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- Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands V2 - 6/64 -
In the evening we had an engagement at two places--at a Highland School dinner, and at Mr. Charles Dickens's. I felt myself too much exhausted for both, and so it was concluded that I should go to neither, but try a little quiet drive into the country, and an early retirement, as the most prudent termination of the week. While Mr. S. prepared to go to the meeting of the Highland School Society, Mr. and Mrs. B. took me a little drive into the country. After a while they alighted before a new Gothic Congregational college, in St. John's Wood. I found that there had been a kind of tea-drinking there by the Congregational ministers and their families, to celebrate the opening of the college.
On returning, we called for Mr. S., at the dinner, and went for a few moments into the gallery, the entertainment being now nearly over. Here we heard some Scottish songs, very charmingly sung; and, what amused me very much, a few Highland musicians, dressed in full costume, occasionally marched through the hall, playing on their bagpipes, as was customary in old Scottish entertainments. The historian Sir Archibald Alison, sheriff of Lanarkshire, sat at the head of the table--a tall, fine-looking man, of very commanding presence.
About nine o'clock we retired.
May 15. Heard Mr. Binney preach this morning. He is one of the strongest men among the Congregationalists, and a very popular speaker. He is a tall, large man, with a finely-built head, high forehead, piercing, dark eye, and a good deal of force and determination in all his movements. His sermon was the first that I had heard in England which seemed to recognize the existence of any possible sceptical or rationalizing element in the minds of his hearers. It was in this respect more like the preaching that I had been in the habit of hearing at home. Instead of a calm statement of certain admitted religious facts, or exhortations founded upon them, his discourse seemed to be reasoning with individual cases, and answering various forms of objections, such as might arise in different minds. This mode of preaching, I think, cannot exist unless a minister cultivates an individual knowledge of his people.
Mr. Binney's work, entitled How to make the best of both Worlds, I have heard spoken of as having had the largest sale of any religious writing of the present day.
May 16. This evening is the great antislavery meeting at Exeter Hall. Lord Shaftesbury in the chair. Exeter Hall stands before the public as the representation of the strong democratic, religious element of England. In Exeter Hall are all the philanthropies, foreign and domestic; and a crowded meeting there gives one perhaps a better idea of the force of English democracy--of that kind of material which goes to make up the mass of the nation--than any thing else.
When Macaulay expressed some sentiments which gave offence to this portion of the community, he made a defence in which he alluded sarcastically to the bray of Exeter Hall.
The expression seems to have been remembered, for I have often heard it quoted; though I believe they have forgiven him for it, and concluded to accept it as a joke.
The hall this night was densely crowded, and, as I felt very unwell, I did not go in till after the services had commenced--a thing which I greatly regretted afterwards, as by this means I lost a most able speech by Lord Shaftesbury.
The Duchess of Sutherland entered soon after the commencement of the exercises, and was most enthusiastically cheered. When we came in, a seat had been reserved for us by her grace in the side gallery, and the cheering was repeated. I thought I had heard something of the sort in Scotland, but there was a vehemence about this that made me tremble. There is always something awful to my mind about a dense crowd in a state of high excitement, let the nature of that excitement be what it will.
I do not believe that there is in all America more vehemence of democracy, more volcanic force of power, than comes out in one of these great gatherings in our old fatherland. I saw plainly enough where Concord, Lexington, and Bunker Hill came from; and it seems to me there is enough of this element of indignation at wrong, and resistance to tyranny, to found half a dozen more republics as strong as we are.
A little incident that occurred gave me an idea of what such a crowd might become in a confused state of excitement. A woman fainted in a distant part of the house, and a policeman attempted to force a way through the densely-packed crowd. The services were interrupted for a few moments, and there were hoarse surgings and swellings of the mighty mass, who were so closely packed that they moved together like waves. Some began to rise in their seats, and some cried "Order! order!" And one could easily see, that were a sudden panic or overwhelming excitement to break up the order of the meeting, what a terrible scene might ensue.
"What is it?" said I to a friend who sat next to me.
"A pickpocket, perhaps," said she. "I am afraid we are going to have a row. They are going to give you one of our genuine Exeter Hall _'brays.'_"
I felt a good deal fluttered; but the Duchess of Sutherland, who knew the British lion better than I did, seemed so perfectly collected that I became reassured.
The character of the speeches at this meeting, with the exception of Lord Shaftesbury's, was more denunciatory, and had more to pain the national feelings of an American, than any I had ever attended. It was the real old Saxon battle axe of Brother John, swung without fear or favor. Such things do not hurt me individually, because I have such a radical faith in my country, such a genuine belief that she will at last right herself from every wrong, that I feel she can afford to have these things said.
Mr. S. spoke on this point, that the cotton trade of Great Britain is the principal support to slavery, and read extracts from Charleston papers in which they boldly declare that they do not care for any amount of moral indignation wasted upon them by nations who, after all, must and will buy the cotton which they raise.
The meeting was a very long one, and I was much fatigued when we returned.
To-morrow we are to make a little run out to Windsor.
I can compare the embarrassment of our London life, with its multiplied solicitations and infinite stimulants to curiosity and desire, only to that annual perplexity which used to beset us in our childhood on thanksgiving day. Having been kept all the year within the limits which prudence assigns to well-regulated children, came at last the governor's proclamation, and a general saturnalia of dainties for the little ones. For one day the gates of license were thrown open, and we, plumped down into the midst of pie and pudding exceeding all conception but that of a Yankee housekeeper, were left to struggle our way out as best we might.
So here, beside all the living world of London, its scope and range of persons and circles of thought, come its architecture, its arts, its localities, historic, poetic, all that expresses its past, its present, and its future. Every day and every hour brings its' conflicting allurements, of persons to be seen, places to be visited, things to be done, beyond all computation. Like Miss Edgeworth's philosophic little Frank, we are obliged to make out our list of what man _must_ want, and of what he _may_ want; and in our list of the former we set down, in large and decisive characters, one quiet day for the exploration and enjoyment of Windsor.
We were solicited, indeed, to go in another direction; a party was formed to go down the Thames with the Right Hon. Sidney Herbert, secretary at war, and visit an emigrant ship just starting for Australia. I should say here, that since Mrs. Chisholm's labors have awakened the attention of the English public to the wants and condition of emigrants, the benevolent people of England take great interest in the departing of emigrant ships. A society has been formed called the Family Colonization Loan Society, and a fund raised by which money can be loaned to those desiring to emigrate. This society makes it an object to cultivate acquaintance and intimacy among those about going out by uniting them into groups, and, as far as possible, placing orphan children and single females under the protection of families. Any one, by subscribing six guineas towards the loan, can secure one passage. Each individual becomes responsible for refunding his own fare, and, furthermore, to pay a certain assessment in case any individual of the group fails to make up the passage money. The sailing of emigrant ships, therefore, has become a scene of great interest. Those departing do not leave their native shore without substantial proofs of the interest and care of the land they are leaving.
In the party who were going down to-day were Mr. and Mrs. Binney, Mr. Sherman, and a number of distinguished names; among whom I recollect to have heard the names of Lady Hatherton, and Lady Byron, widow of the poet. This would have been an exceedingly interesting scene to us, but being already worn with company and excitement, we preferred a quiet day at Windsor.
For if we took Warwick as the representative feudal estate, we took Windsor as the representative palace, that which imbodies the English idea of royalty. Apart from this, Windsor has been immortalized by the Merry Wives; it has still standing in its park the Herne oak, where the mischievous fairies played their pranks upon old Falstaff.
And the castle still has about it the charm of the poet's invocation:--
"Search Windsor Castle, elves, within, without, Strew good luck, ouphes, on every sacred room, That it may stand till the perpetual doom In state as wholesome as in state 'tis fit, Worthy the owner, and the owner it. The several chairs of order, look you, scour With juice of balm and every precious flower, Each fair instalment, coat, and several crest, With loyal blazon evermore be blest. And nightly, meadow fairies, look you, sing
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