Abbildungen der Seite

prepotency, which are the common law of English society, are among the mere absurd remains of feudal barbarity, fast melting away in the rising sun of personal equality now beaming over the world. I believe talent, sex, and age are more appreciated as titles to social rank throughout all other parts of Europe than Great Britain. Are we Americans the iconoclasts to break this brazen image? So great a reformer as Napoleon shivered himself to pieces on it. After equality was completely established by the irresistible level of the revolution, passed in bloody traces through all ranks, his elaborate restoration of titles, and submission to what he found perhaps an overpowering inclination for mere rank, tended as much as any thing else to cast him from authority. But did he misjudge mankind or the French, in the attempt which cost him life, empire, and dynasty? Americans can hardly conceive the merit of mere titular rank as appreciated in Europe; and we are prone to believe that the greatest man in the world threw the world away for a superannuated trifle. In Germany I had the honor of presentation to the Prince of Orange, who, with his wife, full sister of the great Frederick, (as sportsmen would say) were at another inn from that we lodged at in Frankfort. The American Minister, with whom I was, having known them during their exile in England, went to pay his respects to their Serene Highnesses,-a short, chunky man (to use our expressive Americanism) and a large, finelooking woman, both somewhat advanced in years. We were received graciously and gaily; but as I had no part in the ceremony, being merely a mute attendant, I was on the point of committing what I was not aware would have been a great offence to princely rank, by merely sitting down on a chair, which is not permitted in presence of princes. I have often smiled since at the idea of offence to rank by so simple and natural an act. Yet why not, if inequality by rank is acknowledged? Americans do not often like their servants to be seated in their presence, and political is not personal equality. When once the outer wall of rank is overcome, much of its offensive inaccessibility probably disappears. Through the kindness of the American Minister, I had the honor of an invitation to a Tory Cabinet dinner in London. All the members of the ministry were assembled at the table of a Duke. The whole service was gold, the favorite meat was sturgeon, a royal dish, the finest fruit was pine-apple, of English growth, and the mansion, though less showily furnished than many American private houses at present, (such has been the spread of luxury since,) was large and elegant. From the slight means few such opportunities have afforded of judging of rank in social intercourse, I am satisfied, that at all events high rank is less exacting and more sociable than secondary; and that much of the complaint of rank results from its awkward infliction by those who have least title to it. Nothing


could be more unaffected than the easy benevolence with which an obscure youth, on the occasion alluded to, was at once put upon a proper footing with titled and eminent persons, who, while naturally asserting their own rank, placed no restraint on him; in which plain and gentle intercourse, without that condescension which Massillon stigmatizes as the pomp of humility, often the most offensive assertion of superiority, the Duke and the Prime Minister were most distinguished and unaffected. When the great republican English poet bears his high testimony that orders and degrees jar not with liberty, but well consist-does he mean titular orders or official degrees? It is every day's American experience that there are public occasions and proper places for attention to official station, private worth, age, and sex, as conducive and essential to social harmony.

Isolated as England is by locality and frequent wars, other Engglish social regulations than those of rank, the regimen of food, habitation, dress, equipage, and fashion-for the most part, like rank, more despotic than elsewhere-are often peculiar to English climate and custom, and inconsistent with ours. Is there no happy mean between rude independence and preposterous refinement? From England, France, Germany, and Italy, America may select and adopt social habits. The English library is our common school, while the French and German vie with it. I understand that most well educated English now speak French without difficulty. The French kitchen, much more chemical and rational, is likewise more congenial with American climate. It is every day superseding even English taste. I mean good cooking, not bad imitations of an undervalued art, on which much happiness depends, by which suffering is avoided, sickness alleviated, and life prolonged. French, Spaniards, and Italians, do not suffer and die of American diseases, as English and Irish, or even Germans and is not diet the cause? Sobriety, temperance, and well-cooked food. The parlour is debateable ground, though most Americans prefer the English fireside as the best model for our domestic relations. A chamber, both in England and America, is that unknown country whose bourne none but the family can pass without transgression. I was received in Paris by a distinguished lady-the famous X, in the well-known X Y and Z correspondence with our Ministers-to whom I had a letter of introduction, on my first visit, not only in her chamber, but she was in bed, confined, as she said, by having fallen on the ice, and hurt her thigh. I will not say whether such freedom of access and conversation, unknown to English and American manners, are to be desired or deprecated. The actual and the comparative state of polite intercourse between the sexes in both hemispheres, is a fallow field for philosophical developement,-the language of decorum, whether it is best spoken in France or England. The boor who sells a wife, does he degrade either sex more than

the peer who sues for money from her seducer? The whole condition of female morality, affection, and influence, in Europe, may be more elegant, but is it more respectable or desirable than American? Some philosophical inquirer may explain a subject full of interest, if fairly treated, without prejudice.


Nothing about London is so impressive as its vastness; more people in one town than in the whole State of Pennsylvania; an immense solitude to an American at first; an uninhabited island cannot be more so. Millions of men, women, and children, talking, looking, and doing every thing much like us; yet utter strangers, exclusive, repulsive, and intolerant. It is a poignant lesson of one's littleness, an impression of loneliness that makes the bowels yearn for home, with a heart-sickness in the very marrow of American bones. All fond anticipation vanishes at sombre reality. The most classic spots so begrimed with smoke they look like any thing but what their pictures represent; many of them hid in such narrow places that their exterior is not fully visible. The whole beau-ideal supplanted like a dream, by waking to gloomy truth. The public journals teem every day with occurrences, public and private, which, when an American reads at home, he supposes he must see, feel, and be present at in London, but when he gets there he is as far off from most transactions of that large metropolis as When an American Minister, who had taken his impressions from books, first entered the paltry House of Commons, and saw a handful of plain-looking men instead of the magnificent multitude which Blackstone's Commentaries had taught him to expect, legislating for the British realms, his amazement was unutterable. Thirty years ago London was not handsome; the private dwellings. small, the palaces few and mean, and the building materials unsightly. English pride and show do not dwell in London, or even in buildings, so much as in country life. A London artizan takes pride in avoiding show. Great-great-grandson of the inhabitant of the same shop-he is known by workmanship and wealth, disdains a fine window or attractive front; his display is the immense contents of a vast repository of costly things, into which the entrance is a poor door without a sign. Many of the best shops of London are less ostentatious now than those of Philadelphia or New York. English well born are well fed people, large and comely. Liberty and industry of their inferiors dress the upper classes better than any other nation. But operative John Bull is rather a stumpy, ill-favored specimen of mankind; pastoral John is better favored, and John the picked house-servant, in fine livery, is better still. English women generally, with ruddy complexions and handsome faces, are not equal to those of many other countries in many physical attractions. This perilous assertion, though posthumous, will not escape malediction. A royal favorite, formerly

and still justly celebrated for beauty, was, even thirty years ago, though a most lovely creature, yet a lump of loveliness; and a celebrated actress, while charming to hear, was a stupendous person to see. I have actually shut my eyes to listen, without the disgust of sight, to her delightful voice and performance, and the enthusiastic applause it elicited.

Kensington gardens and Hyde Park of a Sunday are the great English show, and the finest ostentation in the world of large welldressed men and women, horses, dogs, and equipages of every imaginable description. English display is exterior, in pleasure grounds, parks, race courses, gardens, carriages, clothing, and, above all, horses and their equipments. French elegance ministers to the interior in furniture, theatres, mirrors, porcelain, and female dress, in which it excels. Italy is the preceptor of both in music, painting, statuary and architecture. French theatrical exhibitions are superior to English, not so much in any one thing as on the whole. The Italian opera is the model of all others. A notion predominates in England, that superior wealth begets the best taste and highest refinement; but has it or can it make the best opera, dinner, piece of music or painting?

Fashion is governed by the Salique law in London, where the tailor is a monarch. In Paris there is a queen mantua-maker and a king milliner, but no king tailor; and male dress is not a pure despotism. In London it is absolute; the monarch can do no wrong, as others of his trade can do no right. In Paris, the exquisite tribe is less numerous, but what there are, are more exquisite still than those of London, where it is a much larger race, no one of whom quite equals a very few inimitable French, but all of whom surpass most of the French beau-monde. Female Parisian dress is like the Parisian dialect-something inimitable by foreign or provincial attempts. English fashion is more exclusive than exquisite. It dwells, as probably fashion does every where, not only in the metropolis alone, but only in particular parts, streets, and even sides of certain streets. A stranger furnished from the city of London would be as much behind the modes of one mile further west, as if equipped in another hemisphere; the standard of taste is as different as in a different world.

Of all the superiorities of Great Britain, the domestic animal kingdom is the most unrivalled; the horse, cow, sheep, dog, hare, and rabbit. The English horse is unequalled; cart horse, dray horse, wagon horse, coach horse, stage horse, post horse, gig horse, race horse, hunter, saddle horse, and royal horse, (the cream-colored Hanoverian breed used by the monarch,) all distinct and each perfect in their kind. Pure lineage, perfect training, indefatigable grooming; at least one hundred thousand well mounted gentlemen and ladies all out every tolerable day in Eng

land, all attended by their well-mounted grooms, and innumerable vehicles drawn by noble horses, with picked footmen in flashy liveries, and coachmen altogether sui-generis, with their wigs and cocked hats, place this genre, if not for use, at least in appearance, beyond all other nations. The Duke before alluded to, told me that Sir William Draper, when serving in this country, sent him a racking horse, what I think he called a Narragansett, but that the rack was not liked in England, where it is, at least was, universally condemned as equally unnatural for the horse and ungraceful for the rider. I am not sure whether the English war horse is the best. General Moreau preferred the Andalusian horse; and M. de Haussez, one of Charles the Tenth's exiled ministers, in his interesting view of England, gives the preference to the Norman horse for labor and longevity. The continentals, therefore, do not give it up. I believe there is a general opinion on the Continent of Europe, that English cavalry are more showy than serviceable; they are said to have failed at Waterloo. The English clothe, physic, and pamper their horses more than others. There are also American turf-men who consider our race horses superior to the English; but I must confess that to all appearance nothing is comparable, in Europe or America, to the splendid whole of the English equestrian department-horse, carriage, coachman, footman, groom, and all-its entirety, nobility and perfection.

I reached London, driving through the wonderful crowds of the streets, in all the bustle of a contested election. Burdett was then standing his first canvass. I was the bearer of a letter to Cobbett, a large, stout, well built, orderly-sergeant-looking man, very talkative and very abusive. I stood with him at the window of his book store, under the loyal sign of the crown and mitre, when the populace drew Burdett's carriage along Pall Mall. Billingsgate could not transcend—as Americans say when they mean, to exceed-the coarse and profane reproaches he poured out with unsparing bluntness on the vile mob and their viler Whig leader, with whom afterwards, both leader and mob, he became a Radical, and then quarrelled with the leader as that leader has with the followers. Populace, whether educated or not, seldom reflect that inconsistency is humanity, and that as politicians are not superhuman, so it is human to err, especially for ardent men with strong passions..

Next day I spent at the country residence of the great English advocate― Erskine; extremely free and animated in conversation, very kindly disposed towards this country, and altogether an agree able host for a young American. It was the cant of his own profession to discredit Erskine as unlearned and undisciplined, and of some English statesmen to deny his parliamentary talents, on the plea, more prevalent there than here, that lawyers cannot be great statesmen. Erskine was certainly eminent in parliament, and un

« ZurückWeiter »