly blow against a.\i honest heart. In the vivid but tumultuous
scene, the diabolical Varney frequently crosses the path of our mental
vision the arch imp, Flibbertigibbet, drops, like an acorn, from a tree,
into the busy crowd, and is all activity and honest Wayland is fol-
lowed by the sigh of regret, w hen thrust forth from the portals of Kenil-
worth ! The shriek of Amy Robsart thrills on the ear from Mervyn's
Bower, and while the victim of villany and ambition is torn from the
presence of her sovereign, and the halls of her husband, we are tempted
to accuse Heaven itself of injustice, in not throwing down the bolt of
vengeance on that worst of devils MAN !

A solemn pause ensues a strange crash is heard innocence is mur-
dered and the murderer basks again in the sunshine of his queen and
her court !

The point of the Conjurer's wand now falls to the earth, and the
twilight between the w r orld of imagination and reality gradually changes
into darkness. The fairy vision vanishes into air and we wake from
our revery, and look around on what was so recently the theatre of
splendour, passion, and action, we see nothing but the ivy-mantled and
tottering ruins of Kenilworth, scattered over many a rood of ground, in
silence and in solitude !

Yet the impression left on the mind by the drama which has flitted
away, is accompanied, not merely by a sense of pain and sorrow, but by
something little short of indignation at the striking breach of poetical


justice, and, what is worse, the total inattention to moral retribution,
exemplified in the transactions still freshen the tablet of memory. That
Amy Robsart, without a crime, and almost without a fault, should be
condemned to the ennui of a splendid prison, and the torture of " Hope
deferred" to the neglect of a husband, whom she loved, the importuni-
ties of a villain whom she abhorred to meditation on a tender father
in sickness and sorrow, and a respected lover in despair all to end in
a merciless and cruel death is indeed a consummation which Satan
himself could Tiardly contemplate without some surprise as well as satis-
faction ! But when we add to this, that the prime mover of all these
sufferings, horrors, and atrocities, is raised (I had almost said thereby)
to the summit of power and ambition, the heart sickens and revolts at a
termination which Heaven could scarcely permit, if man were capable of
the attempt.

It is a poor consolation that some of the subordinate agents in wicked-
ness suffer at the conclusion of the drama. Even here there is nothing
like justice in the distribution of punishment. The drunken Lam-
bourne dies by a shot, without antecedent remorse, or lingering pain.
The fiend of hell, Varney, dies at his ease, by a dose ofprussic acid, and
without a pang ; while the unwilling accessory, the miserly Foster, led
on by his avarice to a participation in guilt which he would never have
voluntarily committed, expires in the most protracted and horrible tor-
tures that ever terminated the existence of human being* ! But it may
be urged that the romance writer is justified by history, which too often
shows that, on this side of the grave, there is not always retributive
justice, and

" That vice may triumph, virtue vice obey."

I grant that, with the facts of history', we should not tamper ; but when
we soar into the regions of fiction, if we do not reward virtue, we ought,
at least, to punish vice first, because it is evidently in consonance with
the laws of God and man and secondly, because I believe that punish-
ment, mental or corporeal, very generally follows the commission of
crime even in this world. Little credence, however, will be given to

* It may be a lesson to authors that even a London audience would not tolerate the

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Online LibraryJames JohnsonThe recess, or Autumnal relaxation in the Highlands and Lowlands; being the home circuit versus foreign travel, a serio-comic tour to the Hebrides → online text (page 25 of 28)