Part 4 out of 7
abolition of this trade had occasioned in Liverpool; that the struggle
between sordid interest and humanity had made sad havoc at the
fire-sides of the merchants; estranged sons from sires; and even
separated husband from wife. And my thoughts reverted to my father's
friend, the good and great Roscoe, the intrepid enemy of the trade; who
in every way exerted his fine talents toward its suppression; writing a
poem ("the Wrongs of Africa"), several pamphlets; and in his place in
Parliament, he delivered a speech against it, which, as coming from a
member for Liverpool, was supposed to have turned many votes, and had no
small share in the triumph of sound policy and humanity that ensued.
How this group of statuary affected me, may be inferred from the fact,
that I never went through Chapel-street without going through the little
arch to look at it again. And there, night or day, I was sure to find
Lord Nelson still falling back; Victory's wreath still hovering over his
swordpoint; and Death grim and grasping as ever; while the four bronze
captives still lamented their captivity.
Now, as I lingered about the railing of the statuary, on the Sunday I
have mentioned, I noticed several persons going in and out of an
apartment, opening from the basement under the colonnade; and,
advancing, I perceived that this was a news-room, full of files of
papers. My love of literature prompted me to open the door and step in;
but a glance at my soiled shooting-jacket prompted a dignified looking
personage to step up and shut the door in my face. I deliberated a
minute what I should do to him; and at last resolutely determined to let
him alone, and pass on; which I did; going down Castle-street (so called
from a castle which once stood there, said my guide-book), and turning
down into Lord.
Arrived at the foot of the latter street, I in vain looked round for the
hotel. How serious a disappointment was this may well be imagined, when
it is considered that I was all eagerness to behold the very house at
which my father stopped; where he slept and dined, smoked his cigar,
opened his letters, and read the papers. I inquired of some gentlemen
and ladies where the missing hotel was; but they only stared and passed
on; until I met a mechanic, apparently, who very civilly stopped to hear
my questions and give me an answer.
"Riddough's Hotel?" said he, "upon my word, I think I have heard of such
a place; let me see--yes, yes--that was the hotel where my father broke
his arm, helping to pull down the walls. My lad, you surely can't be
inquiring for Riddough's Hotel! What do you want to find there?"
"Oh! nothing," I replied, "I am much obliged for your information"--and
away I walked.
Then, indeed, a new light broke in upon me concerning my guide-book; and
all my previous dim suspicions were almost confirmed. It was nearly half
a century behind the age! and no more fit to guide me about the town,
than the map of Pompeii.
It was a sad, a solemn, and a most melancholy thought. The book on which
I had so much relied; the book in the old morocco cover; the book with
the cocked-hat corners; the book full of fine old family associations;
the book with seventeen plates, executed in the highest style of art;
this precious book was next to useless. Yes, the thing that had guided
the father, could not guide the son. And I sat down on a shop step, and
gave loose to meditation.
Here, now, oh, Wellingborough, thought I, learn a lesson, and never
forget it. This world, my boy, is a moving world; its Riddough's Hotels
are forever being pulled down; it never stands still; and its sands are
forever shifting. This very harbor of Liverpool is gradually filling up,
they say; and who knows what your son (if you ever have one) may behold,
when he comes to visit Liverpool, as long after you as you come after
his grandfather. And, Wellingborough, as your father's guidebook is no
guide for you, neither would yours (could you afford to buy a modern one
to-day) be a true guide to those who come after you. Guide-books,
Wellingborough, are the least reliable books in all literature; and
nearly all literature, in one sense, is made up of guide-books. Old ones
tell us the ways our fathers went, through the thoroughfares and courts
of old; but how few of those former places can their posterity trace,
amid avenues of modern erections; to how few is the old guide-book now a
clew! Every age makes its own guidebooks, and the old ones are used for
waste paper. But there is one Holy Guide-Book, Wellingborough, that will
never lead you astray, if you but follow it aright; and some noble
monuments that remain, though the pyramids crumble.
But though I rose from the door-step a sadder and a wiser boy, and
though my guide-book had been stripped of its reputation for
infallibility, I did not treat with contumely or disdain, those sacred
pages which had once been a beacon to my sire.
No.--Poor old guide-book, thought I, tenderly stroking its back, and
smoothing the dog-ears with reverence; I will not use you with despite,
old Morocco! and you will yet prove a trusty conductor through many old
streets in the old parts of this town; even if you are at fault, now and
then, concerning a Riddough's Hotel, or some other forgotten thing of
the past. As I fondly glanced over the leaves, like one who loves more
than he chides, my eye lighted upon a passage concerning "The Old Dock,"
which much aroused my curiosity. I determined to see the place without
delay: and walking on, in what I presumed to be the right direction, at
last found myself before a spacious and splendid pile of sculptured
brown stone; and entering the porch, perceived from incontrovertible
tokens that it must be the Custom-house. After admiring it awhile, I
took out my guide-book again; and what was my amazement at discovering
that, according to its authority, I was entirely mistaken with regard to
this Custom-house; for precisely where I stood, "The Old Dock" must be
standing, and reading on concerning it, I met with this very apposite
passage:--"The first idea that strikes the stranger in coming to this
dock, is the singularity of so great a number of ships afloat in the
very heart of the town, without discovering any connection with the
Here, now, was a poser! Old Morocco confessed that there was a good deal
of "singularity" about the thing; nor did he pretend to deny that it
was, without question, amazing, that this fabulous dock should seem to
have no connection with the sea! However, the same author went on to
say, that the "astonished stranger must suspend his wonder for awhile,
and turn to the left." But, right or left, no place answering to the
description was to be seen.
This was too confounding altogether, and not to be easily accounted for,
even by making ordinary allowances for the growth and general
improvement of the town in the course of years. So, guide-book in hand,
I accosted a policeman standing by, and begged him to tell me whether he
was acquainted with any place in that neighborhood called the "Old
Dock." The man looked at me wonderingly at first, and then seeing I was
apparently sane, and quite civil into the bargain, he whipped his
well-polished boot with his rattan, pulled up his silver-laced
coat-collar, and initiated me into a knowledge of the following facts.
It seems that in this place originally stood the "pool," from which the
town borrows a part of its name, and which originally wound round the
greater part of the old settlements; that this pool was made into the
"Old Dock," for the benefit of the shipping; but that, years ago, it had
been filled up, and furnished the site for the Custom-house before me.
I now eyed the spot with a feeling somewhat akin to the Eastern traveler
standing on the brink of the Dead Sea. For here the doom of Gomorrah
seemed reversed, and a lake had been converted into substantial stone
Well, well, Wellingborough, thought I, you had better put the book into
your pocket, and carry it home to the Society of Antiquaries; it is
several thousand leagues and odd furlongs behind the march of
improvement. Smell its old morocco binding, Wellingborough; does it not
smell somewhat mummy-ish? Does it not remind you of Cheops and the
Catacombs? I tell you it was written before the lost books of Livy, and
is cousin-german to that irrecoverably departed volume, entitled, "The
Wars of the Lord" quoted by Moses in the Pentateuch. Put it up,
Wellingborough, put it up, my dear friend; and hereafter follow your
nose throughout Liverpool; it will stick to you through thick and thin:
and be your ship's mainmast and St. George's spire your landmarks.
No!--And again I rubbed its back softly, and gently adjusted a loose
leaf: No, no, I'll not give you up yet. Forth, old Morocco! and lead me
in sight of tie venerable Abbey of Birkenhead; and let these eager eyes
behold the mansion once occupied by the old earls of Derby!
For the book discoursed of both places, and told how the Abbey was on
the Cheshire shore, full in view from a point on the Lancashire side,
covered over with ivy, and brilliant with moss! And how the house of the
noble Derby's was now a common jail of the town; and how that
circumstance was full of suggestions, and pregnant with wisdom!
But, alas! I never saw the Abbey; at least none was in sight from the
water: and as for the house of the earls, I never saw that.
Ah me, and ten times alas! am I to visit old England in vain? in the
land of Thomas-a-Becket and stout John of Gaunt, not to catch the least
glimpse of priory or castle? Is there nothing in all the British empire
but these smoky ranges of old shops and warehouses? is Liverpool but a
brick-kiln? Why, no buildings here look so ancient as the old
gable-pointed mansion of my maternal grandfather at home, whose bricks
were brought from Holland long before the revolutionary war! Tis a
deceit--a gull--a sham--a hoax! This boasted England is no older than the
State of New York: if it is, show me the proofs--point out the vouchers.
Where's the tower of Julius Caesar? Where's the Roman wall? Show me
But, Wellingborough, I remonstrated with myself, you are only in
Liverpool; the old monuments lie to the north, south, east, and west of
you; you are but a sailor-boy, and you can not expect to be a great
tourist, and visit the antiquities, in that preposterous shooting-jacket
of yours. Indeed, you can not, my boy.
True, true--that's it. I am not the traveler my father was. I am only a
common-carrier across the Atlantic.
After a weary day's walk, I at last arrived at the sign of the Baltimore
Clipper to supper; and Handsome Mary poured me out a brimmer of tea, in
which, for the time, I drowned all my melancholy.
XXXII. THE DOCKS
For more than six weeks, the ship Highlander lay in Prince's Dock; and
during that time, besides making observations upon things immediately
around me, I made sundry excursions to the neighboring docks, for I
never tired of admiring them.
Previous to this, having only seen the miserable wooden wharves, and
slip-shod, shambling piers of New York, the sight of these mighty docks
filled my young mind with wonder and delight. In New York, to be sure, I
could not but be struck with the long line of shipping, and tangled
thicket of masts along the East River; yet, my admiration had been much
abated by those irregular, unsightly wharves, which, I am sure, are a
reproach and disgrace to the city that tolerates them.
Whereas, in Liverpool, I beheld long China walls of masonry; vast piers
of stone; and a succession of granite-rimmed docks, completely inclosed,
and many of them communicating, which almost recalled to mind the great
American chain of lakes: Ontario, Erie, St. Clair, Huron, Michigan, and
Superior. The extent and solidity of these structures, seemed equal to
what I had read of the old Pyramids of Egypt.
Liverpool may justly claim to have originated the model of the "Wet
Dock," so called, of the present day; and every thing that is connected
with its design, construction, regulation, and improvement. Even London
was induced to copy after Liverpool, and Havre followed her example. In
magnitude, cost, and durability, the docks of Liverpool, even at the
present day surpass all others in the world.
The first dock built by the town was the "Old Dock," alluded to in my
Sunday stroll with my guide-book. This was erected in 1710, since which
period has gradually arisen that long line of dock-masonry, now flanking
the Liverpool side of the Mersey.
For miles you may walk along that river-side, passing dock after dock,
like a chain of immense fortresses:--Prince's, George's, Salt-House,
Clarence, Brunswick, Trafalgar, King's, Queen's, and many more.
In a spirit of patriotic gratitude to those naval heroes, who by their
valor did so much to protect the commerce of Britain, in which Liverpool
held so large a stake; the town, long since, bestowed upon its more
modern streets, certain illustrious names, that Broadway might be proud
of:--Duncan, Nelson, Rodney, St. Vincent, Nile.
But it is a pity, I think, that they had not bestowed these noble names
upon their noble docks; so that they might have been as a rank and file
of most fit monuments to perpetuate the names of the heroes, in
connection with the commerce they defended.
And how much better would such stirring monuments be; full of life and
commotion; than hermit obelisks of Luxor, and idle towers of stone;
which, useless to the world in themselves, vainly hope to eternize a
name, by having it carved, solitary and alone, in their granite. Such
monuments are cenotaphs indeed; founded far away from the true body of
the fame of the hero; who, if he be truly a hero, must still be linked
with the living interests of his race; for the true fame is something
free, easy, social, and companionable. They are but tomb-stones, that
commemorate his death, but celebrate not his Me. It is well enough that
over the inglorious and thrice miserable grave of a Dives, some vast
marble column should be reared, recording the fact of his having lived
and died; for such records are indispensable to preserve his shrunken
memory among men; though that memory must soon crumble away with the
marble, and mix with the stagnant oblivion of the mob. But to build such
a pompous vanity over the remains of a hero, is a slur upon his fame,
and an insult to his ghost. And more enduring monuments are built in the
closet with the letters of the alphabet, than even Cheops himself could
have founded, with all Egypt and Nubia for his quarry.
Among the few docks mentioned above, occur the names of the King's and
Queens. At the time, they often reminded me of the two principal streets
in the village I came from in America, which streets once rejoiced in
the same royal appellations. But they had been christened previous to
the Declaration of Independence; and some years after, in a fever of
freedom, they were abolished, at an enthusiastic town-meeting, where
King George and his lady were solemnly declared unworthy of being
immortalized by the village of L--. A country antiquary once told me,
that a committee of two barbers were deputed to write and inform the
distracted old gentleman of the fact.
As the description of any one of these Liverpool docks will pretty much
answer for all, I will here endeavor to give some account of Prince's
Dock, where the Highlander rested after her passage across the Atlantic.
This dock, of comparatively recent construction, is perhaps the largest
of all, and is well known to American sailors, from the fact, that it is
mostly frequented by the American ship-, ping. Here lie the noble New
York packets, which at home are found at the foot of Wall-street; and
here lie the Mobile and Savannah cotton ships and traders.
This dock was built like the others, mostly upon the bed of the river,
the earth and rock having been laboriously scooped out, and solidified
again as materials for the quays and piers. From the river, Prince's
Dock is protected by a long pier of masonry, surmounted by a massive
wall; and on the side next the town, it is bounded by similar walls, one
of which runs along a thoroughfare. The whole space thus inclosed forms
an oblong, and may, at a guess, be presumed to comprise about fifteen or
twenty acres; but as I had not the rod of a surveyor when I took it in,
I will not be certain.
The area of the dock itself, exclusive of the inclosed quays surrounding
it, may be estimated at, say, ten acres. Access to the interior from the
streets is had through several gateways; so that, upon their being
closed, the whole dock is shut up like a house. From the river, the
entrance is through a water-gate, and ingress to ships is only to be
had, when the level of the dock coincides with that of the river; that
is, about the time of high tide, as the level of the dock is always at
that mark. So that when it is low tide in the river, the keels of the
ships inclosed by the quays are elevated more than twenty feet above
those of the vessels in the stream. This, of course, produces a striking
effect to a stranger, to see hundreds of immense ships floating high
aloft in the heart of a mass of masonry.
Prince's Dock is generally so filled with shipping, that the entrance of
a new-comer is apt to occasion a universal stir among all the older
occupants. The dock-masters, whose authority is declared by tin signs
worn conspicuously over their hats, mount the poops and forecastles of
the various vessels, and hail the surrounding strangers in all
directions:--"Highlander ahoy! Cast off your bowline, and sheer
alongside the Neptune!"--"Neptune ahoy! get out a stern-line, and sheer
alongside the Trident!"--"Trident ahoy! get out a bowline, and drop
astern of the Undaunted!" And so it runs round like a shock of
electricity; touch one, and you touch all. This kind of work irritates
and exasperates the sailors to the last degree; but it is only one of
the unavoidable inconveniences of inclosed docks, which are outweighed
by innumerable advantages.
Just without the water-gate, is a basin, always connecting with the open
river, through a narrow entrance between pierheads. This basin forms a
sort of ante-chamber to the dock itself, where vessels lie waiting their
turn to enter. During a storm, the necessity of this basin is obvious;
for it would be impossible to "dock" a ship under full headway from a
voyage across the ocean. From the turbulent waves, she first glides into
the ante-chamber between the pier-heads and from thence into the docks.
Concerning the cost of the docks, I can only state, that the King's
Dock, comprehending but a comparatively small area, was completed at an
expense of some L20,000.
Our old ship-keeper, a Liverpool man by birth, who had long followed the
seas, related a curious story concerning this dock. One of the ships
which carried over troops from England to Ireland in King William's war,
in 1688, entered the King's Dock on the first day of its being opened in
1788, after an interval of just one century. She was a dark little brig,
called the Port-a-Ferry. And probably, as her timbers must have been
frequently renewed in the course of a hundred years, the name alone
could have been all that was left of her at the time. A paved area, very
wide, is included within the walls; and along the edge of the quays are
ranges of iron sheds, intended as a temporary shelter for the goods
unladed from the shipping. Nothing can exceed the bustle and activity
displayed along these quays during the day; bales, crates, boxes, and
cases are being tumbled about by thousands of laborers; trucks are
corning and going; dock-masters are shouting; sailors of all nations are
singing out at their ropes; and all this commotion is greatly increased
by the resoundings from the lofty walls that hem in the din.
XXXIII. THE SALT-DROGHERS, AND GERMAN EMIGRANT SHIPS
Surrounded by its broad belt of masonry, each Liverpool dock is a walled
town, full of life and commotion; or rather, it is a small archipelago,
an epitome of the world, where all the nations of Christendom, and even
those of Heathendom, are represented. For, in itself, each ship is an
island, a floating colony of the tribe to which it belongs.
Here are brought together the remotest limits of the earth; and in the
collective spars and timbers of these ships, all the forests of the
globe are represented, as in a grand parliament of masts. Canada and New
Zealand send their pines; America her live oak; India her teak; Norway
her spruce; and the Right Honorable Mahogany, member for Honduras and
Cam-peachy, is seen at his post by the wheel. Here, under the beneficent
sway of the Genius of Commerce, all climes and countries embrace; and
yard-arm touches yard-arm in brotherly love.
A Liverpool dock is a grand caravansary inn, and hotel, on the spacious
and liberal plan of the Astor House. Here ships are lodged at a moderate
charge, and payment is not demanded till the time of departure. Here
they are comfortably housed and provided for; sheltered from all
weathers and secured from all calamities. For I can hardly credit a
story I have heard, that sometimes, in heavy gales, ships lying in the
very middle of the docks have lost their top-gallant-masts. Whatever the
toils and hardships encountered on the voyage, whether they come from
Iceland or the coast of New Guinea, here their sufferings are ended, and
they take their ease in their watery inn.
I know not how many hours I spent in gazing at the shipping in Prince's
Dock, and speculating concerning their past voyages and future prospects
in life. Some had just arrived from the most distant ports, worn,
battered, and disabled; others were all a-taunt-o--spruce, gay, and
brilliant, in readiness for sea.
Every day the Highlander had some new neighbor. A black brig from
Glasgow, with its crew of sober Scotch caps, and its staid, thrifty-
looking skipper, would be replaced by a jovial French hermaphrodite,
its forecastle echoing with songs, and its quarter-deck elastic from
On the other side, perhaps, a magnificent New York Liner, huge as a
seventy-four, and suggesting the idea of a Mivart's or Delmonico's
afloat, would give way to a Sidney emigrant ship, receiving on board its
live freight of shepherds from the Grampians, ere long to be tending
their flocks on the hills and downs of New Holland.
I was particularly pleased and tickled, with a multitude of little
salt-droghers, rigged like sloops, and not much bigger than a pilot-
boat, but with broad bows painted black, and carrying red sails, which
looked as if they had been pickled and stained in a tan-yard. These
little fellows were continually coming in with their cargoes for ships
bound to America; and lying, five or six together, alongside of those
lofty Yankee hulls, resembled a parcel of red ants about the carcass
of a black buffalo.
When loaded, these comical little craft are about level with the water;
and frequently, when blowing fresh in the river, I have seen them flying
through the foam with nothing visible but the mast and sail, and a man
at the tiller; their entire cargo being snugly secured under hatches.
It was diverting to observe the self-importance of the skipper of any of
these diminutive vessels. He would give himself all the airs of an
admiral on a three-decker's poop; and no doubt, thought quite as much of
himself. And why not? What could Caesar want more? Though his craft was
none of the largest, it was subject to him; and though his crew might
only consist of himself; yet if he governed it well, he achieved a
triumph, which the moralists of all ages have set above the victories of
These craft have each a little cabin, the prettiest, charming-est, most
delightful little dog-hole in the world; not much bigger than an
old-fashioned alcove for a bed. It is lighted by little round glasses
placed in the deck; so that to the insider, the ceiling is like a small
firmament twinkling with astral radiations. For tall men, nevertheless,
the place is but ill-adapted; a sitting, or recumbent position being
indispensable to an occupancy of the premises. Yet small, low, and
narrow as the cabin is, somehow, it affords accommodations to the
skipper and his family. Often, I used to watch the tidy good-wife,
seated at the open little scuttle, like a woman at a cottage door,
engaged in knitting socks for her husband; or perhaps, cutting his hair,
as he kneeled before her. And once, while marveling how a couple like
this found room to turn in, below, I was amazed by a noisy irruption of
cherry-cheeked young tars from the scuttle, whence they came rolling
forth, like so many curly spaniels from a kennel.
Upon one occasion, I had the curiosity to go on board a salt-drogher,
and fall into conversation with its skipper, a bachelor, who kept house
all alone. I found him a very sociable, comfortable old fellow, who had
an eye to having things cozy around him. It was in the evening; and he
invited me down into his sanctum to supper; and there we sat together
like a couple in a box at an oyster-cellar.
"He, he," he chuckled, kneeling down before a fat, moist, little cask of
beer, and holding a cocked-hat pitcher to the faucet--"You see, Jack, I
keep every thing down here; and nice times I have by myself. Just before
going to bed, it ain't bad to take a nightcap, you know; eh! Jack?--here
now, smack your lips over that, my boy--have a pipe?--but stop, let's to
So he went to a little locker, a fixture against the side, and groping
in it awhile, and addressing it with--"What cheer here, what cheer?" at
last produced a loaf, a small cheese, a bit of ham, and a jar of butter.
And then placing a board on his lap, spread the table, the pitcher of
beer in the center. "Why that's but a two legged table," said I, "let's
make it four."
So we divided the burthen, and supped merrily together on our knees.
He was an old ruby of a fellow, his cheeks toasted brown; and it did my
soul good, to see the froth of the beer bubbling at his mouth, and
sparkling on his nut-brown beard. He looked so like a great mug of ale,
that I almost felt like taking him by the neck and pouring him out.
"Now Jack," said he, when supper was over, "now Jack, my boy, do you
smoke?--Well then, load away." And he handed me a seal-skin pouch of
tobacco and a pipe. We sat smoking together in this little sea-cabinet
of his, till it began to look much like a state-room in Tophet; and
notwithstanding my host's rubicund nose, I could hardly see him for the
"He, he, my boy," then said he--"I don't never have any bugs here, I tell
ye: I smokes 'em all out every night before going to bed."
"And where may you sleep?" said I, looking round, and seeing no sign of
"Sleep?" says he, "why I sleep in my jacket, that's the best
counterpane; and I use my head for a pillow. He-he, funny, ain't it?"
"Very funny," says I.
"Have some more ale?" says he; "plenty more." "No more, thank you," says
I; "I guess I'll go;" for what with the tobacco-smoke and the ale, I
began to feel like breathing fresh air. Besides, my conscience smote me
for thus freely indulging in the pleasures of the table.
"Now, don't go," said he; "don't go, my boy; don't go out into the damp;
take an old Christian's advice," laying his hand on my shoulder; "it
won't do. You see, by going out now, you'll shake off the ale, and get
broad awake again; but if you stay here, you'll soon be dropping off for
a nice little nap."
But notwithstanding these inducements, I shook my host's hand and
departed. There was hardly any thing I witnessed in the docks that
interested me more than the German emigrants who come on board the large
New York ships several days before their sailing, to make every thing
comfortable ere starting. Old men, tottering with age, and little
infants in arms; laughing girls in bright-buttoned bodices, and astute,
middle-aged men with pictured pipes in their mouths, would be seen
mingling together in crowds of five, six, and seven or eight hundred in
Every evening these countrymen of Luther and Melancthon gathered on the
forecastle to sing and pray. And it was exalting to listen to their fine
ringing anthems, reverberating among the crowded shipping, and
rebounding from the lofty walls of the docks. Shut your eyes, and you
would think you were in a cathedral.
They keep up this custom at sea; and every night, in the dog-watch, sing
the songs of Zion to the roll of the great ocean-organ: a pious custom
of a devout race, who thus send over their hallelujahs before them, as
they hie to the land of the stranger.
And among these sober Germans, my country counts the most orderly and
valuable of her foreign population. It is they who have swelled the
census of her Northwestern States; and transferring their ploughs from
the hills of Transylvania to the prairies of Wisconsin; and sowing the
wheat of the Rhine on the banks of the Ohio, raise the grain, that, a
hundred fold increased, may return to their kinsmen in Europe.
There is something in the contemplation of the mode in which America has
been settled, that, in a noble breast, should forever extinguish the
prejudices of national dislikes. Settled by the people of all nations,
all nations may claim her for their own. You can not spill a drop of
American blood without spilling the blood of the whole world. Be he
Englishman, Frenchman, German, Dane, or Scot; the European who scoffs at
an American, calls his own brother Raca, and stands in danger of the
judgment. We are not a narrow tribe of men, with a bigoted Hebrew
nationality--whose blood has been debased in the attempt to ennoble it,
by maintaining an exclusive succession among ourselves. No: our blood is
as the flood of the Amazon, made up of a thousand noble currents all
pouring into one. We are not a nation, so much as a world; for unless we
may claim all the world for our sire, like Melchisedec, we are without
father or mother.
For who was our father and our mother? Or can we point to any Romulus
and Remus for our founders? Our ancestry is lost in the universal
paternity; and Caesar and Alfred, St. Paul and Luther, and Homer and
Shakespeare are as much ours as Washington, who is as much the world's
as our own. We are the heirs of all time, and with all nations we divide
our inheritance. On this Western Hemisphere all tribes and people are
forming into one federated whole; and there is a future which shall see
the estranged children of Adam restored as to the old hearthstone in
The other world beyond this, which was longed for by the devout before
Columbus' time, was found in the New; and the deep-sea-lead, that first
struck these soundings, brought up the soil of Earth's Paradise. Not a
Paradise then, or now; but to be made so, at God's good pleasure, and in
the fullness and mellowness of time. The seed is sown, and the harvest
must come; and our children's children, on the world's jubilee morning,
shall all go with their sickles to the reaping. Then shall the curse of
Babel be revoked, a new Pentecost come, and the language they shall
speak shall be the language of Britain. Frenchmen, and Danes, and Scots;
and the dwellers on the shores of the Mediterranean, and in the regions
round about; Italians, and Indians, and Moors; there shall appear unto
them cloven tongues as of fire.
XXXIV. THE IRRAWADDY
Among the various ships lying in Prince's Dock, none interested me more
than the Irrawaddy, of Bombay, a "country ship," which is the name
bestowed by Europeans upon the large native vessels of India. Forty
years ago, these merchantmen were nearly the largest in the world; and
they still exceed the generality. They are built of the celebrated teak
wood, the oak of the East, or in Eastern phrase, "the King of the Oaks."
The Irrawaddy had just arrived from Hindostan, with a cargo of cotton.
She was manned by forty or fifty Lascars, the native seamen of India,
who seemed to be immediately governed by a countryman of theirs of a
higher caste. While his inferiors went about in strips of white linen,
this dignitary was arrayed in a red army-coat, brilliant with gold lace,
a cocked hat, and drawn sword. But the general effect was quite spoiled
by his bare feet.
In discharging the cargo, his business seemed to consist in flagellating
the crew with the flat of his saber, an exercise in which long practice
had made him exceedingly expert. The poor fellows jumped away with the
tackle-rope, elastic as cats.
One Sunday, I went aboard of the Irrawaddy, when this oriental usher
accosted me at the gangway, with his sword at my throat. I gently pushed
it aside, making a sign expressive of the pacific character of my
motives in paying a visit to the ship. Whereupon he very considerately
let me pass.
I thought I was in Pegu, so strangely woody was the smell of the
dark-colored timbers, whose odor was heightened by the rigging of kayar,
or cocoa-nut fiber.
The Lascars were on the forecastle-deck. Among them were Malays,
Mahrattas, Burmese, Siamese, and Cingalese. They were seated round
"kids" full of rice, from which, according to their invariable custom,
they helped themselves with one hand, the other being reserved for quite
another purpose. They were chattering like magpies in Hindostanee, but I
found that several of them could also speak very good English. They were
a small-limbed, wiry, tawny set; and I was informed made excellent
seamen, though ill adapted to stand the hardships of northern voyaging.
They told me that seven of their number had died on the passage from
Bombay; two or three after crossing the Tropic of Cancer, and the rest
met their fate in the Channel, where the ship had been tost about in
violent seas, attended with cold rains, peculiar to that vicinity. Two
more had been lost overboard from the flying-jib-boom.
I was condoling with a young English cabin-boy on board, upon the loss
of these poor fellows, when he said it was their own fault; they would
never wear monkey-jackets, but clung to their thin India robes, even in
the bitterest weather. He talked about them much as a farmer would about
the loss of so many sheep by the murrain.
The captain of the vessel was an Englishman, as were also the three
mates, master and boatswain. These officers lived astern in the cabin,
where every Sunday they read the Church of England's prayers, while the
heathen at the other end of the ship were left to their false gods and
idols. And thus, with Christianity on the quarter-deck, and paganism on
the forecastle, the Irrawaddy ploughed the sea.
As if to symbolize this state of things, the "fancy piece" astern
comprised, among numerous other carved decorations, a cross and a miter;
while forward, on the bows, was a sort of devil for a figure-head--a
dragon-shaped creature, with a fiery red mouth, and a switchy-looking
After her cargo was discharged, which was done "to the sound of flutes
and soft recorders"--something as work is done in the navy to the music
of the boatswain's pipe--the Lascars were set to "stripping the ship"
that is, to sending down all her spars and ropes.
At this time, she lay alongside of us, and the Babel on board almost
drowned our own voices. In nothing but their girdles, the Lascars hopped
about aloft, chattering like so many monkeys; but, nevertheless, showing
much dexterity and seamanship in their manner of doing their work.
Every Sunday, crowds of well-dressed people came down to the dock to see
this singular ship; many of them perched themselves in the shrouds of
the neighboring craft, much to the wrath of Captain Riga, who left
strict orders with our old ship-keeper, to drive all strangers out of
the Highlander's rigging. It was amusing at these times, to watch the
old women with umbrellas, who stood on the quay staring at the Lascars,
even when they desired to be private. These inquisitive old ladies
seemed to regard the strange sailors as a species of wild animal, whom
they might gaze at with as much impunity, as at leopards in the
One night I was returning to the ship, when just as I was passing
through the Dock Gate, I noticed a white figure squatting against the
wall outside. It proved to be one of the Lascars who was smoking, as the
regulations of the docks prohibit his indulging this luxury on board his
vessel. Struck with the curious fashion of his pipe, and the odor from
it, I inquired what he was smoking; he replied "Joggerry," which is a
species of weed, used in place of tobacco.
Finding that he spoke good English, and was quite communicative, like
most smokers, I sat down by Dattabdool-mans, as he called himself, and
we fell into conversation. So instructive was his discourse, that when
we parted, I had considerably added to my stock of knowledge. Indeed, it
is a Godsend to fall in with a fellow like this. He knows things you
never dreamed of; his experiences are like a man from the moon--wholly
strange, a new revelation. If you want to learn romance, or gain an
insight into things quaint, curious, .and marvelous, drop your books of
travel, and take a stroll along the docks of a great commercial port.
Ten to one, you will encounter Crusoe himself among the crowds of
mariners from all parts of the globe.
But this is no place for making mention of all the subjects upon which I
and my Lascar friend mostly discoursed; I will only try to give his
account of the teakwood and kayar rope, concerning which things I was
curious, and sought information.
The "sagoon" as he called the tree which produces the teak, grows in its
greatest excellence among the mountains of Malabar, whence large
quantities are sent to Bombay for shipbuilding. He also spoke of another
kind of wood, the "sissor," which supplies most of the "shin-logs," or
"knees," and crooked timbers in the country ships. The sagoon grows to
an immense size; sometimes there is fifty feet of trunk, three feet
through, before a single bough is put forth. Its leaves are very large;
and to convey some idea of them, my Lascar likened them to elephants'
ears. He said a purple dye was extracted from them, for the purpose of
staining cottons and silks. The wood is specifically heavier than water;
it is easily worked, and extremely strong and durable. But its chief
merit lies in resisting the action of the salt water, and the attacks of
insects; which resistance is caused by its containing a resinous oil
To my surprise, he informed me that the Irrawaddy was wholly built by
the native shipwrights of India, who, he modestly asserted, surpassed
the European artisans.
The rigging, also, was of native manufacture. As the kayar, of which it
is composed, is now getting into use both in England and America, as
well for ropes and rigging as for mats and rugs, my Lascar friend's
account of it, joined to my own observations, may not be uninteresting.
In India, it is prepared very much in the same way as in Polynesia. The
cocoa-nut is gathered while the husk is still green, and but partially
ripe; and this husk is removed by striking the nut forcibly, with both
hands, upon a sharp-pointed stake, planted uprightly in the ground. In
this way a boy will strip nearly fifteen hundred in a day. But the kayar
is not made from the husk, as might be supposed, but from the rind of
the nut; which, after being long soaked in water, is beaten with
mallets, and rubbed together into fibers. After this being dried in the
sun, you may spin it, just like hemp, or any similar substance. The
fiber thus produced makes very strong and durable ropes, extremely well
adapted, from their lightness and durability, for the running rigging of
a ship; while the same causes, united with its great strength and
buoyancy, render it very suitable for large cables and hawsers.
But the elasticity of the kayar ill fits it for the shrouds and
standing-rigging of a ship, which require to be comparatively firm.
Hence, as the Irrawaddy's shrouds were all of this substance, the Lascar
told me, they were continually setting up or slacking off her
standing-rigging, according as the weather was cold or warm. And the
loss of a foretopmast, between the tropics, in a squall, he attributed
to this circumstance.
After a stay of about two weeks, the Irrawaddy had her heavy Indian
spars replaced with Canadian pine, and her kayar shrouds with hempen
ones. She then mustered her pagans, and hoisted sail for London.
XXXV. GALLIOTS, COAST-OF-GUINEA-MAN, AND FLOATING CHAPEL
Another very curious craft often seen in the Liverpool docks, is the
Dutch galliot, an old-fashioned looking gentleman, with hollow waist,
high prow and stern, and which, seen lying among crowds of tight Yankee
traders, and pert French brigantines, always reminded me of a cocked hat
among modish beavers.
The construction of the galliot has not altered for centuries; and the
northern European nations, Danes and Dutch, still sail the salt seas in
this flat-bottomed salt-cellar of a ship; although, in addition to
these, they have vessels of a more modern kind.
They seldom paint the galliot; but scrape and varnish all its planks and
spars, so that all over it resembles the "bright side" or polished
streak, usually banding round an American ship.
Some of them are kept scrupulously neat and clean, and remind one of a
well-scrubbed wooden platter, or an old oak table, upon which much wax
and elbow vigor has been expended. Before the wind, they sail well; but
on a bowline, owing to their broad hulls and flat bottoms, they make
leeway at a sad rate.
Every day, some strange vessel entered Prince's Dock; and hardly would I
gaze my fill at some outlandish craft from Surat or the Levant, ere a
still more outlandish one would absorb my attention.
Among others, I remember, was a little brig from the Coast of Guinea. In
appearance, she was the ideal of a slaver; low, black, clipper-built
about the bows, and her decks in a state of most piratical disorder.
She carried a long, rusty gun, on a swivel, amid-ships; and that gun
was a curiosity in itself. It must have been some old veteran, condemned
by the government, and sold for any thing it would fetch. It was an
antique, covered with half-effaced inscriptions, crowns, anchors,
eagles; and it had two handles near the trunnions, like those of a
tureen. The knob on the breach was fashioned into a dolphin's head; and
by a comical conceit, the touch-hole formed the orifice of a human ear;
and a stout tympanum it must have had, to have withstood the concussions
it had heard.
The brig, heavily loaded, lay between two large ships in ballast; so
that its deck was at least twenty feet below those of its neighbors.
Thus shut in, its hatchways looked like the entrance to deep vaults or
mines; especially as her men were wheeling out of her hold some kind of
ore, which might have been gold ore, so scrupulous were they in evening
the bushel measures, in which they transferred it to the quay; and so
particular was the captain, a dark-skinned whiskerando, in a Maltese cap
and tassel, in standing over the sailors, with his pencil and
memorandum-book in hand.
The crew were a buccaneering looking set; with hairy chests, purple
shirts, and arms wildly tattooed. The mate had a wooden leg, and hobbled
about with a crooked cane like a spiral staircase. There was a deal of
swearing on board of this craft, which was rendered the more
reprehensible when she came to moor alongside the Floating Chapel.
This was the hull of an old sloop-of-war, which had been converted into
a mariner's church. A house had been built upon it, and a steeple took
the place of a mast. There was a little balcony near the base of the
steeple, some twenty feet from the water; where, on week-days, I used to
see an old pensioner of a tar, sitting on a camp-stool, reading his
Bible. On Sundays he hoisted the Bethel flag, and like the muezzin or
cryer of prayers on the top of a Turkish mosque, would call the
strolling sailors to their devotions; not officially, but on his own
account; conjuring them not to make fools of themselves, but muster
round the pulpit, as they did about the capstan on a man-of-war. This
old worthy was the sexton. I attended the chapel several times, and
found there a very orderly but small congregation. The first time I
went, the chaplain was discoursing on future punishments, and making
allusions to the Tartarean Lake; which, coupled with the pitchy smell of
the old hull, summoned up the most forcible image of the thing which I
The floating chapels which are to be found in some of the docks, form
one of the means which have been tried to induce the seamen visiting
Liverpool to turn their thoughts toward serious things. But as very few
of them ever think of entering these chapels, though they might pass
them twenty times in the day, some of the clergy, of a Sunday, address
them in the open air, from the corners of the quays, or wherever they
can procure an audience.
Whenever, in my Sunday strolls, I caught sight of one of these
congregations, I always made a point of joining it; and would find
myself surrounded by a motley crowd of seamen from all quarters of the
globe, and women, and lumpers, and dock laborers of all sorts.
Frequently the clergyman would be standing upon an old cask, arrayed in
full canonicals, as a divine of the Church of England. Never have I
heard religious discourses better adapted to an audience of men, who,
like sailors, are chiefly, if not only, to be moved by the plainest of
precepts, and demonstrations of the misery of sin, as conclusive and
undeniable as those of Euclid. No mere rhetoric avails with such men;
fine periods are vanity. You can not touch them with tropes. They need
to be pressed home by plain facts.
And such was generally the mode in which they were addressed by the
clergy in question: who, taking familiar themes for their discourses,
which were leveled right at the wants of their auditors, always
succeeded in fastening their attention. In particular, the two great
vices to which sailors are most addicted, and which they practice to the
ruin of both body and soul; these things, were the most enlarged upon.
And several times on the docks, I have seen a robed clergyman addressing
a large audience of women collected from the notorious lanes and alleys
in the neighborhood.
Is not this as it ought to be? since the true calling of the reverend
clergy is like their divine Master's;--not to bring the righteous, but
sinners to repentance. Did some of them leave the converted and
comfortable congregations, before whom they have ministered year after
year; and plunge at once, like St. Paul, into the infected centers and
hearts of vice: then indeed, would they find a strong enemy to cope
with; and a victory gained over him, would entitle them to a conqueror's
wreath. Better to save one sinner from an obvious vice that is
destroying him, than to indoctrinate ten thousand saints. And as from
every corner, in Catholic towns, the shrines of Holy Mary and the Child
Jesus perpetually remind the commonest wayfarer of his heaven; even so
should Protestant pulpits be founded in the market-places, and at street
corners, where the men of God might be heard by all of His children.
XXXVI. THE OLD CHURCH OF ST. NICHOLAS, AND THE DEAD-HOUSE
The floating chapel recalls to mind the "Old Church," well known to the
seamen of many generations, who have visited Liverpool. It stands very
near the docks, a venerable mass of brown stone, and by the town's
people is called the Church of St. Nicholas. I believe it is the best
preserved piece of antiquity in all Liverpool.
Before the town rose to any importance, it was the only place of worship
on that side of the Mersey; and under the adjoining Parish of Walton was
a chapel-of-ease; though from the straight backed pews, there could have
been but little comfort taken in it.
In old times, there stood in front of the church a statue of St.
Nicholas, the patron of mariners; to which all pious sailors made
offerings, to induce his saintship to grant them short and prosperous
voyages. In the tower is a fine chime of bells; and I well remember my
delight at first hearing them on the first Sunday morning after our
arrival in the dock. It seemed to carry an admonition with it; something
like the premonition conveyed to young Whittington by Bow Bells.
"Wettingborough! Wettingborough! you must not forget to go to church,
Wettingborough! Don't forget, Wettingborough! Wettingborough! don't
Thirty or forty years ago, these bells were rung upon the arrival of
every Liverpool ship from a foreign voyage. How forcibly does this
illustrate the increase of the commerce of the town! Were the same
custom now observed, the bells would seldom have a chance to cease.
What seemed the most remarkable about this venerable old church, and
what seemed the most barbarous, and grated upon the veneration with
which I regarded this time-hallowed structure, was the condition of the
grave-yard surrounding it. From its close vicinity to the haunts of the
swarms of laborers about the docks, it is crossed and re-crossed by
thoroughfares in all directions; and the tomb-stones, not being erect,
but horizontal (indeed, they form a complete flagging to the spot),
multitudes are constantly walking over the dead; their heels erasing the
death's-heads and crossbones, the last mementos of the departed. At
noon, when the lumpers employed in loading and unloading the shipping,
retire for an hour to snatch a dinner, many of them resort to the
grave-yard; and seating themselves upon a tomb-stone use the adjoining
one for a table. Often, I saw men stretched out in a drunken sleep upon
these slabs; and once, removing a fellow's arm, read the following
inscription, which, in a manner, was true to the life, if not to the
"HERE LYETH YE BODY OF TOBIAS DRINKER."
For two memorable circumstances connected with this church, I am
indebted to my excellent friend, Morocco, who tells me that in 1588 the
Earl of Derby, coming to his residence, and waiting for a passage to the
Isle of Man, the corporation erected and adorned a sumptuous stall in
the church for his reception. And moreover, that in the time of
Cromwell's wars, when the place was taken by that mad nephew of King
Charles, Prince Rupert, he converted the old church into a military
prison and stable; when, no doubt, another "sumptuous stall" was erected
for the benefit of the steed of some noble cavalry officer.
In the basement of the church is a Dead House, like the Morgue in Paris,
where the bodies of the drowned are exposed until claimed by their
friends, or till buried at the public charge.
From the multitudes employed about the shipping, this dead-house has
always more or less occupants. Whenever I passed up Chapel-street, I
used to see a crowd gazing through the grim iron grating of the door,
upon the faces of the drowned within. And once, when the door was
opened, I saw a sailor stretched out, stark and stiff, with the sleeve
of his frock rolled up, and showing his name and date of birth tattooed
upon his arm. It was a sight full of suggestions; he seemed his own
I was told that standing rewards are offered for the recovery of persons
falling into the docks; so much, if restored to life, and a less amount
if irrecoverably drowned. Lured by this, several horrid old men and
women are constantly prying about the docks, searching after bodies. I
observed them principally early in the morning, when they issued from
their dens, on the same principle that the rag-rakers, and
rubbish-pickers in the streets, sally out bright and early; for then,
the night-harvest has ripened.
There seems to be no calamity overtaking man, that can not be rendered
merchantable. Undertakers, sextons, tomb-makers, and hearse-drivers, get
their living from the dead; and in times of plague most thrive. And
these miserable old men and women hunted after corpses to keep from
going to the church-yard themselves; for they were the most wretched of
XXXVII. WHAT REDBURN SAW IN LAUNCELOTT'S-HEY
The dead-house reminds me of other sad things; for in the vicinity of
the docks are many very painful sights.
In going to our boarding-house, the sign of the Baltimore Clipper, I
generally passed through a narrow street called "Launcelott's-Hey,"
lined with dingy, prison-like cotton warehouses. In this street, or
rather alley, you seldom see any one but a truck-man, or some solitary
old warehouse-keeper, haunting his smoky den like a ghost.
Once, passing through this place, I heard a feeble wail, which seemed to
come out of the earth. It was but a strip of crooked side-walk where I
stood; the dingy wall was on every side, converting the mid-day into
twilight; and not a soul was in sight. I started, and could almost have
run, when I heard that dismal sound. It seemed the low, hopeless,
endless wail of some one forever lost. At last I advanced to an opening
which communicated downward with deep tiers of cellars beneath a
crumbling old warehouse; and there, some fifteen feet below the walk,
crouching in nameless squalor, with her head bowed over, was the figure
of what had been a woman. Her blue arms folded to her livid bosom two
shrunken things like children, that leaned toward her, one on each side.
At first, I knew not whether they were alive or dead. They made no sign;
they did not move or stir; but from the vault came that soul-sickening
I made a noise with my foot, which, in the silence, echoed far and near;
but there was no response. Louder still; when one of the children lifted
its head, and cast upward a faint glance; then closed its eyes, and lay
motionless. The woman also, now gazed up, and perceived me; but let fall
her eye again. They were dumb and next to dead with want. How they had
crawled into that den, I could not tell; but there they had crawled to
die. At that moment I never thought of relieving them; for death was so
stamped in their glazed and unimploring eyes, that I almost regarded
them as already no more. I stood looking down on them, while my whole
soul swelled within me; and I asked myself, What right had any body in
the wide world to smile and be glad, when sights like this were to be
seen? It was enough to turn the heart to gall; and make a man-hater of a
Howard. For who were these ghosts that I saw? Were they not human
beings? A woman and two girls? With eyes, and lips, and ears like any
queen? with hearts which, though they did not bound with blood, yet beat
with a dull, dead ache that was their life.
At last, I walked on toward an open lot in the alley, hoping to meet
there some ragged old women, whom I had daily noticed groping amid foul
rubbish for little particles of dirty cotton, which they washed out and
sold for a trifle.
I found them; and accosting one, I asked if she knew of the persons I
had just left. She replied, that she did not; nor did she want to. I
then asked another, a miserable, toothless old woman, with a tattered
strip of coarse baling stuff round her body. Looking at me for an
instant, she resumed her raking in the rubbish, and said that she knew
who it was that I spoke of; but that she had no time to attend to
beggars and their brats. Accosting still another, who seemed to know my
errand, I asked if there was no place to which the woman could be taken.
"Yes," she replied, "to the church-yard." I said she was alive, and not
"Then she'll never die," was the rejoinder. "She's been down there these
three days, with nothing to eat;--that I know myself."
"She desarves it," said an old hag, who was just placing on her crooked
shoulders her bag of pickings, and who was turning to totter off, "that
Betsy Jennings desarves it--was she ever married? tell me that."
Leaving Launcelott's-Hey, I turned into a more frequented street; and
soon meeting a policeman, told him of the condition of the woman and the
"It's none of my business, Jack," said he. "I don't belong to that
"Who does then?"
"I don't know. But what business is it of yours? Are you not a Yankee?"
"Yes," said I, "but come, I will help you remove that woman, if you say
"There, now, Jack, go on board your ship and stick to it; and leave
these matters to the town."
I accosted two more policemen, but with no better success; they would
not even go with me to the place. The truth was, it was out of the way,
in a silent, secluded spot; and the misery of the three outcasts, hiding
away in the ground, did not obtrude upon any one.
Returning to them, I again stamped to attract their attention; but this
time, none of the three looked up, or even stirred. While I yet stood
irresolute, a voice called to me from a high, iron-shuttered window in a
loft over the way; and asked what I was about. I beckoned to the man, a
sort of porter, to come down, which he did; when I pointed down into the
"Well," said he, "what of it?"
"Can't we get them out?" said I, "haven't you some place in your
warehouse where you can put them? have you nothing for them to eat?"
"You're crazy, boy," said he; "do you suppose, that Parkins and Wood
want their warehouse turned into a hospital?"
I then went to my boarding-house, and told Handsome Mary of what I had
seen; asking her if she could not do something to get the woman and
girls removed; or if she could not do that, let me have some food for
them. But though a kind person in the main, Mary replied that she gave
away enough to beggars in her own street (which was true enough) without
looking after the whole neighborhood.
Going into the kitchen, I accosted the cook, a little shriveled-up old
Welshwoman, with a saucy tongue, whom the sailors called Brandy-Nan; and
begged her to give me some cold victuals, if she had nothing better, to
take to the vault. But she broke out in a storm of swearing at the
miserable occupants of the vault, and refused. I then stepped into the
room where our dinner was being spread; and waiting till the girl had
gone out, I snatched some bread and cheese from a stand, and thrusting
it into the bosom of my frock, left the house. Hurrying to the lane, I
dropped the food down into the vault. One of the girls caught at it
convulsively, but fell back, apparently fainting; the sister pushed the
other's arm aside, and took the bread in her hand; but with a weak
uncertain grasp like an infant's. She placed it to her mouth; but
letting it fall again, murmuring faintly something like "water." The
woman did not stir; her head was bowed over, just as I had first seen
Seeing how it was, I ran down toward the docks to a mean little sailor
tavern, and begged for a pitcher; but the cross old man who kept it
refused, unless I would pay for it. But I had no money. So as my
boarding-house was some way off, and it would be lost time to run to the
ship for my big iron pot; under the impulse of the moment, I hurried to
one of the Boodle Hydrants, which I remembered having seen running near
the scene of a still smoldering fire in an old rag house; and taking off
a new tarpaulin hat, which had been loaned me that day, filled it with
With this, I returned to Launcelott's-Hey; and with considerable
difficulty, like getting down into a well, I contrived to descend with
it into the vault; where there was hardly space enough left to let me
stand. The two girls drank out of the hat together; looking up at me
with an unalterable, idiotic expression, that almost made me faint. The
woman spoke not a word, and did not stir. While the girls were breaking
and eating the bread, I tried to lift the woman's head; but, feeble as
she was, she seemed bent upon holding it down. Observing her arms still
clasped upon her bosom, and that something seemed hidden under the rags
there, a thought crossed my mind, which impelled me forcibly to withdraw
her hands for a moment; when I caught a glimpse of a meager little
babe--the lower part of its body thrust into an old bonnet. Its face was
dazzlingly white, even in its squalor; but the closed eyes looked like
balls of indigo. It must have been dead some hours.
The woman refusing to speak, eat, or drink, I asked one of the girls who
they were, and where they lived; but she only stared vacantly, muttering
something that could not be understood.
The air of the place was now getting too much for me; but I stood
deliberating a moment, whether it was possible for me to drag them out
of the vault. But if I did, what then? They would only perish in the
street, and here they were at least protected from the rain; and more
than that, might die in seclusion.
I crawled up into the street, and looking down upon them again, almost
repented that I had brought them any food; for it would only tend to
prolong their misery, without hope of any permanent relief: for die they
must very soon; they were too far gone for any medicine to help them. I
hardly know whether I ought to confess another thing that occurred to me
as I stood there; but it was this-I felt an almost irresistible impulse
to do them the last mercy, of in some way putting an end to their
horrible lives; and I should almost have done so, I think, had I not
been deterred by thoughts of the law. For I well knew that the law,
which would let them perish of themselves without giving them one cup of
water, would spend a thousand pounds, if necessary, in convicting him
who should so much as offer to relieve them from their miserable
The next day, and the next, I passed the vault three times, and still
met the same sight. The girls leaning up against the woman on each side,
and the woman with her arms still folding the babe, and her head bowed.
The first evening I did not see the bread that I had dropped down in the
morning; but the second evening, the bread I had dropped that morning
remained untouched. On the third morning the smell that came from the
vault was such, that I accosted the same policeman I had accosted
before, who was patrolling the same street, and told him that the
persons I had spoken to him about were dead, and he had better have them
removed. He looked as if he did not believe me, and added, that it was
not his street.
When I arrived at the docks on my way to the ship, I entered the
guard-house within the walls, and asked for one of the captains, to whom
I told the story; but, from what he said, was led to infer that the Dock
Police was distinct from that of the town, and this was not the right
place to lodge my information.
I could do no more that morning, being obliged to repair to the ship;
but at twelve o'clock, when I went to dinner, I hurried into
Launcelott's-Hey, when I found that the vault was empty. In place of the
women and children, a heap of quick-lime was glistening.
I could not learn who had taken them away, or whither they had gone; but
my prayer was answered--they were dead, departed, and at peace.
But again I looked down into the vault, and in fancy beheld the pale,
shrunken forms still crouching there. Ah! what are our creeds, and how
do we hope to be saved? Tell me, oh Bible, that story of Lazarus again,
that I may find comfort in my heart for the poor and forlorn. Surrounded
as we are by the wants and woes of our fellowmen, and yet given to
follow our own pleasures, regardless of their pains, are we not like
people sitting up with a corpse, and making merry in the house of the
XXXVIII. THE DOCK-WALL BEGGARS
I might relate other things which befell me during the six weeks and
more that I remained in Liverpool, often visiting the cellars, sinks,
and hovels of the wretched lanes and courts near the river. But to tell
of them, would only be to tell over again the story just told; so I
return to the docks.
The old women described as picking dirty fragments of cotton in tie
empty lot, belong to the same class of beings who at all hours of the
day are to be seen within the dock walls, raking over and over the heaps
of rubbish carried ashore from the holds of the shipping.
As it is against the law to throw the least thing overboard, even a rope
yarn; and as this law is very different from similar laws in New York,
inasmuch as it is rigidly enforced by the dock-masters; and, moreover,
as after discharging a ship's cargo, a great deal of dirt and worthless
dunnage remains in the hold, the amount of rubbish accumulated in the
appointed receptacles for depositing it within the walls is extremely
large, and is constantly receiving new accessions from every vessel that
unlades at the quays.
Standing over these noisome heaps, you will see scores of tattered
wretches, armed with old rakes and picking-irons, turning over the dirt,
and making as much of a rope-yarn as if it were a skein of silk. Their
findings, nevertheless, are but small; for as it is one of the
immemorial perquisites of the second mate of a merchant ship to collect,
and sell on his own account, all the condemned "old junk" of the vessel
to which he belongs, he generally takes good heed that in the buckets of
rubbish carried ashore, there shall be as few rope-yarns as possible.
In the same way, the cook preserves all the odds and ends of pork-rinds
and beef-fat, which he sells at considerable profit; upon a six months'
voyage frequently realizing thirty or forty dollars from the sale, and
in large ships, even more than that. It may easily be imagined, then,
how desperately driven to it must these rubbish-pickers be, to ransack
heaps of refuse which have been previously gleaned.
Nor must I omit to make mention of the singular beggary practiced in the
streets frequented by sailors; and particularly to record the remarkable
army of paupers that beset the docks at particular hours of the day.
At twelve o'clock the crews of hundreds and hundreds of ships issue in
crowds from the dock gates to go to their dinner in the town. This hour
is seized upon by multitudes of beggars to plant themselves against the
outside of the walls, while others stand upon the curbstone to excite
the charity of the seamen. The first time that I passed through this
long lane of pauperism, it seemed hard to believe that such an array of
misery could be furnished by any town in the world.
Every variety of want and suffering here met the eye, and every vice
showed here its victims. Nor were the marvelous and almost incredible
shifts and stratagems of the professional beggars, wanting to finish
this picture of all that is dishonorable to civilization and humanity.
Old women, rather mummies, drying up with slow starving and age; young
girls, incurably sick, who ought to have been in the hospital; sturdy
men, with the gallows in their eyes, and a whining lie in their mouths;
young boys, hollow-eyed and decrepit; and puny mothers, holding up puny
babes in the glare of the sun, formed the main features of the scene.
But these were diversified by instances of peculiar suffering, vice, or
art in attracting charity, which, to me at least, who had never seen
such things before, seemed to the last degree uncommon and monstrous.
I remember one cripple, a young man rather decently clad, who sat
huddled up against the wall, holding a painted board on his knees. It
was a picture intending to represent the man himself caught in the
machinery of some factory, and whirled about among spindles and cogs,
with his limbs mangled and bloody. This person said nothing, but sat
silently exhibiting his board. Next him, leaning upright against the
wall, was a tall, pallid man, with a white bandage round his brow, and
his face cadaverous as a corpse. He, too, said nothing; but with one
finger silently pointed down to the square of flagging at his feet,
which was nicely swept, and stained blue, and bore this inscription in
"I have had no food for three days;
My wife and children are dying."
Further on lay a man with one sleeve of his ragged coat removed, showing
an unsightly sore; and above it a label with some writing.
In some places, for the distance of many rods, the whole line of
flagging immediately at the base of the wall, would be completely
covered with inscriptions, the beggars standing over them in silence.
But as you passed along these horrible records, in an hour's time
destined to be obliterated by the feet of thousands and thousands of
wayfarers, you were not left unassailed by the clamorous petitions of
the more urgent applicants for charity. They beset you on every hand;
catching you by the coat; hanging on, and following you along; and, for
Heaven's sake, and for God's sake, and for Christ's sake, beseeching of
you but one ha'penny. If you so much as glanced your eye on one of them,
even for an instant, it was perceived like lightning, and the person
never left your side until you turned into another street, or satisfied
his demands. Thus, at least, it was with the sailors; though I observed
that the beggars treated the town's people differently.
I can not say that the seamen did much to relieve the destitution which
three times every day was presented to their view. Perhaps habit had
made them callous; but the truth might have been that very few of them
had much money to give. Yet the beggars must have had some inducement to
infest the dock walls as they did.
As an example of the caprice of sailors, and their sympathy with
suffering among members of their own calling, I must mention the case of
an old man, who every day, and all day long, through sunshine and rain,
occupied a particular corner, where crowds of tars were always passing.
He was an uncommonly large, plethoric man, with a wooden leg, and
dressed in the nautical garb; his face was red and round; he was
continually merry; and with his wooden stump thrust forth, so as almost
to trip up the careless wayfarer, he sat upon a great pile of monkey
jackets, with a little depression in them between his knees, to receive
the coppers thrown him. And plenty of pennies were tost into his
poor-box by the sailors, who always exchanged a pleasant word with the
old man, and passed on, generally regardless of the neighboring beggars.
The first morning I went ashore with my shipmates, some of them greeted
him as an old acquaintance; for that corner he had occupied for many
long years. He was an old man-of-war's man, who had lost his leg at the
battle of Trafalgar; and singular to tell, he now exhibited his wooden
one as a genuine specimen of the oak timbers of Nelson's ship, the
Among the paupers were several who wore old sailor hats and jackets, and
claimed to be destitute tars; and on the strength of these pretensions
demanded help from their brethren; but Jack would see through their
disguise in a moment, and turn away, with no benediction.
As I daily passed through this lane of beggars, who thronged the docks
as the Hebrew cripples did the Pool of Bethesda, and as I thought of my
utter inability in any way to help them, I could not but offer up a
prayer, that some angel might descend, and turn the waters of the docks
into an elixir, that would heal all their woes, and make them, man and
woman, healthy and whole as their ancestors, Adam and Eve, in the
Adam and Eve! If indeed ye are yet alive and in heaven, may it be no
part of your immortality to look down upon the world ye have left. For
as all these sufferers and cripples are as much your family as young
Abel, so, to you, the sight of the world's woes would be a parental
XXXIX. THE BOOBLE-ALLEYS OF THE TOWN
The same sights that are to be met with along the dock walls at noon, in
a less degree, though diversified with other scenes, are continually
encountered in the narrow streets where the sailor boarding-houses are
In the evening, especially when the sailors are gathered in great
numbers, these streets present a most singular spectacle, the entire
population of the vicinity being seemingly turned into them. Hand-
organs, fiddles, and cymbals, plied by strolling musicians, mix with
the songs of the seamen, the babble of women and children, and the
groaning and whining of beggars. From the various boarding-houses, each
distinguished by gilded emblems outside--an anchor, a crown, a ship, a
windlass, or a dolphin--proceeds the noise of revelry and dancing; and
from the open casements lean young girls and old women, chattering and
laughing with the crowds in the middle of the street. Every moment
strange greetings are exchanged between old sailors who chance to
stumble upon a shipmate, last seen in Calcutta or Savannah; and the
invariable courtesy that takes place upon these occasions, is to go to
the next spirit-vault, and drink each other's health.
There are particular paupers who frequent particular sections of these
streets, and who, I was told, resented the intrusion of mendicants from
other parts of the town.
Chief among them was a white-haired old man, stone-blind; who was led up
and down through the long tumult by a woman holding a little saucer to
receive contributions. This old man sang, or rather chanted, certain
words in a peculiarly long-drawn, guttural manner, throwing back his
head, and turning up his sightless eyeballs to the sky. His chant was a
lamentation upon his infirmity; and at the time it produced the same
effect upon me, that my first reading of Milton's Invocation to the Sun
did, years afterward. I can not recall it all; but it was something like
this, drawn out in an endless groan--
"Here goes the blind old man; blind, blind, blind; no more will he see
sun nor moon--no more see sun nor moon!" And thus would he pass through
the middle of the street; the woman going on in advance, holding his
hand, and dragging him through all obstructions; now and then leaving
him standing, while she went among the crowd soliciting coppers.
But one of the most curious features of the scene is the number of
sailor ballad-singers, who, after singing their verses, hand you a
printed copy, and beg you to buy. One of these persons, dressed like a
man-of-war's-man, I observed every day standing at a corner in the
middle of the street. He had a full, noble voice, like a church-organ;
and his notes rose high above the surrounding din. But the remarkable
thing about this ballad-singer was one of his arms, which, while
singing, he somehow swung vertically round and round in the air, as if
it revolved on a pivot. The feat was unnaturally unaccountable; and he
performed it with the view of attracting sympathy; since he said that in
falling from a frigate's mast-head to the deck, he had met with an
injury, which had resulted in making his wonderful arm what it was.
I made the acquaintance of this man, and found him no common character.
He was full of marvelous adventures, and abounded in terrific stories of
pirates and sea murders, and all sorts of nautical enormities. He was a
monomaniac upon these subjects; he was a Newgate Calendar of the
robberies and assassinations of the day, happening in the sailor
quarters of the town; and most of his ballads were upon kindred
subjects. He composed many of his own verses, and had them printed for
sale on his own account. To show how expeditious he was at this
business, it may be mentioned, that one evening on leaving the dock to
go to supper, I perceived a crowd gathered about the Old Fort Tavern;
and mingling with the rest, I learned that a woman of the town had just
been killed at the bar by a drunken Spanish sailor from Cadiz. The
murderer was carried off by the police before my eyes, and the very next
morning the ballad-singer with the miraculous arm, was singing the
tragedy in front of the boarding-houses, and handing round printed
copies of the song, which, of course, were eagerly bought up by the
This passing allusion to the murder will convey some idea of the events
which take place in the lowest and most abandoned neighborhoods
frequented by sailors in Liverpool. The pestilent lanes and alleys
which, in their vocabulary, go by the names of Rotten-row,
Gibraltar-place, and Booble-alley, are putrid with vice and crime; to
which, perhaps, the round globe does not furnish a parallel. The sooty
and begrimed bricks of the very houses have a reeking, Sodomlike, and
murderous look; and well may the shroud of coal-smoke, which hangs over
this part of the town, more than any other, attempt to hide the
enormities here practiced. These are the haunts from which sailors
sometimes disappear forever; or issue in the morning, robbed naked, from
the broken doorways. These are the haunts in which cursing, gambling,
pickpocketing, and common iniquities, are virtues too lofty for the
infected gorgons and hydras to practice. Propriety forbids that I should
enter into details; but kidnappers, burkers, and resurrectionists are
almost saints and angels to them. They seem leagued together, a company
of miscreant misanthropes, bent upon doing all the malice to mankind in
their power. With sulphur and brimstone they ought to be burned out of
their arches like vermin.
XL. PLACARDS, BRASS-JEWELERS, TRUCK-HORSES, AND STEAMERS
As I wish to group together what fell under my observation concerning
the Liverpool docks, and the scenes roundabout, I will try to throw into
this chapter various minor things that I recall.
The advertisements of pauperism chalked upon the flagging round the dock
walls, are singularly accompanied by a multitude of quite different
announcements, placarded upon the walls themselves. They are principally
notices of the approaching departure of "superior, fast-sailing,
coppered and copper-fastened ships," for the United States, Canada, New
South Wales, and other places. Interspersed with these, are the
advertisements of Jewish clothesmen, informing the judicious seamen
where he can procure of the best and the cheapest; together with
ambiguous medical announcements of the tribe of quacks and empirics who
prey upon all seafaring men. Not content with thus publicly giving
notice of their whereabouts, these indefatigable Sangrados and pretended
Samaritans hire a parcel of shabby workhouse-looking knaves, whose
business consists in haunting the dock walls about meal times, and
silently thrusting mysterious little billets--duodecimo editions of the
larger advertisements--into the astonished hands of the tars.
They do this, with such a mysterious hang-dog wink; such a sidelong air;
such a villainous assumption of your necessities; that, at first, you
are almost tempted to knock them down for their pains.
Conspicuous among the notices on the walls, are huge Italic inducements
to all seamen disgusted with the merchant service, to accept a round
bounty, and embark in her Majesty's navy.
In the British armed marine, in time of peace, they do not ship men for
the general service, as in the American navy; but for particular ships,
going upon particular cruises. Thus, the frigate Thetis may be announced
as about to sail under the command of that fine old sailor, and noble
father to his crew, Lord George Flagstaff.
Similar announcements may be seen upon the walls concerning enlistments
in the army. And never did auctioneer dilate with more rapture upon the
charms of some country-seat put up for sale, than the authors of these
placards do, upon the beauty and salubrity of the distant climes, for
which the regiments wanting recruits are about to sail. Bright lawns,
vine-clad hills, endless meadows of verdure, here make up the landscape;
and adventurous young gentlemen, fond of travel, are informed, that here
is a chance for them to see the world at their leisure, and be paid for
enjoying themselves into the bargain. The regiments for India are
promised plantations among valleys of palms; while to those destined for
New Holland, a novel sphere of life and activity is opened; and the
companies bound to Canada and Nova Scotia are lured by tales of summer
suns, that ripen grapes in December. No word of war is breathed; hushed
is the clang of arms in these announcements; and the sanguine recruit is
almost tempted to expect that pruning-hooks, instead of swords, will be
the weapons he will wield.
Alas! is not this the cruel stratagem of Brace at Bannockburn, who
decoyed to his war-pits by covering them over with green boughs? For
instead of a farm at the blue base of the Himalayas, the Indian recruit
encounters the keen saber of the Sikh; and instead of basking in sunny
bowers, the Canadian soldier stands a shivering sentry upon the bleak
ramparts of Quebec, a lofty mark for the bitter blasts from Baffin's Bay
and Labrador. There, as his eye sweeps down the St. Lawrence, whose
every billow is bound for the main that laves the shore of Old England;
as he thinks of his long term of enlistment, which sells him to the army
as Doctor Faust sold himself to the devil; how the poor fellow must
groan in his grief, and call to mind the church-yard stile, and his
These army announcements are well fitted to draw recruits in Liverpool.
Among the vast number of emigrants, who daily arrive from all parts of
Britain to embark for the United States or the colonies, there are many
young men, who, upon arriving at Liverpool, find themselves next to
penniless; or, at least, with only enough money to carry them over the
sea, without providing for future contingencies. How easily and
naturally, then, may such youths be induced to enter upon the military
life, which promises them a free passage to the most distant and
flourishing colonies, and certain pay for doing nothing; besides holding
out hopes of vineyards and farms, to be verified in the fullness of
time. For in a moneyless youth, the decision to leave home at all, and
embark upon a long voyage to reside in a remote clime, is a piece of
adventurousness only one removed from the spirit that prompts the army
recruit to enlist.
I never passed these advertisements, surrounded by crowds of gaping
emigrants, without thinking of rattraps.
Besides the mysterious agents of the quacks, who privily thrust their
little notes into your hands, folded up like a powder; there are another
set of rascals prowling about the docks, chiefly at dusk; 'who make
strange motions to you, and beckon you to one side, as if they had some
state secret to disclose, intimately connected with the weal of the
commonwealth. They nudge you with an elbow full of indefinite hints
and intimations; they glitter upon you an eye like a Jew's or a
pawnbroker's; they dog you like Italian assassins. But if the blue coat
of a policeman chances to approach, how quickly they strive to look
completely indifferent, as to the surrounding universe; how they saunter
off, as if lazily wending their way to an affectionate wife and family.
The first time one of these mysterious personages accosted me, I fancied
him crazy, and hurried forward to avoid him. But arm in arm with my
shadow, he followed after; till amazed at his conduct, I turned round
He was a little, shabby, old man, with a forlorn looking coat and hat;
and his hand was fumbling in his vest pocket, as if to take out a card
with his address. Seeing me stand still he made a sign toward a dark
angle of the wall, near which we were; when taking him for a cunning
foot-pad, I again wheeled about, and swiftly passed on. But though I did
not look round, I felt him following me still; so once more I stopped.
The fellow now assumed so mystic and admonitory an air, that I began to
fancy he came to me on some warning errand; that perhaps a plot had been
laid to blow up the Liverpool docks, and he was some Monteagle bent upon
accomplishing my flight. I was determined to see what he was. With all
my eyes about me, I followed him into the arch of a warehouse; when he
gazed round furtively, and silently showing me a ring, whispered, "You
may have it for a shilling; it's pure gold-I found it in the
gutter-hush! don't speak! give me the money, and it's yours."
"My friend," said I, "I don't trade in these articles; I don't want your
"Don't you? Then take, that," he whispered, in an intense hushed
passion; and I fell flat from a blow on the chest, while this infamous
jeweler made away with himself out of sight. This business transaction
was conducted with a counting-house promptitude that astonished me.
After that, I shunned these scoundrels like the leprosy: and the next
time I was pertinaciously followed, I stopped, and in a loud voice,
pointed out the man to the passers-by; upon which he absconded; rapidly
turning up into sight a pair of obliquely worn and battered boot-heels.
I could not help thinking that these sort of fellows, so given to
running away upon emergencies, must furnish a good deal of work to the
shoemakers; as they might, also, to the growers of hemp and
Belonging to a somewhat similar fraternity with these irritable
merchants of brass jewelry just mentioned, are the peddlers of Sheffield
razors, mostly boys, who are hourly driven out of the dock gates by the
police; nevertheless, they contrive to saunter back, and board the
vessels, going among the sailors and privately exhibiting their wares.
Incited by the extreme cheapness of one of the razors, and the gilding
on the case containing it, a shipmate of mine purchased it on the spot
for a commercial equivalent of the price, in tobacco. On the following
Sunday, he used that razor; and the result was a pair of tormented and
tomahawked cheeks, that almost required a surgeon to dress them. In old
times, by the way, it was not a bad thought, that suggested the
propriety of a barber's practicing surgery in connection with the
chin-harrowing vocation. Another class of knaves, who practice upon the
sailors in Liverpool, are the pawnbrokers, inhabiting little rookeries
among the narrow lanes adjoining the dock. I was astonished at die
multitude of gilded balls in these streets, emblematic of their calling.
They were generally next neighbors to the gilded grapes over the
spirit-vaults; and no doubt, mutually to facilitate business operations,
some of these establishments have connecting doors inside, so as to play
their customers into each other's hands. I often saw sailors in a state
of intoxication rushing from a spirit-vault into a pawnbroker's;
stripping off their boots, hats, jackets, and neckerchiefs, and
sometimes even their pantaloons on the spot, and offering to pawn them
for a song. Of course such applications were never refused. But though
on shore, at Liverpool, poor Jack finds more sharks than at sea, he
himself is by no means exempt from practices, that do not savor of a
rigid morality; at least according to law. In tobacco smuggling he is an
adept: and when cool and collected, often manages to evade the Customs
completely, and land goodly packages of the weed, which owing to the
immense duties upon it in England, commands a very high price.
As soon as we came to anchor in the river, before reaching the dock,
three Custom-house underlings boarded us, and coming down into the
forecastle, ordered the men to produce all the tobacco they had.
Accordingly several pounds were brought forth.
"Is that all?" asked the officers.
"All," said the men.
"We will see," returned the others.
And without more ado, they emptied the chests right and left; tossed
over the bunks and made a thorough search of the premises; but
discovered nothing. The sailors were then given to understand, that
while the ship lay in dock, the tobacco must remain in the cabin, under
custody of the chief mate, who every morning would dole out to them one
plug per head, as a security against their carrying it ashore.
"Very good," said the men.
But several of them had secret places in the ship, from whence they
daily drew pound after pound of tobacco, which they smuggled ashore in
the manner following.
When the crew went to meals, each man carried at least one plug in his
pocket; that he had a right to; and as many more were hidden about his
person as he dared. Among the great crowds pouring out of the dock-gates
at such hours, of course these smugglers stood little chance of
detection; although vigilant looking policemen were always standing by.
And though these "Charlies" might suppose there were tobacco smugglers
passing; yet to hit the right man among such a throng, would be as hard,
as to harpoon a speckled porpoise, one of ten thousand darting under a
Our forecastle was often visited by foreign sailors, who knowing we came
from America, were anxious to purchase tobacco at a cheap rate; for in
Liverpool it is about an American penny per pipe-full. Along the docks
they sell an English pennyworth, put up in a little roll like
confectioners' mottoes, with poetical lines, or instructive little moral
precepts printed in red on the back.
Among all the sights of the docks, the noble truck-horses are not the
least striking to a stranger. They are large and powerful brutes, with
such sleek and glossy coats, that they look as if brushed and put on by
a valet every morning. They march with a slow and stately step, lifting
their ponderous hoofs like royal Siam elephants. Thou shalt not lay
stripes upon these Roman citizens; for their docility is such, they are
guided without rein or lash; they go or come, halt or march on, at a
whisper. So grave, dignified, gentlemanly, and courteous did these fine
truck-horses look--so full of calm intelligence and sagacity, that often
I endeavored to get into conversation with them, as they stood in
contemplative attitudes while their loads were preparing. But all I
could get from them was the mere recognition of a friendly neigh; though
I would stake much upon it that, could I have spoken in their language,
I would have derived from them a good deal of valuable information
touching the docks, where they passed the whole of their dignified
There are unknown worlds of knowledge in brutes; and whenever you mark a
horse, or a dog, with a peculiarly mild, calm, deep-seated eye, be sure
he is an Aristotle or a Kant, tranquilly speculating upon the mysteries
in man. No philosophers so thoroughly comprehend us as dogs and horses.
They see through us at a glance. And after all, what is a horse but a
species of four-footed dumb man, in a leathern overall, who happens to
live upon oats, and toils for his masters, half-requited or abused, like
the biped hewers of wood and drawers of water? But there is a touch of
divinity even in brutes, and a special halo about a horse, that should
forever exempt him from indignities. As for those majestic, magisterial
truck-horses of the docks, I would as soon think of striking a judge on
the bench, as to lay violent hand upon their holy hides.
It is wonderful what loads their majesties will condescend to draw. The
truck is a large square platform, on four low wheels; and upon this the
lumpers pile bale after bale of cotton, as if they were filling a large
warehouse, and yet a procession of three of these horses will tranquilly
walk away with the whole.
The truckmen themselves are almost as singular a race as their animals.
Like the Judiciary in England, they wear gowns,--not of the same cut and
color though,--which reach below their knees; and from the racket they
make on the pavements with their hob-nailed brogans, you would think
they patronized the same shoemaker with their horses. I never could get
any thing out of these truckmen. They are a reserved, sober-sided set,
who, with all possible solemnity, march at the head of their animals;
now and then gently advising them to sheer to the right or the left, in
order to avoid some passing vehicle. Then spending so much of their
lives in the high-bred company of their horses, seems to have mended
their manners and improved their taste, besides imparting to them
something of the dignity of their animals; but it has also given to them
a sort of refined and uncomplaining aversion to human society.
There are many strange stories told of the truck-horse. Among others is
the following: There was a parrot, that from having long been suspended
in its cage from a low window fronting a dock, had learned to converse
pretty fluently in the language of the stevedores and truckmen. One day
a truckman left his vehicle standing on the quay, with its back to the
water. It was noon, when an interval of silence falls upon the docks;
and Poll, seeing herself face to face with the horse, and having a mind
for a chat, cried out to him, "Back! back! back!"
Backward went the horse, precipitating himself and truck into the water.
Brunswick Dock, to the west of Prince's, is one of the most interesting
to be seen. Here lie the various black steamers (so unlike the American
boats, since they have to navigate the boisterous Narrow Seas) plying to
all parts of the three kingdoms. Here you see vast quantities of
produce, imported from starving Ireland; here you see the decks turned
into pens for oxen and sheep; and often, side by side with these
inclosures, Irish deck-passengers, thick as they can stand, seemingly
penned in just like the cattle. It was the beginning of July when the
Highlander arrived in port; and the Irish laborers were daily coming
over by thousands, to help harvest the English crops.
One morning, going into the town, I heard a tramp, as of a drove of
buffaloes, behind me; and turning round, beheld the entire middle of the
street filled by a great crowd of these men, who had just emerged from
Brunswick Dock gates, arrayed in long-tailed coats of hoddin-gray,
corduroy knee-breeches, and shod with shoes that raised a mighty dust.
Flourishing their Donnybrook shillelahs, they looked like an irruption
of barbarians. They were marching straight out of town into the country;
and perhaps out of consideration for the finances of the corporation,
took the middle of the street, to save the side-walks.
"Sing Langolee, and the Lakes of Killarney," cried one fellow, tossing
his stick into the air, as he danced in his brogans at the head of the
rabble. And so they went! capering on, merry as pipers.
When I thought of the multitudes of Irish that annually land on the
shores of the United States and Canada, and, to my surprise, witnessed
the additional multitudes embarking from Liverpool to New Holland; and
when, added to all this, I daily saw these hordes of laborers,
descending, thick as locusts, upon the English corn-fields; I could not
help marveling at the fertility of an island, which, though her crop of
potatoes may fail, never yet failed in bringing her annual crop of men
into the world.
XLI. REDBURN ROVES ABOUT HITHER AND THITHER
I do not know that any other traveler would think it worth while to
mention such a thing; but the fact is, that during the summer months in
Liverpool, the days are exceedingly lengthy; and the first evening I
found myself walking in the twilight after nine o'clock, I tried to
recall my astronomical knowledge, in order to account satisfactorily for
so curious a phenomenon. But the days in summer, and the nights in
winter, are just as long in Liverpool as at Cape Horn; for the latitude
of the two places very nearly corresponds.
These Liverpool days, however, were a famous thing for me; who, thereby,
was enabled after my day's work aboard the Highlander, to ramble about
the town for several hours. After I had visited all the noted places I
could discover, of those marked down upon my father's map, I began to
extend my rovings indefinitely; forming myself into a committee of one,
to investigate all accessible parts of the town; though so many years
have elapsed, ere I have thought of bringing in my report.
This was a great delight to me: for wherever I have been in the world, I
have always taken a vast deal of lonely satisfaction in wandering about,
up and down, among out-of-the-way streets and alleys, and speculating
upon the strangers I have met. Thus, in Liverpool I used to pace along
endless streets of dwelling-houses, looking at the names on the doors,
admiring the pretty faces in the windows, and invoking a passing
blessing upon the chubby children on the door-steps. I was stared at
myself, to be sure: but what of that? We must give and take on such
occasions. In truth, I and my shooting-jacket produced quite a sensation
in Liverpool: and I have no doubt, that many a father of a family went
home to his children with a curious story, about a wandering phenomenon
they had encountered, traversing the side-walks that day. In the words
of the old song, "I cared for nobody, no not I, and nobody cared for
me." I stared my fill with impunity, and took all stares myself in good
Once I was standing in a large square, gaping at a splendid chariot
drawn up at a portico. The glossy horses quivered with good-living, and
so did the sumptuous calves of the gold-laced coachman and footmen in
attendance. I was particularly struck with the red cheeks of these men:
and the many evidences they furnished of their enjoying this meal with a
While thus standing, I all at once perceived, that the objects of my
curiosity, were making me an object of their own; and that they were
gazing at me, as if I were some unauthorized intruder upon the British
soil. Truly, they had reason: for when I now think of the figure I must
have cut in those days, I only marvel that, in my many strolls, my
passport was not a thousand times demanded.
Nevertheless, I was only a forlorn looking mortal among tens of
thousands of rags and tatters. For in some parts of the town, inhabited
by laborers, and poor people generally; I used to crowd my way through
masses of squalid men, women, and children, who at this evening hour, in
those quarters of Liverpool, seem to empty themselves into the street,
and live there for the time. I had never seen any thing like it in New
York. Often, I witnessed some curious, and many very sad scenes; and
especially I remembered encountering a pale, ragged man, rushing along
frantically, and striving to throw off his wife and children, who clung
to his arms and legs; and, in God's name, conjured him not to desert
them. He seemed bent upon rushing down to the water, and drowning
himself, in some despair, and craziness of wretchedness. In these
haunts, beggary went on before me wherever I walked, and dogged me
unceasingly at the heels. Poverty, poverty, poverty, in almost endless
vistas: and want and woe staggered arm in arm along these miserable
And here, I must not omit one thing, that struck me at the time. It was
the absence of negroes; who in the large towns in the "free states" of
America, almost always form a considerable portion of the destitute. But
in these streets, not a negro was to be seen. All were whites; and with
the exception of the Irish, were natives of the soil: even Englishmen;
as much Englishmen, as the dukes in the House of Lords. This conveyed a
strange feeling: and more than any thing else, reminded me that I was
not in my own land. For there, such a being as a native beggar is almost
unknown; and to be a born American citizen seems a guarantee against
pauperism; and this, perhaps, springs from the virtue of a vote.
Speaking of negroes, recalls the looks of interest with which negro-
sailors are regarded when they walk the Liverpool streets. In
Liverpool indeed the negro steps with a prouder pace, and lifts his head
like a man; for here, no such exaggerated feeling exists in respect to
him, as in America. Three or four times, I encountered our black
steward, dressed very handsomely, and walking arm in arm with a
good-looking English woman. In New York, such a couple would have been
mobbed in three minutes; and the steward would have been lucky to escape
with whole limbs. Owing to the friendly reception extended to them, and
the unwonted immunities they enjoy in Liverpool, the black cooks and
stewards of American ships are very much attached to the place and like
to make voyages to it.
Being so young and inexperienced then, and unconsciously swayed in some
degree by those local and social prejudices, that are the marring of
most men, and from which, for the mass, there seems no possible escape;
at first I was surprised that a colored man should be treated as he is
in this town; but a little reflection showed that, after all, it was but
recognizing his claims to humanity and normal equality; so that, in some
things, we Americans leave to other countries the carrying out of the
principle that stands at the head of our Declaration of Independence.
During my evening strolls in the wealthier quarters, I was subject to a
continual mortification. It was the humiliating fact, wholly unforeseen
by me, that upon the whole, and barring the poverty and beggary,
Liverpool, away from the docks, was very much such a place as New York.
There were the same sort of streets pretty much; the same rows of houses
with stone steps; the same kind of side-walks and curbs; and the same
elbowing, heartless-looking crowd as ever.
I came across the Leeds Canal, one afternoon; but, upon my word, no one
could have told it from the Erie Canal at Albany. I went into St. John's
Market on a Saturday night; and though it was strange enough to see that
great roof supported by so many pillars, yet the most discriminating
observer would not have been able to detect any difference between the
articles exposed for sale, and the articles exhibited in Fulton Market,
I walked down Lord-street, peering into the jewelers' shops; but I
thought I was walking down a block in Broadway. I began to think that
all this talk about travel was a humbug; and that he who lives in a
nut-shell, lives in an epitome of the universe, and has but little to
see beyond him.
It is true, that I often thought of London's being only seven or eight
hours' travel by railroad from where I was; and that there, surely, must
be a world of wonders waiting my eyes: but more of London anon.
Sundays were the days upon which I made my longest explorations. I rose
bright and early, with my whole plan of operations in my head. First
walking into some dock hitherto unexamined, and then to breakfast. Then
a walk through the more fashionable streets, to see the people going to
church; and then I myself went to church, selecting the goodliest
edifice, and the tallest Kentuckian of a spire I could find.
For I am an admirer of church architecture; and though, perhaps, the
sums spent in erecting magnificent cathedrals might better go to the
founding of charities, yet since these structures are built, those who
disapprove of them in one sense, may as well have the benefit of them in
It is a most Christian thing, and a matter most sweet to dwell upon and
simmer over in solitude, that any poor sinner may go to church wherever
he pleases; and that even St. Peter's in Rome is open to him, as to a
cardinal; that St. Paul's in London is not shut against him; and that
the Broadway Tabernacle, in New York, opens all her broad aisles to him,
and will not even have doors and thresholds to her pews, the better to
allure him by an unbounded invitation. I say, this consideration of the
hospitality and democracy in churches, is a most Christian and charming
thought. It speaks whole volumes of folios, and Vatican libraries, for
Christianity; it is more eloquent, and goes farther home than all the
sermons of Massillon, Jeremy Taylor, Wesley, and Archbishop Tillotson.
Nothing daunted, therefore, by thinking of my being a stranger in the
land; nothing daunted by the architectural superiority and costliness of
any Liverpool church; or by the streams of silk dresses and fine
broadcloth coats flowing into the aisles, I used humbly to present
myself before the sexton, as a candidate for admission. He would stare a
little, perhaps (one of them once hesitated), but in the end, what could
he do but show me into a pew; not the most commodious of pews, to be
sure; nor commandingly located; nor within very plain sight or hearing
of the pulpit. No; it was remarkable, that there was always some
confounded pillar or obstinate angle of the wall in the way; and I used
to think, that the sextons of Liverpool must have held a secret meeting
on my account, and resolved to apportion me the most inconvenient pew in
the churches under their charge. However, they always gave me a seat of
some sort or other; sometimes even on an oaken bench in the open air of
the aisle, where I would sit, dividing the attention of the congregation
between myself and the clergyman. The whole congregation seemed to know
that I was a foreigner of distinction.
It was sweet to hear the service read, the organ roll, the sermon
preached--just as the same things were going on three thousand five
hundred miles off, at home! But then, the prayer in behalf of her
majesty the Queen, somewhat threw me back. Nevertheless, I joined in
that prayer, and invoked for the lady the best wishes of a poor Yankee.
How I loved to sit in the holy hush of those brown old monastic aisles,
thinking of Harry the Eighth, and the Reformation! How I loved to go a
roving with my eye, all along the sculptured walls and buttresses;
winding in among the intricacies of the pendent ceiling, and wriggling
my fancied way like a wood-worm. I could have sat there all the morning
long, through noon, unto night. But at last the benediction would come;
and appropriating my share of it, I would slowly move away, thinking how
I should like to go home with some of the portly old gentlemen, with
high-polished boots and Malacca canes, and take a seat at their cosy and
comfortable dinner-tables. But, alas! there was no dinner for me except
at the sign of the Baltimore Clipper.
Yet the Sunday dinners that Handsome Mary served up .were not to be
scorned. The roast beef of Old England abounded; and so did the immortal
plum-puddings, and the unspeakably capital gooseberry pies. But to
finish off with that abominable "swipes" almost spoiled all the rest:
not that I myself patronized "swipes" but my shipmates did; and every
cup I saw them drink, I could not choose but taste in imagination, and
even then the flavor was bad.
On Sundays, at dinner-time, as, indeed, on every other day, it was
curious to watch the proceedings at the sign of the Clipper. The servant
girls were running about, mustering the various crews, whose dinners
were spread, each in a separate apartment; and who were collectively
known by the names of their ships.
"Where are the Arethusas?--Here's their beef been smoking this
half-hour."--"Fly, Betty, my dear, here come the Splendids."--"Run,
Molly, my love; get the salt-cellars for the Highlanders."--"You Peggy,
where's the Siddons' pickle-pat?"--"I say, Judy, are you never coming
with that pudding for the Lord Nelsons?"
On week days, we did not fare quite so well as on Sundays; and once we
came to dinner, and found two enormous bullock hearts smoking at each
end of the Highlanders' table. Jackson was indignant at the outrage.
He always sat at the head of the table; and this time he squared himself
on his bench, and erecting his knife and fork like flag-staffs, so as to
include the two hearts between them, he called out for Danby, the
boarding-house keeper; for although his wife Mary was in fact at the
head of the establishment, yet Danby himself always came in for the
Danby obsequiously appeared, and stood in the doorway, well knowing the
philippics that were coming. But he was not prepared for the peroration
of Jackson's address to him; which consisted of the two bullock hearts,
snatched bodily off the dish, and flung at his head, by way of a
recapitulation of the preceding arguments. The company then broke up in
disgust, and dined elsewhere.
Though I almost invariably attended church on Sunday mornings, yet the
rest of the day I spent on my travels; and it was on one of these
afternoon strolls, that on passing through St. George's-square, I found
myself among a large crowd, gathered near the base of George the
Fourth's equestrian statue.
The people were mostly mechanics and artisans in their holiday clothes;
but mixed with them were a good many soldiers, in lean, lank, and
dinnerless undresses, and sporting attenuated rattans. These troops
belonged to the various regiments then in town. Police officers, also,
were conspicuous in their uniforms. At first perfect silence and decorum
Addressing this orderly throng was a pale, hollow-eyed young man, in a
snuff-colored surtout, who looked worn with much watching, or much toil,
or too little food. His features were good, his whole air was
respectable, and there was no mistaking the fact, that he was strongly
in earnest in what he was saying.
In his hand was a soiled, inflammatory-looking pamphlet, from which he
frequently read; following up the quotations with nervous appeals to his
hearers, a rolling of his eyes, and sometimes the most frantic gestures.
I was not long within hearing of him, before I became aware that this
youth was a Chartist.
Presently the crowd increased, and some commotion was raised, when I
noticed the police officers augmenting in number; and by and by, they
began to glide through the crowd, politely hinting at the propriety of
dispersing. The first persons thus accosted were the soldiers, who
accordingly sauntered off, switching their rattans, and admiring their
high-polished shoes. It was plain that the Charter did not hang very
heavy round their hearts. For the rest, they also gradually broke up;
and at last I saw the speaker himself depart.
I do not know why, but I thought he must be some despairing elder son,
supporting by hard toil his mother and sisters; for of such many
political desperadoes are made.
That same Sunday afternoon, I strolled toward the outskirts of the town,
and attracted by the sight of two great Pompey's pillars, in the shape
of black steeples, apparently rising directly from the soil, I
approached them with much curiosity. But looking over a low parapet
connecting them, what was my surprise to behold at my feet a smoky
hollow in the ground, with rocky walls, and dark holes at one end,
carrying out of view several lines of iron railways; while far beyond,
straight out toward the open country, ran an endless railroad. Over the
place, a handsome Moorish arch of stone was flung; and gradually, as I
gazed upon it, and at the little side arches at the bottom of the
hollow, there came over me an undefinable feeling, that I had previously
seen the whole thing before. Yet how could that be? Certainly, I had
never been in Liverpool before: but then, that Moorish arch! surely I
remembered that very well. It was not till several months after reaching
home in America, that my perplexity upon this matter was cleared away.
In glancing over an old number of the Penny Magazine, there I saw a
picture of the place to the life; and remembered having seen the same
print years previous. It was a representation of the spot where the
Manchester railroad enters the outskirts of the town.
XLII. HIS ADVENTURE WITH THE CROSS OLD GENTLEMAN
My adventure in the News-Room in the Exchange, which I have related in a
previous chapter, reminds me of another, at the Lyceum, some days after,
which may as well be put down here, before I forget it.
I was strolling down Bold-street, I think it was, when I was struck by
the sight of a brown stone building, very large and handsome. The
windows were open, and there, nicely seated, with their comfortable legs
crossed over their comfortable knees, I beheld several sedate,
happy-looking old gentlemen reading the magazines and papers, and one
had a fine gilded volume in his hand.