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- Travels in England in 1782 - 10/28 -
rollers, and in a frock and boots. In Westminster, the morning lasts till four or five o'clock, at which time they dine, and supper and going to bed are regulated accordingly. They generally do not breakfast till ten o'clock. The farther you go from the court into the city, the more regular and domestic the people become; and there they generally dine about three o'clock, i.e. as soon as the business or 'Change is over.
Trimmed suits are not yet worn, and the most usual dress is in summer, a short white waistcoat, black breeches, white silk stockings, and a frock, generally of very dark blue cloth, which looks like black; and the English seem in general to prefer dark colours. If you wish to be full dressed, you wear black. Officers rarely wear their uniforms, but dress like other people, and are to be known to be officers only by a cockade in their hats.
It is a common observation, that the more solicitous any people are about dress, the more effeminate they are. I attribute it entirely to this idle adventitious passion for finery, that these people are become so over and above careful of their persons; they are for ever, and on every occasion, putting one another on their guard against catching cold; "you'll certainly catch cold," they always tell you if you happen to be a little exposed to the draught of the air, or if you be not clad, as they think, sufficiently warm. The general topic of conversation in summer, is on the important objects of whether such and such an acquaintance be in town, or such a one in the country. Far from blaming it, I think it natural and commendable, that nearly one half of the inhabitants of this great city migrate into the country in summer. And into the country, I too, though not a Londoner, hope soon to wander.
Electricity happens at present to be the puppet-show of the English. Whoever at all understands electricity is sure of being noticed and successful. This a certain Mr. Katterfelto experiences, who gives himself out for a Prussian, speaks bad English, and understands beside the usual electrical and philosophical experiments, some legerdemain tricks, with which (at least according to the papers) he sets the whole world in wonder. For in almost every newspaper that appears, there are some verses on the great Katterfelto, which some one or other of his hearers are said to have made extempore. Every sensible person considers Katterfelto as a puppy, an ignoramus, a braggadocio, and an impostor; notwithstanding which he has a number of followers. He has demonstrated to the people, that the influenza is occasioned by a small kind of insect, which poisons the air; and a nostrum, which he pretends to have found out to prevent or destroy it, is eagerly bought of him. A few days ago he put into the papers: "It is true that Mr. Katterfelto has always wished for cold and rainy weather, in order to destroy the pernicious insects in the air; but now, on the contrary, he wishes for nothing more than for fair weather, as his majesty and the whole royal family have determined, the first fine day, to be eye-witnesses of the great wonder, which this learned philosopher will render visible to them." Yet all this while the royal family have not so much as even thought of seeing the wonders of Mr. Katterfelto. This kind of rhodomontade is very finely expressed in English by the word puff, which in its literal sense, signifies a blowing, or violent gust of wind, and in the metaphorical sense, a boasting or bragging.
Of such puffs the English newspapers are daily full, particularly of quack medicines and empirics, by means of which many a one here (and among others a German who goes by the name of the German doctor) are become rich. An advertisement of a lottery in the papers begins with capitals in this manner,--"Ten Thousand Pounds for a Sixpence! Yes, however astonishing it may seem, it is nevertheless undoubtedly true, that for the small stake of sixpence, ten thousand pounds, and other capital prizes, may be won, etc."--But enough for this time of the puffs of the English.
I yesterday dined with the Rev. Mr. Schrader, son-in-law to Professor Foster of Halle. He is chaplain to the German chapel at St. James's; but besides himself he has a colleague or a reader, who is also in orders, but has only fifty pounds yearly salary. Mr. Schrader also instructs the younger princes and princesses of the royal family in their religion. At his house I saw the two chaplains, Mr. Lindeman and Mr. Kritter, who went with the Hanoverian troops to Minorca, and who were returned with the garrison. They were exposed to every danger along with the troops. The German clergy, as well as every other person in any public station immediately under Government, are obliged to pay a considerable tax out of their salaries.
The English clergy (and I fear those still more particularly who live in London) are noticeable, and lamentably conspicuous, by a very free, secular, and irregular way of life. Since my residence in England, one has fought a duel in Hyde Park, and shot has antagonist. He was tried for the offence, and it was evident the judge thought him guilty of murder; but the jury declared him guilty only of manslaughter; and on this verdict he was burnt in the hand, if that may be called burning which is done with a cold iron; this being a privilege which the nobility and clergy enjoy above other murderers.
Yesterday week, after I had preached for Mr. Wendeborne, we passed an English church in which, we understood the sermon was not yet quite finished. On this we went in, and then I heard a young man preaching, with a tolerable good voice, and a proper delivery; but, like the English in general, his manner was unimpassioned, and his tone monotonous. From the church we went to a coffee-house opposite to it, and there we dined. We had not been long there before the same clergyman whom we had just heard preaching, also came in. He called for pen and ink, and hastily wrote down a few pages on a long sheet of paper, which he put into his pocket; I suppose it was some rough sketch or memorandum that occurred to him at that moment, and which he thus reserved for some future sermon. He too ordered some dinner, which he had no sooner ate, than he returned immediately to the same church. We followed him, and he again mounted the pulpit, where he drew from his pocket a written paper, or book of notes, and delivered in all probability those very words which he had just before composed in our presence at the coffee-house.
In these coffee-houses, however, there generally prevails a very decorous stillness and silence. Everyone speaks softly to those only who sit next him. The greater part read the newspapers, and no one ever disturbs another. The room is commonly on the ground floor, and you enter it immediately from the street; the seats are divided by wooden wainscot partitions. Many letters and projects are here written and planned, and many of those that you find in the papers are dated from some of these coffee-houses. There is, therefore, nothing incredible, nor very extraordinary, in a person's composing a sermon here, excepting that one would imagine it might have been done better at home, and certainly should not have thus been put off to the last minute.
Another long walk that I have taken pretty often, is through Hanover Square and Cavendish Square, to Bulstrode Street, near Paddington, where the Danish ambassador lives, and where I have often visited the Danish Charge d'Affaires, M. Schornborn. He is well known in Germany, as having attempted to translate Pindar into German. Besides this, and besides being known to be a man of genius, he is known to be a great proficient in most of the branches of natural philosophy. I have spent many very pleasant hours with him.
Sublime poetry, and in particular odes, are his forte; there are indeed few departments of learning in which he has not extensive knowledge, and he is also well read in the Greek and Roman authors. Everything he studies, he studies merely from the love he bears to the science itself, and by no means for the love of fame.
One could hardly help saying it is a pity that so excellent a man should be so little known, were it not generally the case with men of transcendent merit. But what makes him still more valuable is his pure and open soul, and his amiable unaffected simplicity of character, which has gained him the love and confidence of all who know him. He has heretofore been secretary to the ambassador at Algiers; and even here in London, when he is not occupied by the business arising from his public station, he lives exceedingly retired, and devotes his time almost entirely to the study of the sciences. The more agreeable I find such an acquaintance, the harder it will be for me to lose, as I soon must, his learned, his instructive, and his friendly conversation.
I have seen the large Freemasons' Hall here, at the tavern of the same name. This hall is of an astonishing height and breadth, and to me it looked almost like a church. The orchestra is very much raised, and from that you have a fine view of the whole hall, which makes a majestic appearance. The building is said to have cost an immense sum. But to that the lodges in Germany also contributed. Freemasonry seems to be held in but little estimation in England, perhaps because most of the lodges are now degenerated into mere drinking clubs; though I hope there still are some who assemble for nobler and more essential purposes. The Duke of Cumberland is now grand master.
London, 20th June, 1782.
At length my determination of going into the country takes effect; and I am to set off this very afternoon in a stage; so that I now write to you my last letter from London, I mean till I return from my pilgrimage, for as soon as ever I have got beyond the dangerous neighbourhood of London, I shall certainly no longer suffer myself to be cooped up in a post-coach, but take my staff and pursue my journey on foot. In the meantime, however, I will relate to you what I may either have forgotten to write before, or what I have seen worth notice within these few days last past; among which the foremost is
I must own that on my entrance into this massy building, an uncommon vacancy, which seemed to reign in it, rather damped than raised an impression of anything majestic in me. All around me I could see nothing but immense bare walls and pillars. Above me, at an astonishing height, was the vaulted stone roof; and beneath me a plain, flat even floor, paved with marble. No altar was to be seen, or any other sign that this was a place where mankind assembled to adore the Almighty. For the church itself, or properly that part of it where they perform divine service, seems as it were a piece stuck on or added to the main edifice, and is separated from the large round empty space by an iron gate, or door. Did the great architects who adopted this style of building mean by this to say that such a temple is most proper for the adoration of the Almighty? If this was their aim, I can only say I admire the great temple of nature, the azure vaulted sky, and the green carpet with which the earth is spread. This is truly a large temple; but then there is in
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