Part 6 out of 7
in addition, they have all the pretty tasteful decoration of
French porcelaine, and or-molu in much greater abundance, because
at a much cheaper rate. Every part of their houses is well
carpeted, and the exterior finishing, such as steps, railings,
and door-frames, are very superior. Almost every house has
handsome green blinds on the outside; balconies are not very
general, nor do the houses display, externally, so many flowers
as those of Paris and London; but I saw many rooms decorated
within, exactly like those of an European _petite maitresse_.
Little tables, looking and smelling like flower beds, portfolios,
nick-nacks, bronzes, busts, cameos, and alabaster vases,
illustrated copies of ladylike rhymes bound in silk, and, in
short, all the pretty coxcomalities of the drawing-room scattered
about with the same profuse and studied negligence as with us.
Hudson Square and its neighbourhood is, I believe, the most
fashionable part of the town; the square is beautiful,
excellently well planted with a great variety of trees, and only
wanting our frequent and careful mowing to make it equal to any
square in London. The iron railing which surrounds this
enclosure is as high and as handsome as that of the Tuilleries,
and it will give some idea of the care bestowed on its
decoration, to know that the gravel for the walks was conveyed
by barges from Boston, not as ballast, but as freight.
The great defect in the houses is their extreme uniformity when
you have seen one, you have seen all. Neither do I quite like
the arrangement of the rooms. In nearly all the houses the
dining and drawing rooms are on the same floor, with ample
folding doors between them; when thrown together they certainly
make a very noble apartment; but no doors can be barrier
sufficient between dining and drawing-rooms. Mixed dinner
parties of ladies and gentlemen, however, are very rare, which is
a great defect in the society; not only as depriving them of the
most social and hospitable manner of meeting, but as leading to
frequent dinner parties of gentlemen without ladies, which
certainly does not conduce to refinement.
The evening parties, excepting such as are expressly for young
people, are chiefly conversational; we were too late in the
season for large parties, but we saw enough to convince us that
there is society to be met with in New York, which would be
deemed delightful any where. Cards are very seldom used; and
music, from their having very little professional aid at their
parties is seldom, I believe, as good as what is heard at private
concerts in London.
The Americans have certainly not the same _besoin_ of being
amused, as other people; they may be the wiser for this, perhaps,
but it makes them less agreeable to a looker-on.
There are three theatres at New York, all of which we visited.
The Park Theatre is the only one licensed by fashion, but the
Bowery is infinitely superior in beauty; it is indeed as pretty a
theatre as I ever entered, perfect as to size and proportion,
elegantly decorated, and the scenery and machinery equal to any
in London, but it is not the fashion. The Chatham is so utterly
condemned by _bon ton_, that it requires some courage to decide
upon going there; nor do I think my curiosity would have
penetrated so far, had I not seen Miss Mitford's Rienzi
advertised there. It was the first opportunity I had had of
seeing it played, and spite of very indifferent acting, I was
delighted. The interest must have been great, for till the
curtain fell, I saw not one quarter of the queer things around
me: then I observed in the front row of a dress-box a lady
performing the most maternal office possible; several gentlemen
without their coats, and a general air of contempt for the
decencies of life, certainly more than usually revolting.
At the Park Theatre I again saw the American Roscius, Mr.
Forrest. He played the part of Damon, and roared, I thought,
very unlike a nightingale. I cannot admire this celebrated
Another night we saw Cinderella there; Mrs. Austin was the prima
donna, and much admired. The piece was extremely well got up,
and on this occasion we saw the Park Theatre to advantage, for it
was filled with well-dressed company; but still we saw many "yet
unrazored lips" polluted with the grim tinge of the hateful
tobacco, and heard, without ceasing, the spitting, which of
course is its consequence. If their theatres had the orchestra
of the Feydeau, and a choir of angels to boot, I could find but
little pleasure, so long as they were followed by this running
accompaniment of _thorough base_.
Whilst at New York, the prospectus of a fashionable
boarding-school was presented to me. I made some extracts from
it, as a specimen of the enlarged scale of instruction proposed
for young females.
Brooklyn Collegiate Institute
for Young Ladies,
Brooklyn Heights, opposite the City of
Latin Grammar, Liber Primus; Jacob's Latin Reader, (first part);
Modern Geography; Intellectual and Practical Arithmetic finished;
Dr. Barber's Grammar of Elocution; Writing, Spelling,
Composition, and Vocal Music.
Jacob's Latin Reader, (second part); Roman Antiquities, Sallust;
Clark's Introduction to the Making of Latin; Ancient and Sacred
Geography; Studies of Poetry; Short Treatise on Rhetoric; Map
Drawing, Composition, Spelling, and Vocal Music.
Caesar's Commentaries; first five books of Virgil's Aeneid;
Mythology; Watts on the Mind; Political Geography, (Woodbridge's
large work); Natural History; Treatise on the Globes; Ancient
History; Studies of Poetry concluded; English Grammar,
Composition, Spelling, and Vocal Music.
Virgil, (finished); Cicero's Select Orations; Modern History;
Plane Geometry; Moral Philosophy; Critical Reading of Young's
Poems; Perspective Drawing; Rhetoric; Logic, Composition, and
Livy; Horace, (Odes); Natural Theology; small Compend of
Ecclesiastical History; Female Biography; Algebra; Natural
Philosophy, (Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Pneumatics, and Acoustics);
Intellectual Philosophy; Evidences of Christianity; Composition,
and Vocal Music.
Horace, (finished); Tacitus; Natural Philosophy, (Electricity,
Optics, Magnetism, Galvanism); Astronomy, Chemistry, Mineralogy,
and Geology; Compend of Political Economy; Composition, and Vocal
The French, Spanish, Italian, or Greek languages may be attended
to, if required, at any time.
The Exchange is very handsome, and ranks about midway between the
heavy gloom that hangs over our London merchants, and the light
and lofty elegance which decorates the Bourse at Paris. The
churches are plain, but very neat, and kept in perfect repair
within and without; but I saw none which had the least pretension
to splendour; the Catholic Cathedral at Baltimore is the only
church in America which has.
At New York, as every where else, they show within, during the
time of service, like beds of tulips, so gay, so bright, so
beautiful, are the long rows of French bonnets and pretty faces;
rows but rarely broken by the unribboned heads of the male
population; the proportion is about the same as I have remarked
elsewhere. Excepting at New York, I never saw the other side of
the picture, but there I did. On the opposite side of the North
River, about three miles higher up, is a place called Hoboken.
A gentleman who possessed a handsome mansion and grounds there,
also possessed the right of ferry, and to render this productive,
he has restricted his pleasure grounds to a few beautiful acres,
laying out the remainder simply and tastefully as a public walk.
It is hardly possible to imagine one of greater attraction; a
broad belt of light underwood and flowering shrubs, studded at
intervals with lofty forest trees, runs for two miles along a
cliff which overhangs the matchless Hudson; sometimes it feathers
the rocks down to its very margin, and at others leaves a pebbly
shore, just rude enough to break the gentle waves, and make a
music which mimics softly the loud chorus of the ocean. Through
this beautiful little wood, a broad well gravelled terrace is led
by every point which can exhibit the scenery to advantage;
narrower and wilder paths diverge at intervals, some into the
deeper shadow of the wood, and some shelving gradually to the
pretty coves below.
The price of entrance to this little Eden, is the six cents you
pay at the ferry. We went there on a bright Sunday afternoon,
expressly to see the humours of the place. Many thousand persons
were scattered through the grounds; of these we ascertained, by
repeatedly counting, that nineteen-twentieths were men. The
ladies were at church. Often as the subject has pressed upon my
mind, I think I never so strongly felt the conviction that the
Sabbath-day, the holy day, the day on which alone the great
majority of the Christian world can spend their hours as they
please, is ill passed (if passed entirely) within brick walls,
listening to an earth-born preacher, charm he never so wisely.
"Oh! how can they renounce the boundless store
Of charms, which Nature to her vot'ries yields!
The warbling woodland, the resounding shore,
The pomp of groves, and garniture of fields,
All that the genial ray of morning gilds,
And all that echoes to the song of even,
All that the mountain's sheltering bosom yields,
And all the dread magnificence of heaven;
Oh! how can they renounce, and hope to be forgiven!"
How is it that the men of America, who are reckoned good husbands
and good fathers, while they themselves enjoy sufficient freedom
of spirit to permit their walking forth into the temple of the
living God, can leave those they love best on earth, bound in the
iron chains of a most tyrannical fanaticism? How can they
breathe the balmy air, and not think of the tainted atmosphere so
heavily weighing upon breasts still dearer than their own? How
can they gaze upon the blossoms of the spring, and not remember
the fairer cheeks of their young daughters, waxing pale, as they
sit for long sultry hours, immured with hundreds of fellow
victims, listening to the roaring vanities of a preacher
canonized by a college of old women? They cannot think it
needful to salvation,or they would not withdraw themselves.
Wherefore is it? Do they fear these self-elected, self-ordained
priests, and offer up their wives and daughters to propitiate
them? Or do they deem their hebdomadal freedom more complete,
because their wives and daughters are shut up four or five times
in the day at church or chapel? It is true, that at Hoboken, as
every where else, there are _reposoires_, which, as you pass
them, blast the sense for a moment, by reeking forth the fumes of
whiskey and tobacco, and it may be that these cannot be entered
with a wife or daughter. The proprietor of the grounds, however,
has contrived with great taste to render these abominations not
unpleasing to the eye; there is one in particular, which has
quite the air of a Grecian temple, and did they drink wine
instead of whiskey, it might be inscribed to Bacchus; but in this
particular, as in many others, the ancient and modern Republics differ.
It is impossible not to feel, after passing one Sunday in the
churches and chapels of New York, and the next in the gardens of
Hoboken, that the thousands of well-dressed men you see enjoying
themselves at the latter, have made over the thousands of
well-dressed women you saw exhibited at the former, into the
hands of the priests, at least, for the day. The American people
arrogate to themselves a character of superior morality and
religion, but this division of their hours of leisure does not
give me a favourable idea of either.
I visited all the exhibitions in New York. The Medici of the
Republic must exert themselves a little more before these can
become even respectable. The worst of the business is, that with
the exception of about half a dozen individuals, the good
citizens are more than contented, they are delighted.
The newspaper lungs of the Republic breathe forth praise and
triumph, may, almost pant with extacy in speaking of their native
_chef d'oeuvres_. I should be hardly believed were I to relate
the instances which fell in my way, of the utter ignorance
respecting pictures to be found among persons of the _first
standing_ in society. Often where a liberal spirit exists, and a
wish to patronise the fine arts is expressed, it is joined to a
profundity of ignorance on the subject almost inconceivable. A
doubt as to the excellence of their artists is very nervously
received, and one gentleman, with much civility, told me, that at
the present era, all the world were aware that competition was
pretty well at an end between our two nations, and that a little
envy might naturally be expected to mix with the surprise with
which the mother country beheld the distance at which her
colonies were leaving her behind them.
I must, however, do the few artists with whom I became
acquainted, the justice to say, that their own pretensions are
much more modest than those of their patrons for them. I have
heard several confess and deplore their ignorance of drawing, and
have repeatedly remarked a sensibility to the merit of European
artists, though perhaps only known by engravings, and a deference
to their authority, which showed a genuine feeling for the art.
In fact, I think that there is a very considerable degree of
natural talent for painting in America, but it has to make its
way through darkness and thick night. When an academy is
founded, their first care is to hang the walls of its exhibition
room with all the unutterable trash that is offered to them. No
living models are sought for; no discipline as to the manner of
study is enforced. Boys who know no more of human form, than
they do of the eyes, nose, and mouth in the moon, begin painting
portraits. If some of them would only throw away their palettes
for a year, and learn to draw; if they would attend anatomical
lectures, and take notes, not in words, but in forms, of joints
and muscles, their exhibitions would soon cease to be so utterly
The most interesting exhibition open when I was there was,
decidedly, Colonel Trumbold's; and how the patriots of America
can permit this truly national collection to remain a profitless
burden on the hands of the artist, it is difficult to understand.
Many of the sketches are masterly; but like his illustrious
countryman, West, his sketches are his _chef d'oeuvres_.
I can imagine nothing more perfect than the interior of the
public institutions of New York. There is a practical good sense
in all their arrangements that must strike foreigners very
forcibly. The Asylum for the Destitute offers a hint worth
taking. It is dedicated to the reformation of youthful offenders
of both sexes, and it is as admirable in the details of its
management, as in its object. Every part of the institution is
deeply interesting; but there is a difference very remarkable
between the boys and the girls. The boys are, I think, the
finest set of lads I ever saw brought together; bright looking,
gay, active, and full of intelligence. The girls are exactly in
reverse; heavy, listless, indifferent, and melancholy. In
conversing with the gentleman who is the general superintendant
of the establishment, I made the remark to him, and he told me,
that the reality corresponded with the appearance. All of them
had been detected in some act of dishonesty; but the boys, when
removed from the evil influence which had led them so to use
their ingenuity, rose like a spring when a pressure is withdrawn;
and feeling themselves once more safe from danger and from shame,
hope and cheerfulness animated every countenance. But the pour
girls, on the contrary, can hardly look up again. They are as
different as an oak and a lily after a storm. The one, when the
fresh breeze blows over it, shakes the raindrops from its crest,
and only looks the brighter; the other, its silken leaves once
soiled, shrinks from the eye, and is levelled to the earth for
We spent a delightful day in New Jersey, in visiting, with a most
agreeable party, the inclined planes, which are used instead of
locks on the Morris canal.
This is a very interesting work; it is one among a thousand which
prove the people of America to be the most enterprising in the
world. I was informed that this important canal, which connects
the waters of the Hudson and the Delaware, is a hundred miles
long, and in this distance overcomes a variation of level
amounting to sixteen hundred feet. Of this, fourteen hundred are
achieved by inclined planes. The planes average about sixty feet
of perpendicular lift each, and are to support about forty tons.
The time consumed in passing them is twelve minutes for one
hundred feet of perpendicular rise. The expense is less than a
third of what locks would be for surmounting the same rise. If
we set about any more canals, this may be worth attending to.
This Morris canal is certainly an extraordinary work; it not only
varies its level sixteen hundred feet, but at one point runs
along the side of a mountain at thirty feet above the tops of the
highest buildings in the town of Paterson, below; at another it
crosses the falls of the Passaic in a stone aqueduct sixty feet
above the water in the river. This noble work, in a great
degree, owes its existence to the patriotic and scientific energy
of Mr. Cadwallader Colden.
There is no point in the national character of the Americans
which commands so much respect as the boldness and energy with
which public works are undertaken and carried through. Nothing
stops them if a profitable result can be fairly hoped for. It is
this which has made cities spring up amidst the forests with such
inconceivable rapidity; and could they once be thoroughly
persuaded that any point of the ocean had a hoard of dollars
beneath it, I have not the slightest doubt that in about eighteen
months we should see a snug covered rail-road leading direct to
I was told at New York, that in many parts of the state it was
usual to pay the service of the Presbyterian ministers in the
following manner. Once a year a day is fixed, on which some
member of every family in a congregation meet at their minister's
house in the afternoon. They each bring an offering (according
to their means) of articles necessary for housekeeping. The
poorer members leave their contributions in a large basket,
placed for the purpose, close to the door of entrance. Those of
more importance, and more calculated to do honour to the piety of
the donors, are carried into the room where the company is
assembled. Sugar, coffee, tea, cheese, barrels of flour, pieces
of Irish linen, sets of china and of glass, were among the
articles mentioned to me as usually making parts of these
offerings. After the party is assembled, and the business of
giving and receiving is dispatched, tea, coffee, and cakes are
handed round; but these are not furnished at any expense either
of trouble or money to the minster, for selected ladies of the
congregation take the whole arrangement upon themselves. These
meetings are called spinning visits.
Another New York custom, which does not seem to have so
reasonable a cause, is the changing house once a year. On the
1st of May the city of New York has the appearance of sending off
a population flying from the plague, or of a town which had
surrendered on condition of carrying away all their goods and
chattels. Rich furniture and ragged furniture, carts, waggons,
and drays, ropes, canvas, and straw, packers, porters, and
draymen, white, yellow, and black, occupy the streets from east
to west, from north to south, on this day. Every one I spoke to
on the subject complained of this custom as most annoying, but
all assured me it was unavoidable, if you inhabit a rented house.
More than one of my New York friends have built or bought houses
solely to avoid this annual inconvenience.
There are a great number of negroes in New York, all free; their
emancipation having been completed in 1827. Not even in
Philadelphia, where the anti-slavery opinions have been the most
active and violent, do the blacks appear to wear an air of so
much consequence as they do at New York. They have several
chapels, in which negro ministers officiate; and a theatre in
which none but negroes perform. At this theatre a gallery is
appropriated to such whites as choose to visit it; and here only
are they permitted to sit; following in this, with nice
etiquette, and equal justice, the arrangement of the white
theatres, in all of which is a gallery appropriated solely to the
use of the blacks. I have often, particularly on a Sunday, met
groups of negroes, elegantly dressed; and have been sometimes
amused by observing the very superior air of gallantry assumed by
the men, when in attendance on their _belles_, to that of the
whites in similar circumstances. On one occasion we met in
Broadway a young negress in the extreme of the fashion, and
accompanied by a black beau, whose toilet was equally studied;
eye-glass, guard-chain, nothing was omitted; he walked beside his
sable goddess uncovered, and with an air of the most tender
devotion. At the window of a handsome house which they were
passing, stood a very pretty white girl, with two gentlemen
beside her; but alas! both of them had their hats on, and one
If it were not for the peculiar manner of walking, which
distinguishes all American women, Broadway might be taken for a
French street, where it was the fashion for very smart ladies to
promenade. The dress is entirely French; not an article (except
perhaps the cotton stockings) must be English, on pain of being
stigmatized as out of the fashion. Every thing English is
decidedly _mauvais ton_; English materials, English fashions,
English accent, English manner, are all terms of reproach; and to
say that an unfortunate looks like an English woman, is the
cruellest satire which can be uttered.
I remember visiting France almost immediately after we had made
the most offensive invasion of her territory that can well be
imagined, yet, despite the feelings which lengthened years of war
must have engendered, it was the fashion to admire every thing
English. I suppose family quarrels are most difficult to adjust;
for fifteen years of peace have not been enough to calm the angry
feelings of brother Jonathan towards the land of his fathers,
"The which he hateth passing well."
It is hardly needful to say the most courteous amenity of manner
distinguishes the reception given to foreigners by the patrician
class of Americans.
_Gentlemen_, in the old world sense of the term, are the same
every where; and an American gentleman and his family know how to
do the honours of their country to strangers of every nation, as
well as any people on earth. But this class, though it decidedly
exists, is a very small one, and cannot, in justice, be
represented as affording a specimen of the whole.
Most of the houses in New York are painted on the outside, but in
a manner carefully to avoid disfiguring the material which it
preserves: on the contrary, nothing can be neater. They are now
using a great deal of a beautiful stone called Jersey freestone;
it is of a warm rich brown, and extremely ornamental to the city
wherever it has been employed. They have also a grey granite of
great beauty. The trottoir paving, in most of the streets, is
extremely good, being of large flag stones, very superior to the
bricks of Philadelphia.
At night the shops, which are open till very late, are
brilliantly illuminated with gas, and all the population seem as
much alive as in London or Paris. This makes the solemn
stillness of the evening hours in Philadelphia still more
There are a few trees in different parts of the city, and I
observed young ones planted, and guarded with much care; were
they more abundant it would be extremely agreeable, for the
reflected light of their fierce summer sheds intolerable day.
Ice is in profuse abundance; I do not imagine that there is a
house in the city without the luxury of a piece of ice to cool
the water, and harden the butter.
The hackney coaches are the best in the world, but abominably
dear, and it is necessary to be on the _qui vive_ in making your
bargain with the driver; if you do not, he has the power of
charging immoderately. On my first experiment I neglected this,
and was asked two dollars and a half for an excursion of twenty
minutes. When I referred to the waiter of the hotel, he asked if
I had made a bargain. "No." "Then I expect" (with the usual look
of triumph) "that the Yankee has been too smart for you."
The private carriages of New York are infinitely handsomer and
better appointed than any I saw elsewhere; the want of smart
liveries destroys much of the gay effect, but, on the whole, a
New York summer equipage, with the pretty women and beautiful
children it contains, look extremely well in Broadway, and would
not be much amiss anywhere.
The luxury of the New York aristocracy is not confined to the
city; hardly an acre of Manhatten Island but shows some pretty
villa or stately mansion. The most chosen of these are on the
north and east rivers, to whose margins their lawns descend.
Among these, perhaps, the loveliest is one situated in the
beautiful village of Bloomingdale; here, within the space of
sixteen acres, almost every variety of garden scenery may be
found. To describe all its diversity of hill and dale, of wood
and lawn, of rock and river, would be in vain; nor can I convey
an idea of it by comparison, for I never saw anything like it.
How far the elegant hospitality which reigns there may influence
my impression, I know not; but, assuredly, no spot I have ever
seen dwells more freshly on my memory, nor did I ever find myself
in a circle more calculated to give delight in meeting, and
regret at parting, than that of Woodlawn.
Reception of Captain Basil Hall's Book in the United States
Having now arrived nearly at the end of our travels, I am
induced, ere I conclude, again to mention what I consider as one
of the most remarkable traits in the national character of the
Americans; namely, their exquisite sensitiveness and soreness
respecting everything said or written concerning them. Of this,
perhaps, the most remarkable example I can give, is the effect
produced on nearly every class of readers by the appearance of
Captain Basil Hall's "Travels in North America." In fact, it was
a sort of moral earthquake, and the vibration it occasioned
through the nerves of the Republic, from one corner of the Union
to the other, was by no means over when I left the country in
July, 1831, a couple of years after the shock.
I was in Cincinnati when these volumes came out, but it was not
till July, 1830, that I procured a copy of them. One bookseller
to whom I applied, told me that he had had a few copies before he
understood the nature of the work, but that after becoming
acquainted with it, nothing should induce him to sell another.
Other persons of his profession must, however, have been less
scrupulous, for the book was read in city, town, village, and
hamlet, steam-boat, and stage-coach, and a sort of war-whoop was
sent forth perfectly unprecedented in my recollection upon any
It was fortunate for me that I did not procure these volumes till
I had heard them very generally spoken of, for the curiosity I
felt to know the contents of a work so violently anathematised,
led me to make enquiries which elicited a great deal of curious
An ardent desire for approbation, and delicate sensitiveness
under censure, have always, I believe, been considered as amiable
traits of character; but the condition into which the appearance
of Capt. Hall's work threw the Republic, shows plainly that
these feelings, if carried to excess, produce a weakness which
amounts to imbecility.
It was perfectly astonishing to hear men, who, on other subjects,
were sane of judgment, utter their opinions upon this. I never
heard of any instance in which the common sense generally found
in national criticism was so overthrown by passion. I do not
speak of the want of justice, and of fair and liberal
interpretation: these, perhaps, were hardly to be expected.
Other nations have been called thin-skinned, but the citizens of
the Union have, apparently, no skins at all; they wince if a
breeze blows over them, unless it be tempered with adulation. It
was not, therefore, very surprising that the acute and forcible
observations of a traveller they knew would be listened to,
should be received testily. The extraordinary features of the
business were, first, the excess of the rage into which they
lashed themselves; and secondly, the puerility of the inventions
by which they attempted to account for the severity with which
they fancied they had been treated.
Not content with declaring that the volumes contained no word of
truth from beginning to end (which is an assertion I heard made
very nearly as often as they were mentioned), the whole country
set to work to discover the causes why Capt. Hall had visited
the United States, and why he had published his book.
I have heard it said with as much precision and gravity as if the
statement had been conveyed by an official report, that Capt.
Hall had been sent out by the British government expressly for
the purpose of checking the growing admiration of England for the
government of the United States, that it was by a commission from
the Treasury he had come, and that it was only in obedience to
orders that he had found anything to object to.
I do not give this as the gossip of a coterie; I am persuaded
that it is the belief of a very considerable portion of the
country. So deep is the conviction of this singular people that
they cannot be seen without being admired, that they will not
admit the possibility that anyone should honestly and sincerely
find aught to disapprove in them, or their country.
At Philadelphia I met with a little anonymous book, written to
show that Capt. Basil Hall was in no way to be depended on, for
that he not only slandered the Americans, but was himself, in
other respects, a person of very equivocal morals. One proof of
this is given by a quotation of the following playful account of
the distress occasioned by the want of a bell. The commentator
calls it an instance of "shocking coarseness."
"One day I was rather late for breakfast, and as there was no
water in my jug, I set off, post haste, half shaved, half
dressed, and more than half vexed, in quest of water, like a
seaman on short allowance, hunting for rivulets on some unknown
coast. I went up stairs, and down stairs, and in the course of
my researches into half a dozen different apartments, might have
stumbled on some lady's chamber, as the song says, which
considering the plight I was in, would have been awkward enough."
Another indication of this moral coarseness is pointed out in the
passage where Capt. Hall says, he never saw a flirtation all the
time he was in the Union.
The charge of ingratitude also was echoed from mouth to mouth.
That he should himself bear testimony to the unvarying kindness
of the reception he met with, and yet find fault with the
country, was declared on all hands to be a proof of the most
abominable ingratitude that it ever entered into the heart of man
to conceive. I once ventured before about a dozen people to ask
whether more blame would not attach to an author, if he suffered
himself to be bribed by individual kindness to falsify facts,
than if, despite all personal considerations, he stated them
"Facts!" cried the whole circle at once, "facts! I tell you there
is not a word of fact in it from beginning to end."
The American Reviews are, many of them, I believe, well known in
England; I need not, therefore, quote them here, but I sometimes
wondered that they, none of them, ever thought of translating
Obadiah's curse into classic American; if they had done so, only
placing (he, Basil Hall,) between brackets instead of (he,
Obadiah,) it would have saved them a world of trouble.
I can hardly describe the curiosity with which I sat down at
length to pursue these tremendous volumes; still less can I do
justice to my surprise at their contents. To say that I found
not one exaggerated statement throughout the work, is by no means
saying enough. It is impossible for any one who knows the
country not to see that Captain Hall earnestly sought out things
to admire and commend. When he praises, it is with evident
pleasure, and when he finds fault, it is with evident reluctance
and restraint, excepting where motives purely patriotic urge him
to state roundly what it is for the benefit of his country should
In fact, Captain Hall saw the country to the greatest possible
advantage. Furnished, of course, with letters of introduction to
the most distinguished individuals, and with the still more
influential recommendation of his own reputation, he was received
in full drawing-room style and state from one end of the Union to
the other. He saw the country in full dress, and had little or
no opportunity of judging of it unhouselled, disappointed,
unannealed, with all its imperfections on its head, as I and my
family too often had.
Captain Hall had certainly excellent opportunities of making
himself acquainted with the form of the government and the laws;
and of receiving, moreover, the best oral commentary upon them,
in conversation with the most distinguished citizens. Of these
opportunities he made excellent use; nothing important met his
eye which did not receive that sort of analytical attention which
an experienced and philosophical traveller alone can give. This
has made his volumes highly interesting and valuable; but I am
deeply persuaded, that were a man of equal penetration to visit
the United States with no other means of becoming acquainted with
the national character than the ordinary working-day intercourse
of life, he would conceive an infinitely lower idea of the moral
atmosphere of the country than Captain Hall appears to have done;
and the internal conviction on my mind is strong, that if Captain
Hall had not placed a firm restraint on himself, he must have
given expression to far deeper indignation than any he has
uttered against many points in the American character, with which
he shows, from other circumstances, that he was well acquainted.
His rule appears to have been to state just so much of the truth
as would leave on the minds of his readers a correct impression,
at the least cost of pain to the sensitive folks he was writing
about. He states his own opinions and feelings, and leaves it to
be inferred that he has good grounds for adopting them; but he
spares the Americans the bitterness which a detail of the
circumstances would have produced.
If any one chooses to say that some wicked antipathy to twelve
millions of strangers is the origin of my opinion, I must bear
it; and were the question one of mere idle speculation, I
certainly would not court the abuse I must meet for stating it.
But it is not so. I know that among the best, the most pious,
the most benevolent of my countrymen, there are hundreds, nay, I
fear thousands, who conscientiously believe that a greater degree
of political and religious liberty (such as is possessed in
America) would be beneficial for us. How often have I wished,
during my abode in the United States, that one of these
conscientious, but mistaken reasoners, fully possessed of his
country's confidence, could pass a few years in the United
States, sufficiently among the mass of the citizens to know them,
and sufficiently at leisure to trace effects to their causes.
Then might we look for a statement which would teach these
mistaken philanthropists to tremble at every symptom of
democratic power among us; a statement which would make even our
sectarians shudder at the thought of hewing down the Established
Church, for they would be taught, by fearful example, to know
that it was the bulwark which protects us from the gloomy horrors
of fanatic superstition on one side, and the still more dreadful
inroads of infidelity on the other. And more than all, such a
man would see as clear as light, that where every class is
occupied in getting money, and no class in spending it, there
will neither be leisure for worshipping the theory of honesty,
nor motive strong enough to put its restrictive doctrine in
practice. Where every man is engaged in driving hard bargains
with his fellows, where is the honoured class to be found into
which gentleman-like feelings, principles, and practice, are
necessary as an introduction?
That there are men of powerful intellect, benevolent hearts, and
high moral feeling in America, I know: and I could, if challenged
to do so, name individuals surpassed by none of any country in
these qualities; but they are excellent, despite their
institutions, not in consequence of them. It is not by such that
Captain Hall's statements are called slanders, nor is it from
such that I shall meet the abuse which I well know these pages
will inevitably draw upon me; and I only trust I may be
able to muster as much self-denial as my predecessor, who asserts
in his recently published "Fragments," that he has read none of
the American criticisms on his book. He did wisely, if he wished
to retain an atom of his kindly feeling toward America, and he
has, assuredly, lost but little on the score of information, for
these criticisms, generally speaking, consist of mere downright
personal abuse, or querulous complaints of his ingratitude and
ill usage of them; complaints which it is quite astonishing that
any persons of spirit could indulge in.
The following good-humoured paragraphs from the Fragments, must,
I think, rather puzzle the Americans. Possibly they may think
that Captain Hall is quizzing them, when he says he has read none
of their criticisms; but I think there is in these passages
internal evidence that he has not seen them. For if he had read
one-fiftieth part of the vituperation of his Travels, which it
has been my misfortune to peruse, he could hardly have brought
himself to write what follows.
If the Americans still refuse to shake the hand proffered to them
in the true old John Bull spirit, they are worse folks than even
I take them for.
Captain Hall, after describing the hospitable reception he
formerly met with, at a boarding-house in New York, goes on
thus:--"If our hostess be still alive, I hope she will not repent
of having bestowed her obliging attentions on one, who so many
years afterwards made himself, he fears, less popular in her
land, than he could wish to be amongst a people to whom he owes
so much, and for whom he really feels so much kindness. He still
anxiously hopes, however, they will believe him, when he
declares, that, having said in his recent publication no more
than what he conceived was due to strict truth, and to the
integrity of history, as far as his observations and opinions
went, he still feels, as he always has, and ever must continue to
feel towards America, the heartiest good-will.
"The Americans are perpetually repeating that the
foundation-stone of their liberty is fixed on the doctrine, that
every man is free to form his own opinions, and to promulgate
them in candour and in moderation. Is it meant that a foreigner
is excluded from these privileges? If not, may I ask, in what
respect have I passed these limitations? The Americans have
surely no fair right to be offended because my views differ from
their's; and yet I am told I have been rudely handled by the
press of that country. If my motives are distrusted, I can only
say, I am sorely belied. If I am mistaken, regret at my
political blindness were surely more dignified than anger on the
part of those with whom I differ; and if it shall chance that I
am in the right, the best confirmation of the correctness of my
views, in the opinion of indifferent persons, will perhaps be
found in the soreness of those, who wince when the truth is
"Yet, after all, few things would give me more real pleasure,
than to know that my friends across the water would consent to
take me at my word; and, considering what I have said about them
as so much public matter, which it truly is, agree to reckon me,
in my absence, and they always did, when I was amongst them, and,
I am sure, they would count me, if I went back again, as a
private friend. I differed with them in politics, and I differ
with them now as much as ever; but I sincerely wish them
happiness individually; and, as a nation, I shall rejoice if they
prosper. As the Persians write, "What can I say more?" And I
only hope these few words may help to make my peace with people
who justly pride themselves on bearing no malice. As for myself,
I have no peace to make; for I have studiously avoided reading
any of the American criticisms on my book, in order that the
kindly feelings I have ever entertained towards that country
should not be ruffled. By this abstinence I may have lost some
information, and perhaps missed many opportunities of correcting
erroneous impressions. But I set so much store by the pleasing
recollection of the journey itself, and of the hospitality with
which my family were every where received, that whether it be
right, or whether it be wrong, I cannot bring myself to read
anything which might disturb these agreeable associations.
So let us part in peace; or, rather, let us meet again in
cordial communication; and if this little work shall find its
way across the Atlantic, I hope it will be read there without
reference to anything that has passed between us; or, at all
events, with reference only to those parts of our former
intercourse, which are satisfactory to all parties."--_Hall's
I really think it is impossible to read, not only this passage,
but many others in these delightful little volumes, without
feeling that their author is as little likely to deserve the
imputation of harshness and ill-will, as any man that ever lived.
In reading Capt. Hall's volumes on America, the observation
which, I think, struck me the most forcibly, and which certainly
came the most completely home to my own feelings, was the
"In all my travels both amongst Heathens, and amongst Christians,
I have never encountered any people by whom I found it nearly so
difficult to make myself understood as by the Americans."
I have conversed in London and in Paris with foreigners of many
nations, and often through the misty medium of an idiom
imperfectly understood, but I remember no instance in which I
found the same difficulty in conveying my sentiments, my
impressions, and my opinions to those around me, as I did in
America. Whatever faith may be given to my assertion, no one who
has not visited the country can possibly conceive to what extent
it is true. It is less necessary, I imagine, for the mutual
understanding of persons conversing together, that the language
should be the same, than that their ordinary mode of thinking,
and habits of life should, in some degree, assimilate; whereas,
in point of fact, there is hardly a single point of sympathy
between the Americans and us; but whatever the cause, the fact is
certainly as I have stated it, and herein, I think, rests the
only apology for the preposterous and undignified anger felt and
expressed against Capt. Hall's work. They really cannot, even
if they wished it, enter into any of his views, or comprehend his
most ordinary feelings; and, therefore, they cannot believe in
the sincerity of the impressions he describes. The candour which
he expresses, and evidently feels, they mistake for irony, or
totally distrust; his unwillingness to give pain to persons from
whom he has received kindness, they scornfully reject as
affectation; and, although they must know right well, in their
own secret hearts, how infinitely more they lay at his mercy than
he has chosen to betray, they pretend, even to themselves, that
he has exaggerated the bad points of their character and
institutions; whereas, the truth is, that he has let them off
with a degree of tenderness which may be quite suitable for him
to exercise, however little merited; while, at the same time, he
has most industriously magnified their merits, whenever he could
possibly find anything favourable. One can perfectly well
understand why Capt. Hall's avowed Tory principles should be
disapproved of in the United States, especially as (with a
questionable policy in a bookselling point of view, in these
reforming times,) he volunteers a profession of political faith,
in which, to use the Kentucky phrase, "he goes the whole hog,"
and bluntly avows, in his concluding chapter, that he not only
holds stoutly to Church and State, but that he conceives the
English House of Commons to be, if not quite perfect, at least as
much so for all the required purposes of representation as it can
by possibility be made in practice. Such a downright
thorough-going Tory and Anti-reformer, pretending to judge of the
workings of the American democratical system, was naturally held
to be a monstrous abomination, and it has been visited
accordingly, both in America, and as I understand, with us also.
The experience which Capt. Hall has acquired in visits to every
part of the world, during twenty or thirty years, goes for
nothing with the Radicals on either side the Atlantic: on the
contrary, precisely in proportion to the value of that authority
which is the result of actual observation, are they irritated to
find its weight cast into the opposite scale. Had not Capt.
Hall been converted by what he saw in North America, from the
Whig faith he exhibited in his description of South America, his
book would have been far more popular in England during the last
two years of public excitement; it may, perhaps, be long before
any justice is done to Capt. Hall's book in the United States,
but a less time will probably suffice to establish its claim to
attention at home.
Journey to Niagara--Hudson--West Point--Hyde Park--
How quickly weeks glide away in such a city as New York,
especially when you reckon among your friends some of the most
agreeable people in either hemisphere. But we had still a long
journey before us, and one of the wonders of the world was to be
On the 30th of May we set off for Niagara. I had heard so much
of the surpassing beauty of the North River, that I expected to
be disappointed, and to find reality flat after description. But
it is not in the power of man to paint with a strength exceeding
that of nature, in such scenes as the Hudson presents. Every
mile shows some new and startling effect of the combination of
rocks, trees, and water; there is no interval of flat or insipid
scenery, from the moment you enter upon the river at New York, to
that of quitting it at Albany, a distance of 180 miles.
For the first twenty miles the shore of New Jersey, on the left,
offers almost a continued wall of trap rock, which from its
perpendicular form, and lineal fissures, is called the Palisados.
This wall sometimes rises to the height of a hundred and fifty
feet, and sometimes sinks down to twenty. Here and there, a
watercourse breaks its uniformity; and every where the brightest
foliage, in all the splendour of the climate and the season,
fringed and chequered the dark barrier. On the opposite shore,
Manhatten Island, with its leafy coronet gemmed with villas,
forms a lovely contrast to these rocky heights.
After passing Manhatten Island, the eastern shore gradually
assumes a wild and rocky character, but ever varying; woods,
lawns, pastures, and towering cliffs all meet the eye in quick
succession, as the giant steam-boat cleaves its swift passage up
For several miles the voyage is one of great interest independent
of its beauty, for it passes many points where important events
of the revolutionary war took place.
It was not without a pang that I looked on the spot where poor
Andre was taken, and another where he was executed.
Several forts, generally placed in most commanding situations,
still show by their battered ruins, where the struggle was
strongest, and I felt no lack of that moral interest so entirely
wanting in the new States, and without which no journey can, I
think, continue long without wearying the spirits.
About forty miles from New York you enter upon the Highlands, as
a series of mountains which then flank the river on both sides,
are called. The beauty of this scenery can only be conceived
when it is seen. One might fancy that these capricious masses,
with all their countless varieties of light and shade, were
thrown together to show how passing lovely rocks and woods, and
water could be. Sometimes a lofty peak shoots suddenly up into
the heavens, showing in bold relief against the sky; and then a
deep ravine sinks in solemn shadow, and draws the imagination
into its leafy recesses. For several miles the river appears to
form a succession of lakes; you are often enclosed on all sides
by rocks rising directly from the very edge of the stream, and
then you turn a point, the river widens, and again woods, lawns,
and villages are reflected on its bosom.
The state prison of Sing Sing is upon the edge of the water, and
has no picturesque effect to atone for the painful images it
suggests; the "Sleepy Hollow" of Washington Irving, just above
it, restores the imagination to a better tone.
West Point, the military academy of the United States, is fifty
miles from New York. The scenery around it is magnificent, and
though the buildings of the establishment are constructed with
the handsome and unpicturesque regularity which marks the work of
governments, they are so nobly placed, and so embosomed in woods,
that they look beautiful. The lengthened notes of a French horn,
which I presume was attending some of their military manoeuvres,
sounded with deep and solemn sweetness as we passed.
About thirty miles further is Hyde Park, the magnificent seat of
Dr. Hosack; here the misty summit of the distant Kaatskill begins
to form the outline of the landscape; it is hardly possible to
imagine anything more beautiful than this place. We passed a day
there with great enjoyment; and the following morning set forward
again in one of those grand floating hotels called steamboats.
Either on this day, or the one before, we had two hundred cabin
passengers on board, and they all sat down together to a table
spread abundantly, and with considerable elegance. A continual
succession of gentlemen's seats, many of them extremely handsome,
borders the river to Albany. We arrived there late in the
evening, but had no difficulty in finding excellent
Albany is the state capital of New York, and has some very
handsome public buildings; there are also some curious relics of
the old Dutch inhabitants.
The first sixteen miles from Albany we travelled in a stage, to
avoid a multitude of locks at the entrance of the Erie canal; but
at Scenectedy we got on board one of the canal packet-boats for
With a very delightful party, of one's own choosing, fine
temperate weather, and a strong breeze to chase the mosquitos,
this mode of travelling might be very agreeable, but I can hardly
imagine any motive of convenience powerful enough to induce me
again to imprison myself in a canal boat under ordinary
circumstances. The accommodations being greatly restricted,
every body, from the moment of entering the boat, acts upon a
system of unshrinking egotism. The library of a dozen books, the
backgammon board, the tiny berths, the shady side of the cabin,
are all jostled for in a manner to make one greatly envy the
power of the snail; at the moment I would willingly have given up
some of my human dignity for the privilege of creeping into a
shell of my own. To any one who has been accustomed in
travelling, to be addressed with, "Do sit here, you will find it
more comfortable," the "You must go there, I made for this place
first," sounds very unmusical.
There is a great quietness about the women of America (I speak of
the exterior manner of persons casually met), but somehow or
other, I should never call it gentleness. In such trying moments
as that of _fixing_ themselves on board a packet-boat, the men
are prompt, determined, and will compromise any body's
convenience, except their own. The women are doggedly stedfast
in their will, and till matters are settled, look like hedgehogs,
with every quill raised, and firmly set, as if to forbid the
approach of any one who might wish to rub them down. In
circumstances where an English woman would look proud, and a
French woman _nonchalante_, an American lady looks grim; even the
youngest and the prettiest can set their lips, and knit their
brows, and look as hard and unsocial as their grandmothers.
Though not in the Yankee or New England country, we were
bordering upon it sufficiently to meet in the stages and boats
many delightful specimens of this most peculiar race. I like
them extremely well, but I would not wish to have any business
transactions with them, if I could avoid it, lest, to use their
own phrase, "they should be too smart for me."
It is by no means rare to meet elsewhere, in this working-day
world of our's, people who push acuteness to the verge of
honesty, and sometimes, perhaps, a little bit beyond; but, I
believe, the Yankee is the only one who will be found to boast
of doing so. It is by no means easy to give a clear and just
idea of a Yankee; if you hear his character from a Virginian,
you will believe him a devil: if you listen to it from himself,
you might fancy him a god--though a tricky one; Mercury turned
righteous and notable. Matthews did very well, as far as "I
expect," "I calculate," and "I guess;" but this is only the
shell; there is an immense deal within, both of sweet and bitter.
In acuteness, cautiousness, industry, and perseverance, he
resembles the Scotch; in habits of frugal neatness, he resembles
the Dutch; in love of lucre he doth greatly resemble the sons of
Abraham; but in frank admission, and superlative admiration of
all his own peculiarities, he is like nothing on earth but
The Quakers have been celebrated for the pertinacity with which
they avoid giving a direct answer, but what Quaker could ever vie
with a Yankee in this sort of fencing? Nothing, in fact, can
equal their skill in evading a question, excepting that with
which they set about asking one. I am afraid that in repeating a
conversation which I overheard on board the Erie canal boat, I
shall spoil it, by forgetting some of the little delicate
doublings which delighted me--yet I wrote it down immediately.
Both parties were Yankees, but strangers to each other; one of
them having, by gentle degrees, made himself pretty well
acquaninted with the point from which every one on board had
started, and that for which he was bound, at last attacked his
brother Reynard thus:-
"Well, now, which way may you be travelling?"
"I expect this canal runs pretty nearly west."
"Are you going far with it?"
"Well, now, I don't rightly know how many miles it may be."
"I expect you'll be from New York?"
"Sure enough I have been at New York, often and often."
"I calculate, then, 'tis not there as you stop?"
"Business must be minded, in stopping and in stirring."
"You may say that. Well, I look then you'll be making for the
"Folks say as all the world is making for the Springs, and I
except a good sight of them is."
"Do you calculate upon stopping long when you get to your
"'Tis my business must settle that, I expect?"
"I guess that's true, too; but you'll be for making pleasure a
business for once, I calculate?"
"My business don't often lie in that line."
"Then, may be, it is not the Springs as takes you this line?"
"The Springs is a right elegant place, I reckon."
"It is your health, I calculate, as makes you break your good
"My health don't trouble me much, I guess."
"No? Why that's well. How is the markets, sir? Are bread
"I a'nt just capable to say."
"A deal of money's made by just looking after the article at the
"You may say that."
"Do you look to be making great dealings in produce up the
"Why that, I expect, is difficult to know."
"I calculate you'll find the markets changeable these times?"
"No markets ben't very often without changing."
"Why, that's right down true. What may be your biggest article
"I calculate, generally, that's the biggest, as I makes most by."
"You may say that. But what do you chiefly call your most
"Why, that's what I can't justly say."
And so they went on, without advancing or giving an inch, 'till I
was weary of listening; but I left them still at it, when I
stepped out to resume my station on a trunk at the bow of the
boat, where I scribbled in my note-book this specimen of Yankee
The Erie canal has cut through much solid rock, and we often
passed between magnificent cliffs. The little falls of the
Mohawk form a lovely scene; the rocks over which the river runs
are most fantastic in form. The fall continues nearly a mile,
and a beautiful village, called the Little Falls, overhangs it.
As many locks occur at this point, we quitted the boat, that we
might the better enjoy the scenery, which is of the widest
description. Several other passengers did so likewise, and I was
much amused by one of our Yankees, who very civilly accompanied
our party, pointing out to me the wild state of the country, and
apologizing for it, by saying, that the property all round
thereabouts had been owned by an Englishman; "and you'll excuse
me, ma'am, but when the English gets a spot of wild ground like
this here, they have no notions about it like us; but the
Englishman have sold it, and if you was to see it five years
hence, you would not know it again; I'll engage there will be by
that, half a score elegant factories--'tis a true shame to let
such a privilege of water lie idle."
We reached Utica at twelve o'clock the following day, pretty
well fagged by the sun by day, and a crowded cabin by night;
lemon-juice and iced-water (without sugar) kept us alive. But
for this delightful recipe, feather fans, and eau de Cologne, I
think we should have failed altogether; the thermometer stood at
At two, we set off in a very pleasant airy carriage for Trenton
Falls, a delightful drive of fourteen miles. These falls have
become within the last few years only second in fame to Niagara.
The West Canada Creek, which in the map shows but as a paltry
stream, has found its way through three miles of rock, which, at
many points, is 150 feet high. A forest of enormous cedars is on
their summit; and many of that beautiful species of white cedar
which droops its branches like the weeping-willow grow in the
clefts of the rock, and in some places almost dip their dark
foliage in the torrent. The rock is of a dark grey limestone,
and often presents a wall of unbroken surface. Near the hotel a
flight of very alarming steps leads down to the bed of the
stream, and on reaching it you find yourself enclosed in a deep
abyss of solid rock, with no visible opening but that above your
head. The torrent dashes by with inconceivable rapidity; its
colour is black as night, and the dark ledge of rock on which you
stand, is so treacherously level with it, that nothing warns you
of danger. Within the last three years two young people, though
surrounded by their friends, have stepped an inch too far, and
disappeared from among them, as if by magic, never to revisit
earth again. This broad flat ledge reached but a short distance,
and then the perpendicular wall appears to stop your farther
progress; but there is a spirit of defiance in the mind of man;
he will not be stayed either by rocks or waves. By the aid of
gunpowder a sufficient quantity of the rock has been removed to
afford a fearful footing round a point, which, when doubled,
discloses a world of cataracts, all leaping forward together in
most magnificent confusion. I suffered considerably before I
reached the spot where this grand scene is visible; a chain
firmly fastened to the rock serves to hang by, as you creep along
the giddy verge, and this enabled me to proceed so far; but here
the chain failed, and my courage with it, though the rest of the
party continued for some way farther, and reported largely of
still increasing sublimity. But my knees tottered, and my head
swam, so while the rest crept onward, I sat down to wait their
return on the floor of rock which had received us on quitting
A hundred and fifty feet of bare black rock on one side, an equal
height covered with solemn cedars on the other, an unfathomed
torrent roaring between them, the fresh remembrance of the
ghastly legend belonging to the spot, and the idea of my children
clinging to the dizzy path I had left, was altogether sombre
enough; but I had not sat long before a tremendous burst of
thunder shook the air; the deep chasm answered from either side,
again, again, and again; I thought the rock I sat upon trembled:
but the whole effect was so exceedingly grand, that I had no
longer leisure to think of fear; my children immediately
returned, and we enjoyed together the darkening shadows cast over
the abyss, the rival clamour of the torrent and the storm, and
that delightful exaltation of the spirits which sets danger at
defiance. A few heavy rain drops alarmed us more than all the
terrors of the spot, or rather, they recalled our senses, and we
retreated by the fearful steps, reaching our hotel unwetted and
unharmed. The next morning we were again early a foot; the last
night's storm had refreshed the air, and renewed our strength.
We now took a different route, and instead of descending, as
before, walked through the dark forest along the cliff,
sufficiently near its edge to catch fearful glimpses of the scene
below. After some time the patch began to descend, and at length
brought us to the Shantee, commemorated in Miss Sedgwick's
Clarence. This is by far the finest point of the falls. There
is a little balcony in front of the Shantee, literally hanging
over the tremendous whirlpool; though frail, it makes one fancy
oneself in safety, and reminded me of the feeling with which I
have stood on one side a high gate, watching a roaring bull on
the other. The walls of this Shantee are literally covered with
autographs, and I was inclined to join the laugh against the
egotistical trifling, when one of the party discovered "Trollope,
England," amidst the innumerable scrawls. The well known
characters were hailed with such delight, that I think I shall
never again laugh at any one for leaving their name where it is
possible a friend may find it.
We returned to Utica to dinner, and found that we must either
wait till the next day for the Rochester coach, or again submit
to the packet-boat. Our impatience induced us to prefer the
latter, not very wisely, I think, for every annoyance seemed to
increase upon us. The Oneida and the Genesee country are both
extremely beautiful, but had we not returned by another route we
should have known little about it. From the canal nothing is
seen to advantage, and very little is seen at all. My chief
amusement, I think, was derived from names. One town, consisting
of a whiskey store and a warehouse, is called Port Byron. At
Rome, the first name I saw over a store was Remus, doing infinite
honour, I thought, to the classic lore of his godfathers and
godmothers; but it would be endless to record all the drolleries
of this kind which we met with. We arrived at Rochester, a
distance of a hundred and forty miles, on the second morning
after leaving Utica, fully determined never to enter a canal boat
again, at least, not in America.
Rochester is one of the most famous of the cities built on the
Jack and Bean-stalk principle. There are many splendid edifices
in wood; and certainly more houses, warehouses, factories, and
steam-engines than ever were collected together in the same space
of time; but I was told by a fellow-traveller that the stumps of
the forest are still to be found firmly rooted in the cellars.
The fall of the Genesee is close to the town, and in the course
of a few months will, perhaps, be in the middle of it. It is a
noble sheet of water, of a hundred and sixty feet perpendicular
fall; but I looked at it through the window of a factory, and as
I did not like that, I was obligingly handed to the door-way of a
sawing-mill; in short, "the great water privilege" has been so
ingeniously taken advantage of, that no point can be found where
its voice and its movement are not mixed and confounded with
those of the "admirable machinery of this flourishing city."
The Genesee fall is renowned as being the last and fatal leap of
the adventurous madman, Sam Patch; he had leaped it once before,
and rose to the surface of the river in perfect safety, but the
last time he was seen to falter as he took the leap, and was
never heard of more. It seems that he had some misgivings of his
fate, for a pet bear, which he had always taken with him on his
former break-neck adventures, and which had constantly leaped
after him without injury, he on this occasion left behind, in the
care of a friend, to whom he bequeathed him "in case of his not
returning." We saw the bear, which is kept at the principal
hotel; he is a noble creature, and more completely tame than I
ever saw any animal of the species.
Our journey now became wilder every step, the unbroken forest
often skirted the road for miles, and the sight of a log-hut was
an event. Yet the road was, for the greater part of the day,
good, running along a natural ridge, just wide enough for it.
This ridge is a very singular elevation, and, by all the enquiry
I could make, the favourite theory concerning it is, that it was
formerly the boundary of Lake Ontario, near which it passes.
When this ridge ceased, the road ceased too, and for the rest of
the way to Lockport, we were most painfully jumbled and jolted
over logs and through bogs, till every joint was nearly
Lockport is beyond all comparison, the strangest looking place I
ever beheld. As fast as half a dozen trees were cut down, a
_factory_ was raised up; stumps still contest the ground with
pillars, and porticos are seen to struggle with rocks. It looks
as if the demon of machinery, having invaded the peaceful realms
of nature, had fixed on Lockport as the battle-ground on which
they should strive for mastery. The fiend insists that the
streams should go one way, though the gentle mother had ever led
their dancing steps another; nay, the very rocks must fall before
him, and take what form he wills. The battle is lost and won.
Nature is fairly routed and driven from the field, and the
rattling, crackling, hissing, spitting demon has taken possession
of Lockport for ever.
We slept there, dismally enough. I never felt more out of humour
at what the Americans call improvement; it is, in truth, as it
now stands, a most hideous place, and gladly did I leave it
Our next stage was to Lewiston; for some miles before we reached
it we were within sight of the British frontier; and we made our
The monument of the brave General Brock stands on an elevated
point near Queenstown, and is visible at a great distance.
We breakfasted at Lewiston, but felt every cup of coffee as a
sin, so impatient were we, as we approached the end of our long
pilgrimage, to reach the shrine, which nature seems to have
placed at such a distance from her worshippers on purpose to try
the strength of their devotion.
A few miles more would bring us to the high altar, but first we
had to cross the ferry, for we were determined upon taking our
first view from British ground. The Niagara river is very lovely
here; the banks are bold, rugged, and richly coloured, both by
rocks and woods; and the stream itself is bright, clear, and
In crossing the ferry a fellow-passenger made many enquiries of
the young boatman respecting the battle of Queenstown; he was but
a lad, and could remember little about it, but he was a British
lad, and his answers smacked strongly of his loyal British
feeling. Among other things, the questioner asked if many
American citizens had not been thrown from the heights into the
"Why, yes, there was a good many of them; but it was right to
show them there was water between us, and you know it might help
to keep the rest of them from coming to trouble us on our own
This phrase, "our own ground," gave interest to every mile, or I
believe I should have shut my eyes, and tried to sleep, that I
might annihilate what remained of time and space between me and
But I was delighted to see British oaks, and British roofs, and
British boys and girls. These latter, as if to impress upon us
that they were not citizens, made bows and courtseys as we
passed, and this little touch of long unknown civility produced
great effect. "See these dear children, mamma! do they not look
English? how I love them!" was the exclamation it produced.
Niagara--Arrival at Forsythes--First sight of the Falls--
Goat Island--The Rapids--Buffalo--Lake Erie--Canandaigna--
At length we reached Niagara. It was the brightest day that June
could give; and almost any day would have seemed bright that
brought me to the object, which for years, I had languished to
We did not hear the sound of the Falls till very near the hotel,
which overhangs them; as you enter the door you see behind the
hall an open space surrounded by galleries, one above another,
and in an instant you feel that from thence the wonder is
I trembled like a fool, and my girls clung to me, trembling too,
I believe, but with faces beaming with delight. We encountered a
waiter who had a sympathy of some sort with us, for he would not
let us run through the hall to the first gallery, but ushered us
up stairs, and another instant placed us where, at one glance, I
saw all I had wished for, hoped for, dreamed of.
It is not for me to attempt a description of Niagara; I feel I
have no powers for it.
After one long, stedfast gaze, we quitted the gallery that we
might approach still nearer, and in leaving the house had the
good fortune to meet an English gentleman, (The accomplished
author of "Cyril Thornton.") who had been introduced to us at New
York; he had preceded us by a few days, and knew exactly how and
where to lead us. If any man living can describe the scene we
looked upon it is himself, and I trust he will do it. As for
myself, I can only say, that wonder, terror, and delight
completely overwhelmed me. I wept with a strange mixture of
pleasure and of pain, and certainly was, for some time, too
violently affected in the _physique_ to be capable of much
pleasure; but when this emotion of the senses subsided, and I had
recovered some degree of composure, my enjoyment was very great
To say that I was not disappointed is but a weak expression to
convey the surprise and astonishment which this long dreamed of
scene produced. It has to me something beyond its vastness;
there is a shadowy mystery hangs about it which neither the eye
nor even the imagination can penetrate; but I dare not dwell on
this, it is a dangerous subject, and any attempt to describe the
sensations produced must lead direct to nonsense.
Exactly at the Fall, it is the Fall and nothing else you have to
look upon; there are not, as at Trenton, mighty rocks and
towering forests, there is only the waterfall; but it is the fall
of an ocean, and were Pelion piled on Ossa on either side of it,
we could not look at them.
The noise is greatly less than I expected; one can hear with
perfect distinctness everything said in an ordinary tone, when
quite close to the cataract. The cause of this, I imagine to be,
that it does not fall immediately among rocks, like the far
noisier Potomac, but direct and unbroken, save by its own
rebound. The colour of the water, before this rebound hides it
in foam and mist, is of the brightest and most delicate green;
the violence of the impulse sends it far over the precipice
before it falls, and the effect of the ever varying light through
its transparency is, I think, the loveliest thing I ever looked
We descended to the edge of the gulf which received the torrent,
and thence looked at the horse-shoe fall in profile; it seems
like awful daring to stand close beside it, and raise one's eyes
to its immensity. I think the point the most utterly
inconceivable to those who have not seen it, is the centre of the
horse-shoe. The force of the torrent converges there, and as the
heavy mass pours in, twisted, wreathed, and curled together, it
gives an idea of irresistible power, such as no other object ever
conveyed to me.
The following anecdote, which I had from good authority, may give
some notion of this mighty power.
After the last American war, three of our ships stationed on Lake
Erie were declared unfit for service, and condemned. Some of
their officers obtained permission to send them over Niagara
Falls. The first was torn to shivers by the rapids, and went
over in fragments; the second filled with water before she
reached the fall; but the third, which was in better condition,
took the leap gallantly, and retained her form till it was hid in
the cloud of mist below. A reward of ten dollars was offered for
the largest fragment of wood that should be found from either
wreck, five for the second, and so on. One morsel only was ever
seen, and that about a foot in length, was mashed as by a vice,
and its edges notched like the teeth of a saw. What had become
of the immense quantity of wood which had been precipitated? What
unknown whirlpool had engulphed it, so that, contrary to the very
laws of nature, no vestige of the floating material could find
its way to the surface?
Beyond the horse-shoe is Goat Island, and beyond Goat Island the
American fall, bold, straight, and chafed to snowy whiteness by
the rocks which meet it; but it does not approach, in sublimity
or awful beauty, to the wondrous crescent on the other shore.
There, the form of the mighty cauldron, into which the deluge
poors, the hundred silvery torrents congregating round its verge,
the smooth and solemn movement with which it rolls its massive
volume over the rock, the liquid emerald of its long unbroken
waters, the fantastic wreaths which spring to meet it, and then,
the shadowy mist that veils the horrors of its crash below,
constitute a scene almost too enormous in its features for man to
look upon. "Angels might tremble as they gazed;" and I should
deem the nerves obtuse, rather than strong, which did not quail
at the first sight of this stupendous cataract.
Minute local particulars can be of no interest to those who have
not felt their influence for pleasure or for pain. I will not
tell of giddy stairs which scale the very edge of the torrent,
nor of beetling slabs of table rock, broken and breaking, on
which, shudder as you may, you must take your stand or lose your
reputation as a tourist. All these feats were performed again
and again even on the first day of our arrival, and most earthly
weary was I when the day was done, though I would not lose the
remembrance of it to purchase the addition of many soft and
silken ones to my existence.
By four o'clock the next morning I was again at the little
shantee, close to the horse-shoe fall, which seems reared in
water rather than in air, and took an early shower-bath of spray.
Much is concealed at this early hour by the heavy vapour, but
there was a charm in the very obscurity; and every moment, as the
light increased, cloud after cloud rolled off, till the vast
wonder was again before me.
It is in the afternoon that the rainbow is visible from the
British side; and it is a lovely feature in the mighty landscape.
The gay arch springs from fall to fall, a fairy bridge.
After breakfast we crossed to the American side, and explored
Goat Island. The passage across the Niagara, directly in face of
the falls, is one of the most delightful little voyages
imaginable; the boat crosses marvellously near them, and within
reach of a light shower of spray. Real safety and apparent
danger have each their share in the pleasure felt. The river is
here two hundred feet deep. The passage up the rock brings you
close upon the American cataract; it is a vast sheet, and has all
the sublimity that height and width, and uproar can give; but it
has none of the magic of its rival about it. Goat Island has, at
all points, a fine view of the rapids; the furious velocity with
which they rush onward to the abyss is terrific; and the throwing
a bridge across them was a work of noble daring.
Below the falls, the river runs between lofty rocks, crowned with
unbroken forests; this scene forms a striking contrast to the
level shores above the cataract. It appears as if the level of
the river had been broken up by some volcanic force. The Niagara
flows out of Lake Erie, a broad, deep river; but for several
miles its course is tranquil, and its shores perfectly level. By
degrees its bed begins to sink, and the glassy smoothness is
disturbed by a slight ripple. The inverted trees, that before
lay so softly still upon its bosom, become twisted and tortured
till they lose their form, and seem madly to mix in the tumult
that destroys them. The current becomes more rapid at every
step, till rock after rock has chafed the stream to fury, making
the green one white. This lasts for a mile, and then down sink
the rocks at once, one hundred and fifty feet, and the enormous
flood falls after them. God said, let there be a cataract, and
it was so. When the river has reached its new level, the
precipice on either side shows a terrific chasm of solid rock;
some beautiful plants are clinging to its sides, and oak, ash,
and cedar, in many places, clothe their terrors with rich
This violent transition from level shores to a deep ravine, seems
to indicate some great convulsion as its cause, and when I heard
of a burning spring close by, I fancied the volcanic power still
at work, and that the wonders of the region might yet increase.
We passed four delightful days of excitement and fatigue; we
drenched ourselves in spray; we cut our feet on the rocks; we
blistered our faces in the sun; we looked up the cataract, and
down the cataract; we perched ourselves on every pinnacle we
could find; we dipped our fingers in the flood at a few yards'
distance from its thundering fall; in short, we strove to fill as
many niches of memory with Niagara as possible; and I think the
images will be within the power of recall for ever.
We met many groups of tourists in our walks, chiefly American,
but they were, or we fancied they were, but little observant of
the wonders around them.
One day we were seated on a point of the cliff, near the ferry,
which commands a view of both the Falls. This, by the way, is
considered as the finest general view of the scene. One of our
party was employed in attempting to sketch, what, however, I
believe it is impossible for any pencil to convey an idea of to
those who have not seen it. We had borrowed two or three chairs
from a neighbouring cottage, and amongst us had gathered a
quantity of boughs which, with the aid of shawls and parasols, we
had contrived to weave into a shelter from the midday sun, so
that altogether I have no doubt we looked very cool and
A large party who had crossed from the American side, wound up
the steep ascent from the place where the boat had left them; in
doing so their backs were turned to the cataracts, and as they
approached the summit, our party was the principal object before
them. They all stood perfectly still to look at us. This first
examination was performed at the distance of about a dozen yard
from the spot we occupied, and lasted about five minutes, by
which time they had recovered breath, and acquired courage. They
then advanced in a body, and one or two of them began to examine
(wrong side upwards) the work of the sketcher, in doing which
they stood precisely between him and his object; but of this I
think it is very probable they were not aware. Some among them
next began to question us as to how long we had been at the
Falls; whether there were much company; if we were not from the
old country, and the like. In return we learnt that they were
just arrived; yet not one of them (there were eight) ever turned
the head, even for a moment, to look at the most stupendous
spectacle that nature has to show.
The company at the hotel changed almost every day. Many parties
arrived in the morning, walked to the falls; returned to the
hotel to dinner, and departed by the coach immediately after it.
Many groups were indescribably whimsical, both in appearance and
manner. Now and then a first-rate dandy shot in among us, like a
On one occasion, when we were in the beautiful gallery, at the
back of the hotel, which overlooks the horse-shoe fall, we saw
the booted leg of one of this graceful race protruded from the
window which commands the view, while his person was thrown back
in his chair, and his head enveloped in a cloud of tobacco smoke.
I have repeatedly remarked, when it has happened to me to meet
any ultra fine men among the wilder and more imposing scenes of
our own land, that they throw off, in a great degree, their
airs, and their "townliness," as some one cleverly calls these
_simagrees_, as if ashamed to "play their fantastic tricks"
before the god of nature, when so forcibly reminded of his
presence; and more than once on these occasions I have been
surprised to find how much intellect lurked behind the inane
mask of fashion. But in America the effect of fine scenery
upon this class of persons is different, for it is exactly
when amongst it, that the most strenuous efforts at elegant
_nonchalance_ are perceptible among the young exquisites of the
western world. It is true that they have little leisure for the
display of grace in the daily routine of commercial activity in
which their lives are passed, and this certainly offers a
satisfactory explanation of the fact above stated.
Fortunately for our enjoyment, the solemn character of the scene
was but little broken in upon by these gentry. Every one who
comes to Forsythe's Hotel (except Mrs. Bogle Corbet), walks to
the shantee, writes their name in a book which is kept there,
and, for the most part, descends by the spiral staircase which
leads from the little platform before it, to the rocks below.
Here they find another shantee, but a few yards from the entrance
of that wondrous cavern which is formed by the falling flood on
one side, and by the mighty rock over which it pours, on the
other. To this frail shelter from the wild uproar, and the
blinding spray, nearly all the touring gentlemen, and even many
of the pretty ladies, find their way. But here I often saw their
noble daring fail, and have watched them dripping and draggled
turn again to the sheltering stairs, leaving us in full
possession of the awful scene we so dearly loved to gaze upon.
How utterly futile must every attempt be to describe the spot!
How vain every effort to convey an idea of the sensations it
produces! Why is it so exquisite a pleasure to stand for hours
drenched in spray, stunned by the ceaseless roar, trembling from
the concussion that shakes the very rock you cling to, and
breathing painfully in the moist atmosphere that seems to have
less of air than water in it? Yet pleasure it is, and I almost
think the greatest I ever enjoyed. We more than once approached
the entrance to this appalling cavern, but I never fairly entered
it, though two or three of my party did. I lost my breath
entirely; and the pain at my chest was so severe, that not all my
curiosity could enable me to endure it.
What was that cavern of the winds, of which we heard of old,
compared to this? A mightier spirit than Aeolus reigns here.
Nor was this spot of dread and danger the only one in which we
found ourselves alone. The path taken by "the company" to the
shantee, which contained the "book of names" was always the same;
this wound down the steep bank from the gate of the hotel garden,
and was rendered tolerably easy by its repeated doublings; but it
was by no means the best calculated to manage to advantage the
pleasure of the stranger in his approach to the spot. All
others, however, seemed left for us alone.
During our stay we saw the commencement of another staircase,
intended to rival in attraction that at present in use; it is but
a few yards from it, and can in no way, I think, contribute to
the convenience of the descent. The erection of the central
shaft of this spiral stair was a most tremendous operation, and
made me sick and giddy as I watched it. After it had been made
fast at the bottom, the carpenters swung themselves off the
rocks, by the means of ropes, to the beams which traversed it;
and as they sat across them, in the midst of the spray and the
uproar, I thought I had never seen life periled so wantonly. But
the work proceeded without accident, and was nearly finished
before we left the hotel.
It was a sort of pang to take what we knew must be our last look
at Niagara; but "we had to do it," as the Americans say, and left
it on the 10th June, for Buffalo.
The drive along the river, above the Falls, is as beautiful as a
clear stream of a mile in width can make it; and the road
continues close to it till you reach the ferry at Black Rock.
We welcomed, almost with a shout, the British colours which we
saw, for the first time, on Commodore Barrie's pretty sloop, the
_Bull Dog_, which we passed as it was towing up the river to Lake
Erie, the commodore being about to make a tour of the lakes.
At Black Rock we crossed again into the United States, and a few
miles of horrible jolting brought us to Buffalo.
Of all the thousand and one towns I saw in America, I think
Buffalo is the queerest looking; it is not quite so wild as
Lockport, but all the buildings have the appearance of having
been run up in a hurry, though every thing has an air of great
pretension; there are porticos, columns, domes, and colonnades,
but all in wood. Every body tells you there, as in all their
other new-born towns, and every body believes, that their
improvement, and their progression, are more rapid, more
wonderful, than the earth ever before witnessed; while to me,
the only wonder is, how so many thousands, nay millions of
persons, can be found, in the nineteenth century, who can be
content so to live. Surely this country may be said to spread
rather than to rise.
The Eagle Hotel, an immense wooden fabric, has all the
pretension of a splendid establishment, but its monstrous
corridors, low ceilings, and intricate chambers, gave me the
feeling of a catacomb rather than a house. We arrived after
the _table d'hote_ tea-drinking was over, and supped comfortably
enough with a gentleman, who accompanied us from the Falls: but
the next morning we breakfasted in a long, low, narrow room,
with a hundred persons, and any thing less like comfort can
hardly be imagined.
What can induce so many intellectual citizens to prefer these
long, silent tables, scantily covered with morsels of fried ham,
salt fish and liver, to a comfortable loaf of bread with their
wives and children at home? How greatly should I prefer eating
my daily meals with my family, in an Indian wig-wam, to boarding
at a _table d'hote_ in these capacious hotels; the custom,
however, seems universal through the country, at least we have
met it, without a shadow of variation as to its general features,
from New Orleans to Buffalo.
Lake Erie has no beauty to my eyes; it is not the sea, and it is
not the river, nor has it the beautiful scenery generally found
round smaller lakes. The only interest its unmeaning expanse
gave me, arose from remembering that its waters, there so tame
and tranquil, were destined to leap the gulf of Niagara. A
dreadful road, through forests only beginning to be felled,
brought us to Avon; it is a straggling, ugly little place, and
not any of their "Romes, Carthages, Ithacas, or Athens," ever
provoked me by their name so much. This Avon flows sweetly with
nothing but whiskey and tobacco juice.
The next day's journey was much more interesting, for it showed
us the lake of Canandaigua. It is about eighteen miles long, but
narrow enough to bring the opposite shore, clothed with rich
foliage, near to the eye; the back-ground is a ridge of
mountains. Perhaps the state of the atmosphere lent an unusual
charm to the scene; one of those sudden thunderstorms, so rapid
in approach, and so sombre in colouring, that they change the
whole aspect of things in a moment, rose over the mountains and
passed across the lake while we looked upon it. Another feature
in the scene gave a living, but most sad interest to it. A
glaring wooden hotel, as fine as paint and porticos can make it,
overhangs the lake; beside it stands a shed for cattle. To this
shed, and close by the white man's mushroom palace, two Indians
had crept to seek a shelter from the storm. The one was an aged
man, whose venerable head in attitude and expression indicated
the profoundest melancholy: the other was a youth, and in his
deep-set eye there was a quiet sadness more touching still.
There they stood, the native rightful lords of the fair land,
looking out upon the lovely lake which yet bore the name their
fathers had given it, watching the threatening storm that brooded
there; a more fearful one had already burst over them.
Though I have mentioned the lake first, the little town of
Canandaigua precedes it, in returning from the West. It is as
pretty a village as ever man contrived to build. Every house is
surrounded by an ample garden, and at that flowery season they
were half buried in roses.
It is true these houses are of wood, but they are so neatly
painted, in such perfect repair, and show so well within their
leafy setting, that it is impossible not to admire them.
Forty-six miles farther is Geneva, beautifully situated on Seneca
Lake. This, too, is a lovely sheet of water, and I think the
town may rival its European namesake in beauty.
We slept at Auburn, celebrated for its prison, where the
highly-approved system of American discipline originated. In
this part of the country there is no want of churches; every
little village has its wooden temple, and many of them too; that
the Methodists and Presbyterians may not clash.
We passed through an Indian reserve, and the untouched forests
again hung close upon the road. Repeated groups of Indians
passed us, and we remarked that they were much cleaner and better
dressed than those we had met wandering far from their homes.
The blankets which they use so gracefully as mantles were as
white as snow.
We took advantage of the loss of a horse's shoe, to leave the
coach, and approach a large party of them, consisting of men,
women, and children, who were regaling themselves with I know not
what, but milk made a part of the repast. They could not talk to
us, but they received us with smiles, and seemed to understand
when we asked if they had mocassins to sell, for they shook their
sable locks, and answered "no." A beautiful grove of butternut
trees was pointed out to us, as the spot where the chiefs of the
six nations used to hold their senate; our informer told me that
he had been present at several of their meetings, and though he
knew but little of their language, the power of their eloquence
was evident from the great effect it produced among themselves.
Towards the end of this day, we encountered an adventure which
revived our doubts whether the invading white men, in chasing
the poor Indians from their forests, have done much towards
civilizing the land. For myself, I almost prefer the indigenous
manner to the exotic.
The coach stopped to take in "a lady" at Vernon; she entered, and
completely filled the last vacant inch of our vehicle; for "we
were eight" before.
But no sooner was she seated, than her _beau_ came forward with a
most enormous wooden best-bonnet box. He paused for a while to
meditate the possibilities--raised it, as if to place it on our
laps--sunk it, as if to put it beneath our feet. Both alike
appeared impossible; when, in true Yankee style he addressed one
of our party with. If you'll just step out a minute, I guess
I'll find room for it."
"Perhaps so. But how shall I find room for myself afterwards?"
This was uttered in European accents, and in an instant half a
dozen whiskey drinkers stepped from before the whiskey store, and
took the part of the _beau_.
"That's because you'll be English travellers I expect, but we
have travelled in better countries than Europe--we have travelled
in America--and the box will go, I calculate."
We remonstrated on the evident injustice of the proceeding, and I
ventured to say, that as we had none of us any luggage in the
carriage, because the space was so very small, I thought a chance
passenger could have no right so greatly to incommode us.
"Right!--there they go--that's just their way--that will do in
Europe, may be; it sounds just like English tyranny, now don't
it? but it won't do here." And thereupon he began thrusting in
the wooden box against our legs, with all his strength.
"No law, sir, can permit such conduct as this."
"Law!" exclaimed a gentleman very particularly drunk, "we makes
our own laws, and governs our own selves."
"Law!" echoed another gentleman of Vernon, "this is a free
country, _we have no laws here_, and we don't want no foreign
power to tyrannize over us."
I give the words exactly. It is, however, but fair to state,
that the party had evidently been drinking more than an usual
portion of whiskey, but, perhaps, in whiskey, as in wine, truth
may come to light. At any rate the people of the Western
Paradise follow the Gentiles in this, that they are a law unto
During the contest, the coachman sat upon the box without saying
a word, but seemed greatly to enjoy the joke; the question of the
box, however, was finally decided in our favour by the nature of
the human material, which cannot be compressed beyond a certain
For the great part of this day we had the good fortune to have a
gentleman and his daughter for our fellow-travellers, who were
extremely intelligent and agreeable; but I nearly got myself into
a scrape by venturing to remark upon a phrase used by the
gentleman, and which had met me at every corner from the time I
first entered the country. We had been talking of pictures, and
I had endeavoured to adhere to the rule I had laid down for
myself, of saying very little, where I could say nothing
agreeable. At length he named an American artist, with whose
works I was very familiar, and after having declared him equal to
Lawrence (judging by his portrait of West, now at New York), he
added, "and what is more, madam, he is perfectly _self-taught_."
I prudently took a few moments before I answered; for the
equalling our immortal Lawrence to a most vile dauber stuck in my
throat; I could not say Amen; so for some time I said nothing;
but, at last, I remarked on the frequency with which I had heard
this phrase of _self-taught_ used, not as an apology, but as
"Well, madam, can there be a higher praise?"
"Certainly not, if spoken of the individual merits of a person,
without the means of instruction, but I do not understand it when
applied as praise to his works."
"Not understand it, madam? Is it not attributing genius to the
author, and what is teaching compared to that?"
I do not wish to repeat all my own _bons mots_ in praise of
study, and on the disadvantages of profound ignorance, but I
would, willingly, if I could, give an idea of the mixed
indignation and contempt expressed by our companion at the idea
that study was necessary to the formation of taste, and to the
development of genius. At last, however, he closed the
discussion thus,--"There is no use in disputing a point that is
already settled, madam; the best judges declare that Mr. H--g's
portraits are equal to that of Lawrence."
"Who is it who has passed this judgement, sir?"
"The men of taste of America, madam."
I then asked him, if he thought it was going to rain?
The stages do not appear to have any regular stations at which
to stop for breakfast, dinner, and supper. These necessary
interludes, therefore, being generally _impromptu_, were
abominably bad. We were amused by the patient manner in which
our American fellow-travellers ate whatever was set before them,
without uttering a word of complaint, or making any effort to
improve it, but no sooner reseated in the stage, than they began
their complaints--"twas a shame"--"twas a robbery"--"twas
poisoning folks"--and the like. I, at last, asked the reason of
this, and why they did not remonstrate? "Because, madam, no
American gentleman or lady that keeps an inn won't bear to be
found fault with."
We reached Utica very late and very weary; but the delights of a
good hotel and perfect civility sent us in good humour to bed,
and we arose sufficiently refreshed to enjoy a day's journey
through some of the loveliest scenery in the world.
Who is it that says America is not picturesque? I forget; but
surely he never travelled from Utica to Albany. I really cannot
conceive that any country can furnish a drive of ninety-six miles
more beautiful, or more varied in its beauty. The road follows
the Mohawk River, which flows through scenes changing from
fields, waving with plenty, to rocks and woods; gentle slopes,
covered with cattle, are divided from each other by precipices
500 feet high. Around the little falls there is a character of
beauty as singular as it is striking. Here, as I observed of
many other American rivers, the stream appears to run in a much
narrower channel than it once occupied, and the space which it
seems formerly to have filled, is now covered with bright green
herbage, save that, at intervals, large masses of rock rise
abruptly from the level turf; these are crowned with all such
trees as love the scanty diet which a rock affords. Dwarf oak,
cedars, and the mountain ash, are grouped in a hundred different
ways among them; each clump you look upon is lovelier than its
neighbour; I never saw so sweetly wild a spot.
I was surprised to hear a fellow-traveller say, as we passed a
point of peculiar beauty, "all this neighbourhood belongs, or did
belong, to Mr. Edward Ellice, an English Member of Parliament,
but he has sold a deal of it, and now, madam, you may see as it
begins to improve;" and he pointed to a great wooden edifice,
where, on the white paint, "Cash for Rags," in letters three feet
high, might be seen.
I then remembered that it was near this spot that my Yankee
friend had made his complaint against English indifference to
"water privilege." He did not name Mr. Edward Ellice, but
doubtless he was the "English, as never thought of improvement."
I have often confessed my conscious incapacity for description,
but I must repeat it here to apologize for my passing so dully
through this matchless valley of the Mohawk. I would that some
British artist, strong in youthful daring, would take my word for
it, and pass over, for a summer pilgrimage through the State of
New York. In very earnest, he would wisely, for I question if
the world could furnish within the same space, and with equal
facility of access, so many subjects for his pencil. Mountains,
forests, rocks, lakes, rivers, cataracts, all in perfection. But
he must be bold as a lion in colouring, or he will make nothing
of it. There is a clearness of atmosphere, a strength of _chiaro
oscuro_, a massiveness in the foliage, and a brilliance of
contrast, that must make a colourist of any one who has an eye.
He must have courage to dip his pencil in shadows black as night,
and light that might blind an eagle. As I presume my young
artist to be an enthusiast, he must first go direct to Niagara,
or even in the Mohawk valley his pinioned wing may droop. If his
fever run very high, he may slake his thirst at Trenton, and
while there, he will not dream of any thing beyond it. Should my
advice be taken, I will ask the young adventurer on his return
(when he shall have made a prodigious quantity of money by my
hint), to reward me by two sketches. One shall be the lake of
Canandaigua; the other the Indians' Senate Grove of Butternuts.
During our journey, I forget on which day of it, a particular
spot in the forest, at some distance from the road, was pointed
out to us as the scene of a true, but very romantic story.
During the great and the terrible French revolution (1792), a
young nobleman escaped from the scene of horror, having with
difficulty saved his head, and without the possibility of saving
any thing else. He arrived at New York nearly destitute; and
after passing his life, not only in splendour, but in the
splendour of the court of France, he found himself jostled by the
busy population of the New World, without a dollar between him
and starvation. In such a situation one might almost sigh for
the guillotine. The young noble strove to labour; but who would
purchase the trembling efforts of his white hands, while the
sturdy strength of many a black Hercules was in the market? He
abandoned the vain attempt to sustain himself by the aid of his
fellow-men, and determined to seek a refuge in the forest. A few
shillings only remained to him; he purchased an axe, and reached
the Oneida territory. He felled a few of the slenderest trees,
and made himself a shelter that Robinson Crusoe would have
laughed at, for it did not keep out the rain. Want of food,
exposure to the weather, and unwonted toil, produced the natural
result; the unfortunate young man fell sick, and stretched upon
the reeking earth, stifled, rather than sheltered, by the
withering boughs which hung over him; he lay parched with thirst,