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- Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands V2 - 3/64 -
hospitalities and attentions with which he has enriched their stay in London. The church maintains a medium rank between Congregationalism and Episcopacy, retaining part of the ritual, but being independent in its government. The kindness of Mr. Sherman had assembled here a very agreeable company, among whom were Farquhar Tupper, the artist Cruikshank, from whom I received a call the other morning, and Mr. Pilatte, M. P. Cruikshank is an old man with gray hair and eyebrows, strongly marked features, and keen eyes. He talked to me something about the promotion of temperance by a series of literary sketches illustrated by his pencil.
I sat by a lady who was well acquainted with Kingsley, the author of Alton Locke, Hypatia, and other works, with whom I had some conversation with regard to the influence of his writings.
She said that he had been instrumental in rescuing from infidelity many young men whose minds had become unsettled; that he was a devoted and laborious clergyman, exerting himself, without any cessation, for the good of his parish.
After the company were gone I tried to get some rest, as my labors were not yet over, we being engaged to dine at Sir Edward Buxton's. This was our most dissipated day in London. We never tried the experiment again of going to three parties in one day.
By the time I got to my third appointment I was entirely exhausted. I met here some, however, whom I was exceedingly interested to see; among them Samuel Gurney, brother of Elizabeth Fry, with his wife and family. Lady Edward Buxton is one of his daughters. All had that air of benevolent friendliness which is characteristic of the sect.
Dr. Lushington, the companion and venerable associate of Wilberforce and Clarkson, was also present. He was a member of Parliament with Wilberforce forty or fifty years ago. He is now a judge of the admiralty court, that is to say, of the law relating to marine affairs. This is a branch of law which the nature of our government in America makes it impossible for us to have. He is exceedingly brilliant and animated in conversation.
Dr. Cunningham, the author of World without Souls, was present. There was there also a master of Harrow School.
He told me an anecdote, which pleased me for several reasons; that once, when the queen visited the school, she put to him the inquiry, "whether the educational system of England did not give a disproportionate attention to the study of the ancient classics." His reply was, "that her majesty could best satisfy her mind on that point by observing what men the public schools of England had hitherto produced;" certainly a very adroit reply, yet one which would be equally good against the suggestion of any improvement whatever. We might as well say, see what men we have been able to raise in America without any classical education at all; witness Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Roger Sherman.
It is a curious fact that Christian nations, with one general consent, in the early education of youth neglect the volume which they consider inspired, and bring the mind, at the most susceptible period, under the dominion of the literature and mythology of the heathen world; and that, too, when the sacred history and poetry are confessedly superior in literary quality. Grave doctors of divinity expend their forces in commenting on and teaching things which would be utterly scouted, were an author to publish them in English as original compositions. A Christian community has its young men educated in Ovid and Anacreon, but is shocked when one of them comes out in English with Don Juan; yet, probably, the latter poem is purer than either.
The English literature and poetry of the time of Pope and Dryden betray a state of association so completely heathenized, that an old Greek or Roman raised from the dead could scarce learn from them that any change had taken place in the religion of the world; and even Milton often pains one by introducing second-hand pagan mythology into the very shadow of the eternal throne. In some parts of the Paradise Lost, the evident imitations of Homer are to me the poorest and most painful passages.
The adoration of the ancient classics has lain like a dead weight on all modern art and literature; because men, instead of using them simply for excitement and inspiration, have congealed them into fixed, imperative rules. As the classics have been used, I think, wonderful as have been the minds educated under them, there would have been more variety and originality without them.
With which long sermon on a short text, I will conclude my letter.
Thursday, May 12. My dear I.:--
Yesterday, what with my breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I was, as the fashionable saying is, "fairly knocked up." This expression, which I find obtains universally here, corresponds to what we mean by being "used up." They talk of Americanisms, and I have a little innocent speculation now and then concerning Anglicisms. I certainly find several here for which I can perceive no more precedent in the well of "English undefiled," than for some of ours; for instance, this being "knocked up," which is variously inflected, as, for example, in the form of a participial adjective, as a "knocking up" affair; in the form of a noun, as when they say "such a person has got quite a knocking up," and so on.
The fact is, if we had ever had any experience in London life we should not have made three engagements in one day. To my simple eye it is quite amusing to see how they manage the social machine here. People are under such a pressure of engagements, that they go about with their lists in their pockets. If A wants to invite B to dinner, out come their respective lists. A says he has only Tuesday and Thursday open for this week. B looks down his list, and says that the days are all closed. A looks along, and says that he has no day open till next Wednesday week. B, however, is going to leave town Tuesday; so that settles the matter as to dining; so they turn back again, and try the breakfasting; for though you cannot dine in but one place a day, yet, by means of the breakfast and the lunch, you can make three social visits if you are strong enough.
Then there are evening parties, which begin at ten o'clock. The first card of the kind that was sent me, which was worded, "At home at ten o'clock," I, in my simplicity, took to be ten in the morning.
But here are people staying out night after night till two o'clock, sitting up all night in Parliament, and seeming to thrive upon it. There certainly is great apology for this in London, if it is always as dark, drizzling, and smoky in the daytime as it has been since I have been here. If I were one of the London people I would live by gaslight as they do, for the streets and houses are altogether pleasanter by gaslight than by daylight. But to ape these customs under our clear, American skies, so contrary to our whole social system, is simply ridiculous.
This morning I was exceedingly tired, and had a perfect longing to get but of London into some green fields--to get somewhere where there was nobody. So kind Mrs. B. had the carriage, and off we drove together. By and by we found ourselves out in the country, and then I wanted to get out and walk.
After a while a lady came along, riding a little donkey. These donkeys have amused me so much since I have been here! At several places on the outskirts of the city they have them standing, all girt up with saddles covered with white cloth, for ladies to ride on. One gets out of London by means of an omnibus to one of these places, and then, for a few pence, can have a ride upon one of them into the country. Mrs. B. walked by the side of the lady, and said to her something which I did not hear, and she immediately alighted and asked me with great kindness if I wanted to try the saddle; so I got upon the little beast, which was about as large as a good-sized calf, and rode a few paces to try him. It is a slow, but not unpleasant gait, and if the creature were not so insignificantly small, as to make you feel much as if you were riding upon a cat, it would be quite a pleasant affair. After dismounting I crept through a hole in a hedge, and looked for some flowers; and, in short, made the most that I could of my interview with nature, till it came time to go home to dinner, for our dinner hour at Mr. B.'s is between one and two; quite like home. In the evening we were to dine at Lord Shaftesbury's.
After napping all the afternoon we went to Grosvenor Square. There was only a small, select party, of about sixteen. Among the guests were Dr. McAll, Hebrew professor in King's College, Lord Wriothesley Russell, brother of Lord John, and one of the private chaplains of the queen, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Dr. McAll is a millenarian. He sat next to C. at table, and they had some conversation on that subject. He said those ideas had made a good deal of progress in the English mind.
While I was walking down to dinner with Lord Shaftesbury, he pointed out to me in the hall the portrait of his distinguished ancestor, Antony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftesbury, whose name he bears. This ancestor, notwithstanding his sceptical philosophy, did some good things, as he was the author of the habeas corpus act.
After dinner we went back to the drawing rooms again; and while tea and coffee were being served, names were constantly being announced, till the rooms were quite full.
Among the earliest who arrived was Mr.----, a mulatto gentleman, formerly British consul at Liberia. I found him a man of considerable cultivation and intelligence, evincing much good sense in his observations.
I overheard some one saying in the crowd, "Shaftesbury has been about the chimney sweepers again in Parliament." I said to Lord Shaftesbury, "I thought that matter of the chimney sweepers had been attended to long ago, and laws made about it."
"So we have made laws," said he, "but people won't keep them unless we follow them up."
He has a very prompt, cheerful way of speaking, and throws himself into every thing he talks about with great interest and zeal. He introduced me to one gentleman, I forget his name now, as the patron of the shoeblacks. On my inquiring what that meant, he said that he had started the idea of providing employment for poor street boys, by furnishing them with brushes and blacking, and forming them into regular companies of shoeblacks. Each boy has his' particular stand, where he blacks the shoes of every passer by who chooses to take the trouble of putting up his foot and paying his twopence. Lord Shaftesbury also presented me to a lady who had been a very successful teacher in the ragged schools; also to a gentleman who, he said, had been very active in the London city missions. Some very ingenious work
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