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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winding up of the drama of KeniUvorth, and the managers were obliged to let Varney
fall through the t trap bridge laid for the destruction of the countess, while the latter
escaped !

So again, in the Bride of Lammermoor, that hell-cat, Lady Ashton, who hatches every
kind of mischief, and brings so many innocent people to their graves (including her own
daughter) attains extreme old age, without bodily suffering or mental anguish! Surely
this is neither poetical, historical, nor moral justice. I


this creed, especially by those who see retribution only in the axe, the
gibbet, the dungeon, the workhouse, or some of the outward and tan-
gible signs of vengeance, human or divine. But those who have wit-
nessed man in his last struggles with inward conscience and outward
bearing, are aware of the amount of misery which follows, unobserved by
the multitude, the evil deed and haunts, with midnight horrors, the
consciousness of guilt ! Whether sufferings be estimated by their inten-
sity or duration, it is certain that the stroke of death and the various
other penalties of the law, compose but a small portion of the great
" criminal code" enacted by divine wisdom, and executed with unerring
justice even here below * !

But this is not a time or place for sermonising, though the fragments
of fallen greatness and withered ambition that are scattered around,
might well excite, and may well excuse the few moral reflections on
which I have ventured.


When Esculapius left this earth, it is uncertain whether he ascended
or descended whether he removed to the higher or the lower regions.
The same uncertainty attaches to the departure of many other eminent
personages. Be this as it may, the God of Health, as well as the
Goddess Hygeia, have dispensed their favours to mankind from both
the earth and the skies. It is over the great subterranean laboratories
that man has chiefly erected temples to the god and goddess ; and
Cheltenham exhibits the worship of these divinities on the grandest

* The-e sentiments are not discordant with those which I have broached at page 154
of this volume. I have there acknowledged that crimes draw after them, in this world,
" certain moral and physical punishments,'' but that the balance of vice and virtue will
be struck in another world. If no punishment of body or mind were to attend on guilt
in this world, the disbelievers in a future state of existence would have no check, but
that of human laws, on their iniquitous propensities : but the Almighty has wisely or-
dained that the guilty shall tate of punishment even here, where the wickedness has
been perpetrated : not by Divine interference on each particular occasion, by the natural
operation of those moral and physical laws which the Creator established at man's first
creation or rather at his fall.



The fixed population of this thriving town consists almost entirely of
a great JOINT-STOCK COMPANY for scouring complexions, and darning
holes in the human constitution. Hence it is resorted to from all parts
of the British dominions. It is a superb " house of recovery," or
MAISON DE SANTE, for convalescents from the capital and the colonies
< a splendid ESTABLISHMENT for killing TIME, and curing liver-com-
plaints for dispelling vapours, and drowning blue-devils ! Here we
find the miraculous pool of Bethesda, for cleansing lepers nay, the
wonder-working fountains of Hygeia, all numbered and labelled, for
expurgating the four humours of the ancients, besides a great many
other bad humours engendered among th6 moderns, and unknown, even
by name, to our forefathers.

There stands a blanched and formal personage, with nankeen coun-
enance, swilling goblet after goblet, of No. 4 It is a factor from
Whampoa, endeavouring to wash away the taste of that celebrated leaf
which he has chewed for twenty years (during each " season ") at
Canton, to guide the sales in Leadenhall-street, and direct the taste of
Europe and America. It will be some time, I imagine, before these
waters restore natural gusto to his tongue, and healthy tone to his
nerves ! He has wisely preferred the pump-room of Cheltenham to the
Cave of Camoens at Macao the triste conversation, even of hypochon-
driacs, to the pompous edicts of mandarins the mutton of Cambria to
the birds'-nest soup of the Philippines the malt of old England to the
samsoo of the celestial empire the silver forks of his native land to the
slippery chop-sticks of the Hong-merchants.

On the right of the SUPERCARGO, and equally thirsty of No. 4, behold
the NABOB from Bengal, with mullieatawny complexion double allow-
ance of liver, but only half-ration of appetite with full purse, but
empty stomach with high notions, but very low spirits ! He lias
plucked the fruit of the blighted pagoda tree and behold the withering
effects ! He has breathed the fiery atmosphere, and swallowed the
pungent spices of the East, till he is as shrivelled as a mummy, and
yellow as curry-powder ! He sighed for his native land when he was on
a foreign shore and now he regrets the loss of Asiatic luxuries on a
soil which he scarcely recognizes as his own ! This is one of the many
miseries attendant upon a long expatriation from the land of our birth.
Every one may hope, but few need expect to realize in the north those
dreams of happiness which are engendered beneath a vertical sun in the
south, after that luminary has rolled, for twenty years, over his head,
and shed its baleful influence over mind and bodv !


Who is that pale, melancholy, and musing figure, who paces the
pump-room in muttering soliloquy ? It is the disappointed politician,
who has shattered his health in defence of rotten boroughs or tampered
with his own constitution while tinkering that of the state ! Whether
Whig or Tory, it is evident, from his soured look, that he has lost his
seat. But he is likely to be soon again returned not indeed by the
sheriff, to the Commons' House of Parliament but by the sexton, to
that larger house of commons, whose members are not liable to come
into collision with the upper house, till the final and general election,
where bribery and oratory will be of no avail. We are told by the poet

"The paths of glory lead but to the grave."

Has poet or philosopher, physician or divine, pointed out a path that
leads to any other goal ? No ! As all roads then terminate in one
common destination, he who seeks the smoothest and most pleasant, is
perhaps the wisest traveller. It is in the power of few, indeed, to com-
mand a velvet route but many plunge into the morass, or climb the
giddy cliff, rather than pursue the common and straightforward path of

Panting up the shady walk that leads to the Montpellier Spa, behold
that moving mountain, with copper-coloured nose and protuberant
abdomen. He is a rich boroughmonger, who is come to Cheltenham,
hoping to dispose of one particular corporation, which has never made
him any profitable returns, and is now become a dead weight on his
hands ! He certainly has a right to " do as he likes with his own."

In his wake, follows a tall, emaciated, sun-burnt invalid, with a most
rueful countenance. And no wonder ! His sugar-canes were suddenly,
and by some evil eye, metamorphosed into sour-krout, his rum-puncheons
into water-casks and, worst of all, his niggers into neophytes !

Nothing could exhibit a greater contrast than the preceding and suc-
ceeding sacrificers at this shrine of Hygeia! A very great lady slowly
advanced between a duke on one side, and a doctor on the other. Her
metamorphoses were very different from those of the poor Caribbean
planter. In one night, her water-melons were changed into golden
pippins her billet-douxs into bank-notes her stage sandals into silver
slippers her farthings into crowns and her crowns into coronets!
This residence at a watering-place was a sufficient refutation of the
scandalous insinuation that this amiable lady laboured under that ter-
rible disease HYDROPHOBIA.

I was rather startled at seeing, close to me, a noted HIGHWAY-MAN
now so rare a character in this country. He was an old acquaintance



of mine had often thrown dust in my eyes but never demanded my
purse. I asked Mr. MacAdam what he was doing at the Spa?
" Watering the roads," said the facetious granite-pounder" and much
need have my primce vi< of a sprinkling from Thompson's pumps."

Sauntering slowly in one of the shady walks, my attention was rivetted
on a gaunt and pallid personage, with a most singular countenance,
in which there was strong expression, but of what character I could
not form the most distant idea, though a physiognomist from my
infancy. He held a sprig of birch in his hand ; and I thought I saw
flashes of satire, if not cynicism, playing about his eyes and mouth. I
did not apply to my cicerone, till I had exhausted all my ingenuity for a
solution of the living enigma that paced solemnly before us. I gave it
up in despair. " That personage," said my friend, " may well arrest
your observation. He was formerly an eminent schoolmaster, but is
now the superintendent of a most extensive establishment for the re-
ception of lunatics. None but the insane, with their doctors and
keepers, domiciliate in his asylum. The former class lose their senses,
of course, before they apply for admission and their property is pretty
sure to share the same fate as their reason ! The doctors and keepers,
however, have acquired great renown by the number of cures which
they perform. Their practice is strictly depletory consisting, almost
exclusively, of bleeding, purging, and starvation. It is ' kill or cure '
with these practitioners. If the patient survives the remedial process,
his mental delusion is pretty sure to disappear. Relapses are rare ; and
if they do occur, the patient seldom re-enters the asylum in Chancery-
lane. The doctors and keepers of this establishment are exceedingly
numerous ; and between them and their superintendent, there is not
the most perfect harmony. They accuse him of leaning to the side of
the insane multitude, and of wishing to restrain the salutary practice of
depletion which had proved so successful under his predecessor. But
what is more personally offensive in his conduct is this he frequently
applies his birch-BROOM to the backs of the doctors and keepers, instead
of the shoulders of the madmen who are confined in his asylum.
Within that emaciated and sickly frame, there is an immortal tenant
of gigantic power a spirit of light or of darkness, that will tend very
much to illuminate this globe, or reduce it to a cinder !"

My attention was strongly attracted to a tall and venerable person-
age, grey with years, blanched with cares, and " sicklied o'er with the
pale cast of thought," standing in profound meditation, with a goblet of
the strongest chalybeate before him. If the emotions of the mind could
be guessed at by the expression of the countenance, there were feelings
of pride not unmixed with mortification of joy not unalloyed by sor-


row of triumph not untinctured with apprehension. I eagerly in-
quired who he was. He is, said my friend, one of those few and fortu-
nate mortals who, having dedicated a long life to the pursuit of an object
which many considered as visionary, and more as destructive, at length
attained all that he wished, and more perhaps than he wanted. Like
Phaeton when guiding the chariot of the sun, or rather like a magician
who conjures up a spirit which he finds it difficult to coerce, the arm of
the wizard trembles under the weight of a slender wand, and the startled
necromancer half regrets the success of his potent spell ! But the very
expression of anxiety is an evidence of philanthropy ; and the patriotic
benevolence, which even his enemies accord to him, will, it is hoped,
be crowned with the realization of the statesman's wishes and his
country's welfare.

I was greatly surprised, on turning into one of the pump-rooms, to
meet an old acquaintance " a fellow of infinite wit," whose humorous
sallies for ever set the table in a roar a veritable YORICK drinking
salt and water at Cheltenham ! This exceeded all credibility ! I would
have been less astonished to see

'' The Parthian and the German climates change,
Tliis Arar drink, and that near Tigris range"

than Yorick substituting Cheltenham waters for Champaigne and
Tokay ! I asked for a solution of the metamorphosis. " You must
know," said Yorick, " that the vile influenza, last spring, nearly made
a hole in my lungs, and the doctors ordered me Pindar's Greek prescrip-
tion in the pump-room at Bath *. The remedy was terrible ; but the
disease was dangerous. Here I am, consoling myself with the averment
of Bernardine de St. Pierre, that " all contrasts produce harmonies "
and also with the hope that, by means of the curious ' sayings and
doings ' going on in this fashionable place, I shall be able to work a
miracle yet, before Christmas namely, to convert water into wine and
Thompson's salts into generous Burgundy." " Vale et benedicite,"
said I. " But take care, my friend, that you do not afterwards reverse
the process and turn your wine into water ; for then ' Brandy won't
save you.' "

A tall gentleman, with two ladies, (apparently his wife and daughter,)
advanced to the pump, and each drank off a goblet of the medicinal
waters. There was a peculiar unhealthiness in the aspect of these
three individuals, which attracted my notice. It differed from the half-

* Implying, " Water is best."

Q 2


jaundiced sallowness of the Anglo-Indian invalid and also from the
pallid and faded complexion of the fashionable and dissipated SEASONERS
of the metropolis. It had a sickliness, sui generis, and beyond my
power of analysis. As soon as they began to converse with each other,
I recognised the accent of the Emerald Isle and this increased my
wonder. I applied to my medical CICERONE for information. " That
gentleman," said lie, " is a great landlord and squire in the county of
, Ireland. His numerous tenantry are ignorant, and therefore semi-
savage disagreeable to the eyes of the fashionable family ; and there-
fore, perhaps, somewhat dangerous. Under these circumstances, it was
opportunely discovered that the health of a daughter was delicate, and
that the climate of Ireland was damp that the skies of Italy were
bright the society there recherche and expenses very little more than
in Castle Rackrent. The conduct to be pursued admitted of no ques-
tion. The bailiff was ordered to collect the rents, and the courier was
ordered to prepare for the journey. Paris was visited the Simplon
was scaled and Florence, Rome, and Naples were explored. Years
passed away on the classic soil, and yet curiosity was not sated, nor
pleasure exhausted. But, on a fine summer's evening, while the family
were sitting on the heights of Albano, inhaling the balmy zephyrs, and
enjoying the superb panorama of the Campagna, with its scattered ruins
and surrounding Apennines, one of the young ladies inspired the deadly
poison that so often floats on the fragrance of Italian gales ! The tide
of happiness, like that of fortune, has its affluxes and effluxes. The
current of affliction now took its turn. The hapless and innocent victim
of an Italian climate, (to speak of nothing else,) fevered, faded, and
ultimately sunk beneath the pestiferous influence of the syren soil !
Her spirit fled to Heaven her mortal remains lie on the banks of the
Tyber, near the pyramid of Caius Cestius *.

" The long-inhaled poison of Italian malaria the heart-rending
scenes attendant on the protracted sufferings of the beautiful girl and
feelings, which are best known to the unhappy survivors, have produced
the frightful ravages in the minds and bodies of the party before you,
which have rivetted your attention. The waters of Lethe may, but
those of Cheltenham never can, wash out the mental and corporeal suf-
ferings cf that wretched TRIO."

The next figure that attracted my eye, was a stout and well-bronzed
Caledonian, who was busily employed in calculating the grains of sul-

* This is no imaginary picture. It is only a specimen from a large class. See the
' Three Years' Residence (of an Irish family) in Italy," where a parallel instance is
painfully detailed.


phate of magnesia and muriate of soda that were expended during an
autumn at this fashionable rendezvous. When he had completed his
calculus, he gravely " gave notice" to the pump-maid, that he would
make a motion, in the next session of Parliament, for a return of all the
waters drunk in Cheltenham during the last seven years ! At this
announcement, his friend, who was standing at his elbow, shewed
strong symptoms of making an earlier return of the last glass he had
swallowed, than was intended and effected a speedy retreat into a
bower in the vicinity of the Spa, where I lost sight of the " member
for all Ireland."

An elderly friend of his, of most aristocratic appearance, remained.
He seemed to be labouring under the agony of a discharge of gall-stones.
I understood that he was a great author, orator, bookseller, senator, and
seedsman ; but that he was subject to periodical attacks of the " black
bile," ever since he had opened a Transatlantic grave, for the purpose
of procuring a skeleton, that might serve a useful purpose in a series of
popular lectures in his native land.

I was agreeably surprised to see in this place one of the great bul-
warks of our glorious constitution and our enviable laws. He had spent
a considerable portion of his life in the arduous task of disentangling
equity from iniquity and had often found it impossible to make up his
mind on some knotty points, till one of the inferior officers of his court
(SERJEANT BEGGARY) stept in to solve the problem! The venerable
senator had come down to Cheltenham, partly for his health, but prin-
cipally to drink a farewell to the constitution and laws of his country,
having lived to see all reverence for precedents abolished, and the besom
of Reform sweeping away the cobwebs of antiquity from every shelf of
his well-stored archives !

The crowd now became so pressing, that all attempts to individualize
were fruitless. The rooms, the walks, the shops were filled with myriads
of Whigs, Tories, and Radicals aristocrats, democrats, and bureau-
crats. One thing was very clear that the WHIGS seemed all to prefer
the chalybeate or tonic waters most of them appearing to labour under
considerable debility ; and some of them being actually affected with a
kind of " shaking palsy."

The TORIES, on the contrary, all nocked to the cooling saline aperient
springs, most of them being thirsty, excited, irritable, and feverish.
Many of them, I was informed, were scarcely convalescent from severe
inflammatory attacks some having been affected with brain-fever, and
under restraint, for a time, by advice of their moral and medical attend-
ants. Among these, I perceived some PRELATES from the sister isle,
who were decidedly in a state of ATROPHY, a disorder which I had never
before observed in any one with lawn sleeves.


The RADICALS were not very numerous ; but they seemed generally
inclined to slake their thirst at the same spring with their natural ene-
mies the TORIES ! The fahle of the wolf and the lamb coming to
drink at the same stream, here rushed across my mind ; but I suppose
there was no analogy between the two cases, nor any chance of the con-
sequences that ensued in the fable.

I was astonished to find that almost the whole members of the re-
formed parliament came here, after the close of the first session, in
1833. I inquired of Drs. Coley, Boisragon, Baron, and M'Cabe, what
were the principal complaints under which the M. P.'s laboured ? They
shewed me a long catalogue of most uncouth names, very few of which
I could either understand or remember. I gathered from the Chelten-
ham medicos, however, that most of the M. p.'s were affected with
flatulence, indigestion, and bilious complaints that several had impedi-
ments of speech that some few were short-winded, or asthmatic but
that many laboured under a disease, not classed in nosology namely,
LONG-WINDEDNESS, or a propensity to expectorate an immense quantity
every night, of nouns, pronouns, adverbs, and proverbs, which were
carefully collected and preserved in presses, by means of a black, oily
pickle, as literary relishes for all kinds of appetite, throughout the
various classes of society.

This was a sickener ; and I immediately retired to my hotel, where,
over a cheering pint of sherry, (which I preferred to No. 4,) I noted
the foregoing observations, and then took my SIESTA.

An evening scene in Cheltenham, where earthy waters were exchanged'
for heavenly airs, occasioned some moral reflections ; but these are re-
served for a future edition of this tour should it ever arrive at that


Having sketched a few characteristics of England, perhaps I may be
indulged in a few reflections on JOHN BULL himself. The old adage,
" Gnosce teipsum," or " Know thyself," is quite superannuated. No
person is supposed to know anything of himself and the same holds
good in respect to nations. The English can form no correct notion of
themselves they must draw all appreciations of national character from
foreigners. Prince Puckler Moskau, and Baron D'Haussez, are far
better judges of the English than Bulwer, or any one born and bred on
British soil possibly can be. Under this conviction, I shall be some-
what brief in this characteristic sketch, since few, perhaps, will read it,
and still fewer subscribe to its accuracy.


I would say, then, that the English, as a people, are inferior to the
FRENCH in vivacity to the ITALIANS in sensibility to the GREEKS in
subtlety to the GERMANS in ideality to the SPANIARDS in gravity
to the DUTCH in phlegm to the RUSSIANS in autocracy to the AME-
RICANS in democracy to the IRISH in humour to the WELSH in
choler and to the SCOTCH in caution.

Yet, into the moral and physical character of JOHN BULL, have
entered certain portions or proportions of the prominent features of other
nations, which, nurtured by free institutions, and modified by an insular
situation, have blended and amalgamated into a composition (like that
of his language) not readily matched, and not easily described.

In MARTIAL COURAGE, no nation need claim superiority; for none
will acknowledge inferiority. Miguelites and Pedroites have agreed, for
example, in only one sentiment that the Portuguese are the bravest
people on earth ! Of all nations, the English have the least necessity
to urge their claims to this valued commodity. The very existence of
their own independence, is a sufficient title to an average ratio, after
Europe, from the Danube to the Baltic, had been leagued, for years, to
annihilate it and that under the greatest warrior which the world ever
produced a warrior to whose chariot- wheels victory was chained on
whose banners were written, " Delenda cst Carthago " but whose
enormous power could not intimidate, much less subjugate, these
" haughty islanders " this " nation of shopkeepers."

That a small cluster of isles, which the Romans thought it hardly
worth while to annex to their unwieldy dominion till they were dying
of ennui, should now hold in subjection, or rather in willing obedience,
territories more extensive than the whole Roman empire itself and
diffuse its language, its literature, and its manners, over a hemisphere
where Roman eagle never flew, and where the name of Rome had never
been pronounced, is a historical fact, which looks like a poetic fiction,
and upon which Britons may safely leave even their enemies to ponder
and comment.

Sensitively jealous of imagined rights, while patiently submissive
under substantial wrongs enthusiastic in defence of liberty at home,
while shedding his blood, for many years, in defence of tyranny abroad
JOHN BULL has recently awoke from his romantic dream of universal
benevolence, and become affected (some say, afflicted) with a violent
fit of selfishness and economy. After expending a hundred millions of
sovereigns, to save half a dozen of crowns, (some of which were base
metal,) he is grown, all at once, so parsimonious, that he is discharging
three-fourths of his old and faithful servants, while the remainder are
put on board wages scarcely sufficient to procure bread and cheese for

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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 26 of 28)