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- Travels in England in 1782 - 4/28 -
I would always advise those who wish to drink coffee in England, to mention beforehand how many cups are to be made with half an ounce; or else the people will probably bring them a prodigious quantity of brown water; which (notwithstanding all my admonitions) I have not yet been able wholly to avoid. The fine wheaten bread which I find here, besides excellent butter and Cheshire-cheese, makes up for my scanty dinners. For an English dinner, to such lodgers as I am, generally consists of a piece of half-boiled, or half-roasted meat; and a few cabbage leaves boiled in plain water; on which they pour a sauce made of flour and butter. This, I assure you, is the usual method of dressing vegetables in England.
The slices of bread and butter, which they give you with your tea, are as thin as poppy leaves. But there is another kind of bread and butter usually eaten with tea, which is toasted by the fire, and is incomparably good. You take one slice after the other and hold it to the fire on a fork till the butter is melted, so that it penetrates a number of slices at once: this is called toast.
The custom of sleeping without a feather-bed for a covering particularly pleased me. You here lie between two sheets: underneath the bottom sheet is a fine blanket, which, without oppressing you, keeps you sufficiently warm. My shoes are not cleaned in the house, but by a person in the neighbourhood, whose trade it is; who fetches them every morning, and brings them back cleaned; for which she receives weekly so much. When the maid is displeased with me, I hear her sometimes at the door call me "the German"; otherwise in the family I go by the name of "the Gentleman."
I have almost entirely laid aside riding in a coach, although it does not cost near so much as it does at Berlin; as I can go and return any distance not exceeding an English mile for a shilling, for which I should there at least pay a florin. But, moderate as English fares are, still you save a great deal, if you walk or go on foot, and know only how to ask your way. From my lodging to the Royal Exchange is about as far as from one end of Berlin to the other, and from the Tower and St. Catharine's, where the ships arrive in the Thames, as far again; and I have already walked this distance twice, when I went to look after my trunk before I got it out of the ship. As it was quite dark when I came back the first evening, I was astonished at the admirable manner in which the streets are lighted up; compared to which our streets in Berlin make a most miserable show. The lamps are lighted whilst it is still daylight, and are so near each other, that even on the most ordinary and common nights, the city has the appearance of a festive illumination, for which some German prince, who came to London for the first time, once, they say, actually took it, and seriously believed it to have been particularly ordered on account of his arrival.
The 9th June, 1782.
I preached this day at the German church on Ludgate Hill, for the Rev. Mr. Wendeborn. He is the author of "Die statischen Beytrage zur nahern Kentniss Grossbrittaniens." This valuable book has already been of uncommon service to me, and I cannot but recommend it to everyone who goes to England. It is the more useful, as you can with ease carry it in your pocket, and you find in it information on every subject. It is natural to suppose that Mr. Wendeborn, who has now been a length of time in England, must have been able more frequently, and with greater exactness to make his observations, than those who only pass through, or make a very short stay. It is almost impossible for anyone, who has this book always at hand, to omit anything worthy of notice in or about London; or not to learn all that is most material to know of the state and situation of the kingdom in general.
Mr. Wendeborn lives in New Inn, near Temple Bar, in a philosophical, but not unimproving, retirement. He is almost become a native; and his library consists chiefly of English books. Before I proceed, I must just mention, that he has not hired, but bought his apartments in this great building, called New Inn: and this, I believe, is pretty generally the case with the lodgings in this place. A purchaser of any of these rooms is considered as a proprietor; and one who has got a house and home, and has a right, in parliamentary or other elections, to give his vote, if he is not a foreigner, which is the case with Mr. Wendeborn, who, nevertheless, was visited by Mr. Fox when he was to be chosen member for Westminster.
I saw, for the first time, at Mr. Wendeborn's, a very useful machine, which is little known in Germany, or at least not much used.
This is a press in which, by means of very strong iron springs, a written paper may be printed on another blank paper, and you thus save yourself the trouble of copying; and at the same time multiply your own handwriting. Mr. Wendeborn makes use of this machine every time he sends manuscripts abroad, of which he wishes to keep a copy. This machine was of mahogany, and cost pretty high. I suppose it is because the inhabitants of London rise so late, that divine service begin only at half-past ten o'clock. I missed Mr. Wendeborn this morning, and was therefore obliged to enquire of the door-keeper at St. Paul's for a direction to the German church, where I was to preach. He did not know it. I then asked at another church, not far from thence. Here I was directed right, and after I had passed through an iron gate to the end of a long passage, I arrived just in time at the church, where, after the sermon, I was obliged to read a public thanksgiving for the safe arrival of our ship. The German clergy here dress exactly the same as the English clergy--i.e., in long robes with wide sleeves--in which I likewise was obliged to wrap myself. Mr. Wendeborn wears his own hair, which curls naturally, and the toupee is combed up.
The other German clergymen whom I have seen wear wigs, as well as many of the English.
I yesterday waited on our ambassador, Count Lucy, and was agreeably surprised at the simplicity of his manner of living. He lives in a small private house. His secretary lives upstairs, where also I met with the Prussian consul, who happened just then to be paying him a visit. Below, on the right hand, I was immediately shown into his Excellency's room, without being obliged to pass through an antechamber. He wore a blue coat, with a red collar and red facings. He conversed with me, as we drank a dish of coffee, on various learned topics; and when I told him of the great dispute now going on about the tacismus or stacismus, he declared himself, as a born Greek, for the stacismus.
When I came to take my leave, he desired me to come and see him without ceremony whenever it suited me, as he should be always happy to see me.
Mr. Leonhard, who has translated several celebrated English plays, such as "The School for Scandal," and some others, lives here as a private person, instructing Germans in English, and Englishmen in German, with great ability. He also it is who writes the articles concerning England for the new Hamburgh newspaper, for which he is paid a stated yearly stipend. I may add also, that he is the master of a German Freemasons' lodge in London, and representative of all the German lodges in England--an employment of far more trouble than profit to him, for all the world applies to him in all cases and emergencies. I also was recommended to him from Hamburgh. He is a very complaisant man, and has already shown me many civilities. He repeats English poetry with great propriety, and speaks the language nearly with the same facility as he does his mother language. He is married to an amiable Englishwoman. I wish him all possible happiness. And now let me tell you something of the so often imitated, but perhaps inimitable
I yesterday visited Vauxhall for the first time. I had not far to go from my lodgings, in the Adelphi Buildings, to Westminster Bridge, where you always find a great number of boats on the Thames, which are ready on the least signal to serve those who will pay them a shilling or sixpence, or according to the distance.
From hence I went up the Thames to Vauxhall, and as I passed along I saw Lambeth; and the venerable old palace belonging to the archbishops of Canterbury lying on my left.
Vauxhall is, properly speaking, the name of a little village in which the garden, now almost exclusively bearing the same name, is situated. You pay a shilling entrance.
On entering it, I really found, or fancied I found, some resemblance to our Berlin Vauxhall, if, according to Virgil, I may be permitted to compare small things with great ones. The walks at least, with the paintings at the end, and the high trees, which, here and there form a beautiful grove, or wood, on either side, were so similar to those of Berlin, that often, as I walked along them, I seemed to transport myself, in imagination, once more to Berlin, and forgot for a moment that immense seas, and mountains, and kingdoms now lie between us. I was the more tempted to indulge in this reverie as I actually met with several gentlemen, inhabitants of Berlin, in particular Mr. S--r, and some others, with whom I spent the evening in the most agreeable manner. Here and there (particularly in one of the charming woods which art has formed in this garden) you are pleasingly surprised by the sudden appearance of the statues of the most renowned English poets and philosophers, such as Milton, Thomson, and others. But, what gave me most pleasure was the statue of the German composer Handel, which, on entering the garden, is not far distant from the orchestra.
This orchestra is among a number of trees situated as in a little wood, and is an exceedingly handsome one. As you enter the garden, you immediately hear the sound of vocal and instrumental music. There are several female singers constantly hired here to sing in public.
On each side of the orchestra are small boxes, with tables and benches, in which you sup. The walks before these, as well as in every other part of the garden, are crowded with people of all ranks. I supped here with Mr. S--r, and the secretary of the Prussian ambassador, besides a few other gentlemen from Berlin; but what most astonished me was the boldness of the women of the town, who often rushed in upon us by half dozens, and in the most shameless manner importuned us for wine, for themselves and their followers. Our gentlemen thought it either unwise, unkind, or unsafe, to refuse them so small a boon altogether.
Latish in the evening we were entertained with a sight, that is
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