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American Notes for General Circulation by Charles Dickens

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American Notes for General Circulation by Charles Dickens
Scanned and proofed by David Price
email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk

American Notes for General Circulation


IT is nearly eight years since this book was first published. I
present it, unaltered, in the Cheap Edition; and such of my
opinions as it expresses, are quite unaltered too.

My readers have opportunities of judging for themselves whether the
influences and tendencies which I distrust in America, have any
existence not in my imagination. They can examine for themselves
whether there has been anything in the public career of that
country during these past eight years, or whether there is anything
in its present position, at home or abroad, which suggests that
those influences and tendencies really do exist. As they find the
fact, they will judge me. If they discern any evidences of wrong-
going in any direction that I have indicated, they will acknowledge
that I had reason in what I wrote. If they discern no such thing,
they will consider me altogether mistaken.

Prejudiced, I never have been otherwise than in favour of the
United States. No visitor can ever have set foot on those shores,
with a stronger faith in the Republic than I had, when I landed in

I purposely abstain from extending these observations to any
length. I have nothing to defend, or to explain away. The truth
is the truth; and neither childish absurdities, nor unscrupulous
contradictions, can make it otherwise. The earth would still move
round the sun, though the whole Catholic Church said No.

I have many friends in America, and feel a grateful interest in the
country. To represent me as viewing it with ill-nature, animosity,
or partisanship, is merely to do a very foolish thing, which is
always a very easy one; and which I have disregarded for eight
years, and could disregard for eighty more.

LONDON, JUNE 22, 1850.


MY readers have opportunities of judging for themselves whether the
influences and tendencies which I distrusted in America, had, at
that time, any existence but in my imagination. They can examine
for themselves whether there has been anything in the public career
of that country since, at home or abroad, which suggests that those
influences and tendencies really did exist. As they find the fact,
they will judge me. If they discern any evidences of wrong-going,
in any direction that I have indicated, they will acknowledge that
I had reason in what I wrote. If they discern no such indications,
they will consider me altogether mistaken - but not wilfully.

Prejudiced, I am not, and never have been, otherwise than in favour
of the United States. I have many friends in America, I feel a
grateful interest in the country, I hope and believe it will
successfully work out a problem of the highest importance to the
whole human race. To represent me as viewing AMERICA with ill-
nature, coldness, or animosity, is merely to do a very foolish
thing: which is always a very easy one.


I SHALL never forget the one-fourth serious and three-fourths
comical astonishment, with which, on the morning of the third of
January eighteen-hundred-and-forty-two, I opened the door of, and
put my head into, a 'state-room' on board the Britannia steam-
packet, twelve hundred tons burthen per register, bound for Halifax
and Boston, and carrying Her Majesty's mails.

That this state-room had been specially engaged for 'Charles
Dickens, Esquire, and Lady,' was rendered sufficiently clear even
to my scared intellect by a very small manuscript, announcing the
fact, which was pinned on a very flat quilt, covering a very thin
mattress, spread like a surgical plaster on a most inaccessible
shelf. But that this was the state-room concerning which Charles
Dickens, Esquire, and Lady, had held daily and nightly conferences
for at least four months preceding: that this could by any
possibility be that small snug chamber of the imagination, which
Charles Dickens, Esquire, with the spirit of prophecy strong upon
him, had always foretold would contain at least one little sofa,
and which his lady, with a modest yet most magnificent sense of its
limited dimensions, had from the first opined would not hold more
than two enormous portmanteaus in some odd corner out of sight
(portmanteaus which could now no more be got in at the door, not to
say stowed away, than a giraffe could be persuaded or forced into a
flower-pot): that this utterly impracticable, thoroughly hopeless,
and profoundly preposterous box, had the remotest reference to, or
connection with, those chaste and pretty, not to say gorgeous
little bowers, sketched by a masterly hand, in the highly varnished
lithographic plan hanging up in the agent's counting-house in the
city of London: that this room of state, in short, could be
anything but a pleasant fiction and cheerful jest of the captain's,
invented and put in practice for the better relish and enjoyment of
the real state-room presently to be disclosed:- these were truths
which I really could not, for the moment, bring my mind at all to
bear upon or comprehend. And I sat down upon a kind of horsehair
slab, or perch, of which there were two within; and looked, without
any expression of countenance whatever, at some friends who had
come on board with us, and who were crushing their faces into all
manner of shapes by endeavouring to squeeze them through the small

We had experienced a pretty smart shock before coming below, which,
but that we were the most sanguine people living, might have
prepared us for the worst. The imaginative artist to whom I have
already made allusion, has depicted in the same great work, a
chamber of almost interminable perspective, furnished, as Mr.
Robins would say, in a style of more than Eastern splendour, and
filled (but not inconveniently so) with groups of ladies and
gentlemen, in the very highest state of enjoyment and vivacity.
Before descending into the bowels of the ship, we had passed from
the deck into a long narrow apartment, not unlike a gigantic hearse
with windows in the sides; having at the upper end a melancholy
stove, at which three or four chilly stewards were warming their
hands; while on either side, extending down its whole dreary
length, was a long, long table, over each of which a rack, fixed to
the low roof, and stuck full of drinking-glasses and cruet-stands,
hinted dismally at rolling seas and heavy weather. I had not at
that time seen the ideal presentment of this chamber which has
since gratified me so much, but I observed that one of our friends
who had made the arrangements for our voyage, turned pale on
entering, retreated on the friend behind him., smote his forehead
involuntarily, and said below his breath, 'Impossible! it cannot
be!' or words to that effect. He recovered himself however by a
great effort, and after a preparatory cough or two, cried, with a
ghastly smile which is still before me, looking at the same time
round the walls, 'Ha! the breakfast-room, steward - eh?' We all
foresaw what the answer must be: we knew the agony he suffered.
He had often spoken of THE SALOON; had taken in and lived upon the
pictorial idea; had usually given us to understand, at home, that
to form a just conception of it, it would be necessary to multiply
the size and furniture of an ordinary drawing-room by seven, and
then fall short of the reality. When the man in reply avowed the
truth; the blunt, remorseless, naked truth; 'This is the saloon,
sir' - he actually reeled beneath the blow.

In persons who were so soon to part, and interpose between their
else daily communication the formidable barrier of many thousand
miles of stormy space, and who were for that reason anxious to cast
no other cloud, not even the passing shadow of a moment's
disappointment or discomfiture, upon the short interval of happy
companionship that yet remained to them - in persons so situated,
the natural transition from these first surprises was obviously
into peals of hearty laughter, and I can report that I, for one,
being still seated upon the slab or perch before mentioned, roared
outright until the vessel rang again. Thus, in less than two
minutes after coming upon it for the first time, we all by common
consent agreed that this state-room was the pleasantest and most
facetious and capital contrivance possible; and that to have had it
one inch larger, would have been quite a disagreeable and
deplorable state of things. And with this; and with showing how, -
by very nearly closing the door, and twining in and out like
serpents, and by counting the little washing slab as standing-room,
- we could manage to insinuate four people into it, all at one
time; and entreating each other to observe how very airy it was (in
dock), and how there was a beautiful port-hole which could be kept
open all day (weather permitting), and how there was quite a large
bull's-eye just over the looking-glass which would render shaving a
perfectly easy and delightful process (when the ship didn't roll
too much); we arrived, at last, at the unanimous conclusion that it
was rather spacious than otherwise: though I do verily believe
that, deducting the two berths, one above the other, than which
nothing smaller for sleeping in was ever made except coffins, it
was no bigger than one of those hackney cabriolets which have the
door behind, and shoot their fares out, like sacks of coals, upon
the pavement.

Having settled this point to the perfect satisfaction of all
parties, concerned and unconcerned, we sat down round the fire in
the ladies' cabin - just to try the effect. It was rather dark,
certainly; but somebody said, 'of course it would be light, at
sea,' a proposition to which we all assented; echoing 'of course,
of course;' though it would be exceedingly difficult to say why we
thought so. I remember, too, when we had discovered and exhausted
another topic of consolation in the circumstance of this ladies'
cabin adjoining our state-room, and the consequently immense
feasibility of sitting there at all times and seasons, and had
fallen into a momentary silence, leaning our faces on our hands and
looking at the fire, one of our party said, with the solemn air of
a man who had made a discovery, 'What a relish mulled claret will
have down here!' which appeared to strike us all most forcibly; as
though there were something spicy and high-flavoured in cabins,
which essentially improved that composition, and rendered it quite
incapable of perfection anywhere else.

There was a stewardess, too, actively engaged in producing clean
sheets and table-cloths from the very entrails of the sofas, and
from unexpected lockers, of such artful mechanism, that it made
one's head ache to see them opened one after another, and rendered
it quite a distracting circumstance to follow her proceedings, and
to find that every nook and corner and individual piece of
furniture was something else besides what it pretended to be, and
was a mere trap and deception and place of secret stowage, whose
ostensible purpose was its least useful one.

God bless that stewardess for her piously fraudulent account of
January voyages! God bless her for her clear recollection of the
companion passage of last year, when nobody was ill, and everybody
dancing from morning to night, and it was 'a run' of twelve days,
and a piece of the purest frolic, and delight, and jollity! All
happiness be with her for her bright face and her pleasant Scotch
tongue, which had sounds of old Home in it for my fellow-traveller;
and for her predictions of fair winds and fine weather (all wrong,
or I shouldn't be half so fond of her); and for the ten thousand
small fragments of genuine womanly tact, by which, without piecing
them elaborately together, and patching them up into shape and form
and case and pointed application, she nevertheless did plainly show
that all young mothers on one side of the Atlantic were near and
close at hand to their little children left upon the other; and
that what seemed to the uninitiated a serious journey, was, to
those who were in the secret, a mere frolic, to be sung about and
whistled at! Light be her heart, and gay her merry eyes, for

The state-room had grown pretty fast; but by this time it had
expanded into something quite bulky, and almost boasted a bay-
window to view the sea from. So we went upon deck again in high
spirits; and there, everything was in such a state of bustle and
active preparation, that the blood quickened its pace, and whirled
through one's veins on that clear frosty morning with involuntary
mirthfulness. For every gallant ship was riding slowly up and
down, and every little boat was splashing noisily in the water; and
knots of people stood upon the wharf, gazing with a kind of 'dread
delight' on the far-famed fast American steamer; and one party of
men were 'taking in the milk,' or, in other words, getting the cow
on board; and another were filling the icehouses to the very throat
with fresh provisions; with butchers'-meat and garden-stuff, pale
sucking-pigs, calves' heads in scores, beef, veal, and pork, and
poultry out of all proportion; and others were coiling ropes and
busy with oakum yarns; and others were lowering heavy packages into
the hold; and the purser's head was barely visible as it loomed in
a state, of exquisite perplexity from the midst of a vast pile of
passengers' luggage; and there seemed to be nothing going on
anywhere, or uppermost in the mind of anybody, but preparations for
this mighty voyage. This, with the bright cold sun, the bracing
air, the crisply-curling water, the thin white crust of morning ice
upon the decks which crackled with a sharp and cheerful sound
beneath the lightest tread, was irresistible. And when, again upon
the shore, we turned and saw from the vessel's mast her name
signalled in flags of joyous colours, and fluttering by their side
the beautiful American banner with its stars and stripes, - the
long three thousand miles and more, and, longer still, the six
whole months of absence, so dwindled and faded, that the ship had
gone out and come home again, and it was broad spring already in
the Coburg Dock at Liverpool.

I have not inquired among my medical acquaintance, whether Turtle,
and cold Punch, with Hock, Champagne, and Claret, and all the
slight et cetera usually included in an unlimited order for a good
dinner - especially when it is left to the liberal construction of
my faultless friend, Mr. Radley, of the Adelphi Hotel - are
peculiarly calculated to suffer a sea-change; or whether a plain
mutton-chop, and a glass or two of sherry, would be less likely of
conversion into foreign and disconcerting material. My own opinion
is, that whether one is discreet or indiscreet in these
particulars, on the eve of a sea-voyage, is a matter of little
consequence; and that, to use a common phrase, 'it comes to very
much the same thing in the end.' Be this as it may, I know that
the dinner of that day was undeniably perfect; that it comprehended
all these items, and a great many more; and that we all did ample
justice to it. And I know too, that, bating a certain tacit
avoidance of any allusion to to-morrow; such as may be supposed to
prevail between delicate-minded turnkeys, and a sensitive prisoner
who is to be hanged next morning; we got on very well, and, all
things considered, were merry enough.

When the morning - THE morning - came, and we met at breakfast, it
was curious to see how eager we all were to prevent a moment's
pause in the conversation, and how astoundingly gay everybody was:
the forced spirits of each member of the little party having as
much likeness to his natural mirth, as hot-house peas at five
guineas the quart, resemble in flavour the growth of the dews, and
air, and rain of Heaven. But as one o'clock, the hour for going
aboard, drew near, this volubility dwindled away by little and
little, despite the most persevering efforts to the contrary, until
at last, the matter being now quite desperate, we threw off all
disguise; openly speculated upon where we should be this time to-
morrow, this time next day, and so forth; and entrusted a vast
number of messages to those who intended returning to town that
night, which were to be delivered at home and elsewhere without
fail, within the very shortest possible space of time after the
arrival of the railway train at Euston Square. And commissions and
remembrances do so crowd upon one at such a time, that we were
still busied with this employment when we found ourselves fused, as
it were, into a dense conglomeration of passengers and passengers'
friends and passengers' luggage, all jumbled together on the deck
of a small steamboat, and panting and snorting off to the packet,
which had worked out of dock yesterday afternoon and was now lying
at her moorings in the river.

And there she is! all eyes are turned to where she lies, dimly
discernible through the gathering fog of the early winter
afternoon; every finger is pointed in the same direction; and
murmurs of interest and admiration - as 'How beautiful she looks!'
'How trim she is!' - are heard on every side. Even the lazy
gentleman with his hat on one side and his hands in his pockets,
who has dispensed so much consolation by inquiring with a yawn of
another gentleman whether he is 'going across' - as if it were a
ferry - even he condescends to look that way, and nod his head, as
who should say, 'No mistake about THAT:' and not even the sage Lord
Burleigh in his nod, included half so much as this lazy gentleman
of might who has made the passage (as everybody on board has found
out already; it's impossible to say how) thirteen times without a
single accident! There is another passenger very much wrapped-up,
who has been frowned down by the rest, and morally trampled upon
and crushed, for presuming to inquire with a timid interest how
long it is since the poor President went down. He is standing
close to the lazy gentleman, and says with a faint smile that he
believes She is a very strong Ship; to which the lazy gentleman,
looking first in his questioner's eye and then very hard in the
wind's, answers unexpectedly and ominously, that She need be. Upon
this the lazy gentleman instantly falls very low in the popular
estimation, and the passengers, with looks of defiance, whisper to
each other that he is an ass, and an impostor, and clearly don't
know anything at all about it.

But we are made fast alongside the packet, whose huge red funnel is
smoking bravely, giving rich promise of serious intentions.
Packing-cases, portmanteaus, carpet-bags, and boxes, are already
passed from hand to hand, and hauled on board with breathless
rapidity. The officers, smartly dressed, are at the gangway
handing the passengers up the side, and hurrying the men. In five
minutes' time, the little steamer is utterly deserted, and the
packet is beset and over-run by its late freight, who instantly
pervade the whole ship, and are to be met with by the dozen in
every nook and corner: swarming down below with their own baggage,
and stumbling over other people's; disposing themselves comfortably
in wrong cabins, and creating a most horrible confusion by having
to turn out again; madly bent upon opening locked doors, and on
forcing a passage into all kinds of out-of-the-way places where
there is no thoroughfare; sending wild stewards, with elfin hair,
to and fro upon the breezy decks on unintelligible errands,
impossible of execution: and in short, creating the most
extraordinary and bewildering tumult. In the midst of all this,
the lazy gentleman, who seems to have no luggage of any kind - not
so much as a friend, even - lounges up and down the hurricane deck,
coolly puffing a cigar; and, as this unconcerned demeanour again
exalts him in the opinion of those who have leisure to observe his
proceedings, every time he looks up at the masts, or down at the
decks, or over the side, they look there too, as wondering whether
he sees anything wrong anywhere, and hoping that, in case he
should, he will have the goodness to mention it.

What have we here? The captain's boat! and yonder the captain
himself. Now, by all our hopes and wishes, the very man he ought
to be! A well-made, tight-built, dapper little fellow; with a
ruddy face, which is a letter of invitation to shake him by both
hands at once; and with a clear, blue honest eye, that it does one
good to see one's sparkling image in. 'Ring the bell!' 'Ding,
ding, ding!' the very bell is in a hurry. 'Now for the shore -
who's for the shore?' - 'These gentlemen, I am sorry to say.' They
are away, and never said, Good b'ye. Ah now they wave it from the
little boat. 'Good b'ye! Good b'ye!' Three cheers from them;
three more from us; three more from them: and they are gone.

To and fro, to and fro, to and fro again a hundred times! This
waiting for the latest mail-bags is worse than all. If we could
have gone off in the midst of that last burst, we should have
started triumphantly: but to lie here, two hours and more in the
damp fog, neither staying at home nor going abroad, is letting one
gradually down into the very depths of dulness and low spirits. A
speck in the mist, at last! That's something. It is the boat we
wait for! That's more to the purpose. The captain appears on the
paddle-box with his speaking trumpet; the officers take their
stations; all hands are on the alert; the flagging hopes of the
passengers revive; the cooks pause in their savoury work, and look
out with faces full of interest. The boat comes alongside; the
bags are dragged in anyhow, and flung down for the moment anywhere.
Three cheers more: and as the first one rings upon our ears, the
vessel throbs like a strong giant that has just received the breath
of life; the two great wheels turn fiercely round for the first
time; and the noble ship, with wind and tide astern, breaks proudly
through the lashed and roaming water.


WE all dined together that day; and a rather formidable party we
were: no fewer than eighty-six strong. The vessel being pretty
deep in the water, with all her coals on board and so many
passengers, and the weather being calm and quiet, there was but
little motion; so that before the dinner was half over, even those
passengers who were most distrustful of themselves plucked up
amazingly; and those who in the morning had returned to the
universal question, 'Are you a good sailor?' a very decided
negative, now either parried the inquiry with the evasive reply,
'Oh! I suppose I'm no worse than anybody else;' or, reckless of all
moral obligations, answered boldly 'Yes:' and with some irritation
too, as though they would add, 'I should like to know what you see
in ME, sir, particularly, to justify suspicion!'

Notwithstanding this high tone of courage and confidence, I could
not but observe that very few remained long over their wine; and
that everybody had an unusual love of the open air; and that the
favourite and most coveted seats were invariably those nearest to
the door. The tea-table, too, was by no means as well attended as
the dinner-table; and there was less whist-playing than might have
been expected. Still, with the exception of one lady, who had
retired with some precipitation at dinner-time, immediately after
being assisted to the finest cut of a very yellow boiled leg of
mutton with very green capers, there were no invalids as yet; and
walking, and smoking, and drinking of brandy-and-water (but always
in the open air), went on with unabated spirit, until eleven
o'clock or thereabouts, when 'turning in' - no sailor of seven
hours' experience talks of going to bed - became the order of the
night. The perpetual tramp of boot-heels on the decks gave place
to a heavy silence, and the whole human freight was stowed away
below, excepting a very few stragglers, like myself, who were
probably, like me, afraid to go there.

To one unaccustomed to such scenes, this is a very striking time on
shipboard. Afterwards, and when its novelty had long worn off, it
never ceased to have a peculiar interest and charm for me. The
gloom through which the great black mass holds its direct and
certain course; the rushing water, plainly heard, but dimly seen;
the broad, white, glistening track, that follows in the vessel's
wake; the men on the look-out forward, who would be scarcely
visible against the dark sky, but for their blotting out some score
of glistening stars; the helmsman at the wheel, with the
illuminated card before him, shining, a speck of light amidst the
darkness, like something sentient and of Divine intelligence; the
melancholy sighing of the wind through block, and rope, and chain;
the gleaming forth of light from every crevice, nook, and tiny
piece of glass about the decks, as though the ship were filled with
fire in hiding, ready to burst through any outlet, wild with its
resistless power of death and ruin. At first, too, and even when
the hour, and all the objects it exalts, have come to be familiar,
it is difficult, alone and thoughtful, to hold them to their proper
shapes and forms. They change with the wandering fancy; assume the
semblance of things left far away; put on the well-remembered
aspect of favourite places dearly loved; and even people them with
shadows. Streets, houses, rooms; figures so like their usual
occupants, that they have startled me by their reality, which far
exceeded, as it seemed to me, all power of mine to conjure up the
absent; have, many and many a time, at such an hour, grown suddenly
out of objects with whose real look, and use, and purpose, I was as
well acquainted as with my own two hands.

My own two hands, and feet likewise, being very cold, however, on
this particular occasion, I crept below at midnight. It was not
exactly comfortable below. It was decidedly close; and it was
impossible to be unconscious of the presence of that extraordinary
compound of strange smells, which is to be found nowhere but on
board ship, and which is such a subtle perfume that it seems to
enter at every pore of the skin, and whisper of the hold. Two
passengers' wives (one of them my own) lay already in silent
agonies on the sofa; and one lady's maid (MY lady's) was a mere
bundle on the floor, execrating her destiny, and pounding her curl-
papers among the stray boxes. Everything sloped the wrong way:
which in itself was an aggravation scarcely to be borne. I had
left the door open, a moment before, in the bosom of a gentle
declivity, and, when I turned to shut it, it was on the summit of a
lofty eminence. Now every plank and timber creaked, as if the ship
were made of wicker-work; and now crackled, like an enormous fire
of the driest possible twigs. There was nothing for it but bed; so
I went to bed.

It was pretty much the same for the next two days, with a tolerably
fair wind and dry weather. I read in bed (but to this hour I don't
know what) a good deal; and reeled on deck a little; drank cold
brandy-and-water with an unspeakable disgust, and ate hard biscuit
perseveringly: not ill, but going to be.

It is the third morning. I am awakened out of my sleep by a dismal
shriek from my wife, who demands to know whether there's any
danger. I rouse myself, and look out of bed. The water-jug is
plunging and leaping like a lively dolphin; all the smaller
articles are afloat, except my shoes, which are stranded on a
carpet-bag, high and dry, like a couple of coal-barges. Suddenly I
see them spring into the air, and behold the looking-glass, which
is nailed to the wall, sticking fast upon the ceiling. At the same
time the door entirely disappears, and a new one is opened in the
floor. Then I begin to comprehend that the state-room is standing
on its head.

Before it is possible to make any arrangement at all compatible
with this novel state of things, the ship rights. Before one can
say 'Thank Heaven!' she wrongs again. Before one can cry she IS
wrong, she seems to have started forward, and to be a creature
actually running of its own accord, with broken knees and failing
legs, through every variety of hole and pitfall, and stumbling
constantly. Before one can so much as wonder, she takes a high
leap into the air. Before she has well done that, she takes a deep
dive into the water. Before she has gained the surface, she throws
a summerset. The instant she is on her legs, she rushes backward.
And so she goes on staggering, heaving, wrestling, leaping, diving,
jumping, pitching, throbbing, rolling, and rocking: and going
through all these movements, sometimes by turns, and sometimes
altogether: until one feels disposed to roar for mercy.

A steward passes. 'Steward!' 'Sir?' 'What IS the matter? what DO
you call this?' 'Rather a heavy sea on, sir, and a head-wind.'

A head-wind! Imagine a human face upon the vessel's prow, with
fifteen thousand Samsons in one bent upon driving her back, and
hitting her exactly between the eyes whenever she attempts to
advance an inch. Imagine the ship herself, with every pulse and
artery of her huge body swollen and bursting under this
maltreatment, sworn to go on or die. Imagine the wind howling, the
sea roaring, the rain beating: all in furious array against her.
Picture the sky both dark and wild, and the clouds, in fearful
sympathy with the waves, making another ocean in the air. Add to
all this, the clattering on deck and down below; the tread of
hurried feet; the loud hoarse shouts of seamen; the gurgling in and
out of water through the scuppers; with, every now and then, the
striking of a heavy sea upon the planks above, with the deep, dead,
heavy sound of thunder heard within a vault; - and there is the
head-wind of that January morning.

I say nothing of what may be called the domestic noises of the
ship: such as the breaking of glass and crockery, the tumbling
down of stewards, the gambols, overhead, of loose casks and truant
dozens of bottled porter, and the very remarkable and far from
exhilarating sounds raised in their various state-rooms by the
seventy passengers who were too ill to get up to breakfast. I say
nothing of them: for although I lay listening to this concert for
three or four days, I don't think I heard it for more than a
quarter of a minute, at the expiration of which term, I lay down
again, excessively sea-sick.

Not sea-sick, be it understood, in the ordinary acceptation of the
term: I wish I had been: but in a form which I have never seen or
heard described, though I have no doubt it is very common. I lay
there, all the day long, quite coolly and contentedly; with no
sense of weariness, with no desire to get up, or get better, or
take the air; with no curiosity, or care, or regret, of any sort or
degree, saving that I think I can remember, in this universal
indifference, having a kind of lazy joy - of fiendish delight, if
anything so lethargic can be dignified with the title - in the fact
of my wife being too ill to talk to me. If I may be allowed to
illustrate my state of mind by such an example, I should say that I
was exactly in the condition of the elder Mr. Willet, after the
incursion of the rioters into his bar at Chigwell. Nothing would
have surprised me. If, in the momentary illumination of any ray of
intelligence that may have come upon me in the way of thoughts of
Home, a goblin postman, with a scarlet coat and bell, had come into
that little kennel before me, broad awake in broad day, and,
apologising for being damp through walking in the sea, had handed
me a letter directed to myself, in familiar characters, I am
certain I should not have felt one atom of astonishment: I should
have been perfectly satisfied. If Neptune himself had walked in,
with a toasted shark on his trident, I should have looked upon the
event as one of the very commonest everyday occurrences.

Once - once - I found myself on deck. I don't know how I got
there, or what possessed me to go there, but there I was; and
completely dressed too, with a huge pea-coat on, and a pair of
boots such as no weak man in his senses could ever have got into.
I found myself standing, when a gleam of consciousness came upon
me, holding on to something. I don't know what. I think it was
the boatswain: or it may have been the pump: or possibly the cow.
I can't say how long I had been there; whether a day or a minute.
I recollect trying to think about something (about anything in the
whole wide world, I was not particular) without the smallest
effect. I could not even make out which was the sea, and which the
sky, for the horizon seemed drunk, and was flying wildly about in
all directions. Even in that incapable state, however, I
recognised the lazy gentleman standing before me: nautically clad
in a suit of shaggy blue, with an oilskin hat. But I was too
imbecile, although I knew it to be he, to separate him from his
dress; and tried to call him, I remember, PILOT. After another
interval of total unconsciousness, I found he had gone, and
recognised another figure in its place. It seemed to wave and
fluctuate before me as though I saw it reflected in an unsteady
looking-glass; but I knew it for the captain; and such was the
cheerful influence of his face, that I tried to smile: yes, even
then I tried to smile. I saw by his gestures that he addressed me;
but it was a long time before I could make out that he remonstrated
against my standing up to my knees in water - as I was; of course I
don't know why. I tried to thank him, but couldn't. I could only
point to my boots - or wherever I supposed my boots to be - and say
in a plaintive voice, 'Cork soles:' at the same time endeavouring,
I am told, to sit down in the pool. Finding that I was quite
insensible, and for the time a maniac, he humanely conducted me

There I remained until I got better: suffering, whenever I was
recommended to eat anything, an amount of anguish only second to
that which is said to be endured by the apparently drowned, in the
process of restoration to life. One gentleman on board had a
letter of introduction to me from a mutual friend in London. He
sent it below with his card, on the morning of the head-wind; and I
was long troubled with the idea that he might be up, and well, and
a hundred times a day expecting me to call upon him in the saloon.
I imagined him one of those cast-iron images - I will not call them
men - who ask, with red faces, and lusty voices, what sea-sickness
means, and whether it really is as bad as it is represented to be.
This was very torturing indeed; and I don't think I ever felt such
perfect gratification and gratitude of heart, as I did when I heard
from the ship's doctor that he had been obliged to put a large
mustard poultice on this very gentleman's stomach. I date my
recovery from the receipt of that intelligence.

It was materially assisted though, I have no doubt, by a heavy gale
of wind, which came slowly up at sunset, when we were about ten
days out, and raged with gradually increasing fury until morning,
saving that it lulled for an hour a little before midnight. There
was something in the unnatural repose of that hour, and in the
after gathering of the storm, so inconceivably awful and
tremendous, that its bursting into full violence was almost a

The labouring of the ship in the troubled sea on this night I shall
never forget. 'Will it ever be worse than this?' was a question I
had often heard asked, when everything was sliding and bumping
about, and when it certainly did seem difficult to comprehend the
possibility of anything afloat being more disturbed, without
toppling over and going down. But what the agitation of a steam-
vessel is, on a bad winter's night in the wild Atlantic, it is
impossible for the most vivid imagination to conceive. To say that
she is flung down on her side in the waves, with her masts dipping
into them, and that, springing up again, she rolls over on the
other side, until a heavy sea strikes her with the noise of a
hundred great guns, and hurls her back - that she stops, and
staggers, and shivers, as though stunned, and then, with a violent
throbbing at her heart, darts onward like a monster goaded into
madness, to be beaten down, and battered, and crushed, and leaped
on by the angry sea - that thunder, lightning, hail, and rain, and
wind, are all in fierce contention for the mastery - that every
plank has its groan, every nail its shriek, and every drop of water
in the great ocean its howling voice - is nothing. To say that all
is grand, and all appalling and horrible in the last degree, is
nothing. Words cannot express it. Thoughts cannot convey it.
Only a dream can call it up again, in all its fury, rage, and

And yet, in the very midst of these terrors, I was placed in a
situation so exquisitely ridiculous, that even then I had as strong
a sense of its absurdity as I have now, and could no more help
laughing than I can at any other comical incident, happening under
circumstances the most favourable to its enjoyment. About midnight
we shipped a sea, which forced its way through the skylights, burst
open the doors above, and came raging and roaring down into the
ladies' cabin, to the unspeakable consternation of my wife and a
little Scotch lady - who, by the way, had previously sent a message
to the captain by the stewardess, requesting him, with her
compliments, to have a steel conductor immediately attached to the
top of every mast, and to the chimney, in order that the ship might
not be struck by lightning. They and the handmaid before
mentioned, being in such ecstasies of fear that I scarcely knew
what to do with them, I naturally bethought myself of some
restorative or comfortable cordial; and nothing better occurring to
me, at the moment, than hot brandy-and-water, I procured a tumbler
full without delay. It being impossible to stand or sit without
holding on, they were all heaped together in one corner of a long
sofa - a fixture extending entirely across the cabin - where they
clung to each other in momentary expectation of being drowned.
When I approached this place with my specific, and was about to
administer it with many consolatory expressions to the nearest
sufferer, what was my dismay to see them all roll slowly down to
the other end! And when I staggered to that end, and held out the
glass once more, how immensely baffled were my good intentions by
the ship giving another lurch, and their all rolling back again! I
suppose I dodged them up and down this sofa for at least a quarter
of an hour, without reaching them once; and by the time I did catch
them, the brandy-and-water was diminished, by constant spilling, to
a teaspoonful. To complete the group, it is necessary to recognise
in this disconcerted dodger, an individual very pale from sea-
sickness, who had shaved his beard and brushed his hair, last, at
Liverpool: and whose only article of dress (linen not included)
were a pair of dreadnought trousers; a blue jacket, formerly
admired upon the Thames at Richmond; no stockings; and one slipper.

Of the outrageous antics performed by that ship next morning; which
made bed a practical joke, and getting up, by any process short of
falling out, an impossibility; I say nothing. But anything like
the utter dreariness and desolation that met my eyes when I
literally 'tumbled up' on deck at noon, I never saw. Ocean and sky
were all of one dull, heavy, uniform, lead colour. There was no
extent of prospect even over the dreary waste that lay around us,
for the sea ran high, and the horizon encompassed us like a large
black hoop. Viewed from the air, or some tall bluff on shore, it
would have been imposing and stupendous, no doubt; but seen from
the wet and rolling decks, it only impressed one giddily and
painfully. In the gale of last night the life-boat had been
crushed by one blow of the sea like a walnut-shell; and there it
hung dangling in the air: a mere faggot of crazy boards. The
planking of the paddle-boxes had been torn sheer away. The wheels
were exposed and bare; and they whirled and dashed their spray
about the decks at random. Chimney, white with crusted salt;
topmasts struck; storm-sails set; rigging all knotted, tangled,
wet, and drooping: a gloomier picture it would be hard to look

I was now comfortably established by courtesy in the ladies' cabin,
where, besides ourselves, there were only four other passengers.
First, the little Scotch lady before mentioned, on her way to join
her husband at New York, who had settled there three years before.
Secondly and thirdly, an honest young Yorkshireman, connected with
some American house; domiciled in that same city, and carrying
thither his beautiful young wife to whom he had been married but a
fortnight, and who was the fairest specimen of a comely English
country girl I have ever seen. Fourthy, fifthly, and lastly,
another couple: newly married too, if one might judge from the
endearments they frequently interchanged: of whom I know no more
than that they were rather a mysterious, run-away kind of couple;
that the lady had great personal attractions also; and that the
gentleman carried more guns with him than Robinson Crusoe, wore a
shooting-coat, and had two great dogs on board. On further
consideration, I remember that he tried hot roast pig and bottled
ale as a cure for sea-sickness; and that he took these remedies
(usually in bed) day after day, with astonishing perseverance. I
may add, for the information of the curious, that they decidedly

The weather continuing obstinately and almost unprecedentedly bad,
we usually straggled into this cabin, more or less faint and
miserable, about an hour before noon, and lay down on the sofas to
recover; during which interval, the captain would look in to
communicate the state of the wind, the moral certainty of its
changing to-morrow (the weather is always going to improve to-
morrow, at sea), the vessel's rate of sailing, and so forth.
Observations there were none to tell us of, for there was no sun to
take them by. But a description of one day will serve for all the
rest. Here it is.

The captain being gone, we compose ourselves to read, if the place
be light enough; and if not, we doze and talk alternately. At one,
a bell rings, and the stewardess comes down with a steaming dish of
baked potatoes, and another of roasted apples; and plates of pig's
face, cold ham, salt beef; or perhaps a smoking mess of rare hot
collops. We fall to upon these dainties; eat as much as we can (we
have great appetites now); and are as long as possible about it.
If the fire will burn (it WILL sometimes) we are pretty cheerful.
If it won't, we all remark to each other that it's very cold, rub
our hands, cover ourselves with coats and cloaks, and lie down
again to doze, talk, and read (provided as aforesaid), until
dinner-time. At five, another bell rings, and the stewardess
reappears with another dish of potatoes - boiled this time - and
store of hot meat of various kinds: not forgetting the roast pig,
to be taken medicinally. We sit down at table again (rather more
cheerfully than before); prolong the meal with a rather mouldy
dessert of apples, grapes, and oranges; and drink our wine and
brandy-and-water. The bottles and glasses are still upon the
table, and the oranges and so forth are rolling about according to
their fancy and the ship's way, when the doctor comes down, by
special nightly invitation, to join our evening rubber:
immediately on whose arrival we make a party at whist, and as it is
a rough night and the cards will not lie on the cloth, we put the
tricks in our pockets as we take them. At whist we remain with
exemplary gravity (deducting a short time for tea and toast) until
eleven o'clock, or thereabouts; when the captain comes down again,
in a sou'-wester hat tied under his chin, and a pilot-coat: making
the ground wet where he stands. By this time the card-playing is
over, and the bottles and glasses are again upon the table; and
after an hour's pleasant conversation about the ship, the
passengers, and things in general, the captain (who never goes to
bed, and is never out of humour) turns up his coat collar for the
deck again; shakes hands all round; and goes laughing out into the
weather as merrily as to a birthday party.

As to daily news, there is no dearth of that commodity. This
passenger is reported to have lost fourteen pounds at Vingt-et-un
in the saloon yesterday; and that passenger drinks his bottle of
champagne every day, and how he does it (being only a clerk),
nobody knows. The head engineer has distinctly said that there
never was such times - meaning weather - and four good hands are
ill, and have given in, dead beat. Several berths are full of
water, and all the cabins are leaky. The ship's cook, secretly
swigging damaged whiskey, has been found drunk; and has been played
upon by the fire-engine until quite sober. All the stewards have
fallen down-stairs at various dinner-times, and go about with
plasters in various places. The baker is ill, and so is the
pastry-cook. A new man, horribly indisposed, has been required to
fill the place of the latter officer; and has been propped and
jammed up with empty casks in a little house upon deck, and
commanded to roll out pie-crust, which he protests (being highly
bilious) it is death to him to look at. News! A dozen murders on
shore would lack the interest of these slight incidents at sea.

Divided between our rubber and such topics as these, we were
running (as we thought) into Halifax Harbour, on the fifteenth
night, with little wind and a bright moon - indeed, we had made the
Light at its outer entrance, and put the pilot in charge - when
suddenly the ship struck upon a bank of mud. An immediate rush on
deck took place of course; the sides were crowded in an instant;
and for a few minutes we were in as lively a state of confusion as
the greatest lover of disorder would desire to see. The
passengers, and guns, and water-casks, and other heavy matters,
being all huddled together aft, however, to lighten her in the
head, she was soon got off; and after some driving on towards an
uncomfortable line of objects (whose vicinity had been announced
very early in the disaster by a loud cry of 'Breakers a-head!') and
much backing of paddles, and heaving of the lead into a constantly
decreasing depth of water, we dropped anchor in a strange
outlandish-looking nook which nobody on board could recognise,
although there was land all about us, and so close that we could
plainly see the waving branches of the trees.

It was strange enough, in the silence of midnight, and the dead
stillness that seemed to be created by the sudden and unexpected
stoppage of the engine which had been clanking and blasting in our
ears incessantly for so many days, to watch the look of blank
astonishment expressed in every face: beginning with the officers,
tracing it through all the passengers, and descending to the very
stokers and furnacemen, who emerged from below, one by one, and
clustered together in a smoky group about the hatchway of the
engine-room, comparing notes in whispers. After throwing up a few
rockets and firing signal guns in the hope of being hailed from the
land, or at least of seeing a light - but without any other sight
or sound presenting itself - it was determined to send a boat on
shore. It was amusing to observe how very kind some of the
passengers were, in volunteering to go ashore in this same boat:
for the general good, of course: not by any means because they
thought the ship in an unsafe position, or contemplated the
possibility of her heeling over in case the tide were running out.
Nor was it less amusing to remark how desperately unpopular the
poor pilot became in one short minute. He had had his passage out
from Liverpool, and during the whole voyage had been quite a
notorious character, as a teller of anecdotes and cracker of jokes.
Yet here were the very men who had laughed the loudest at his
jests, now flourishing their fists in his face, loading him with
imprecations, and defying him to his teeth as a villain!

The boat soon shoved off, with a lantern and sundry blue lights on
board; and in less than an hour returned; the officer in command
bringing with him a tolerably tall young tree, which he had plucked
up by the roots, to satisfy certain distrustful passengers whose
minds misgave them that they were to be imposed upon and
shipwrecked, and who would on no other terms believe that he had
been ashore, or had done anything but fraudulently row a little way
into the mist, specially to deceive them and compass their deaths.
Our captain had foreseen from the first that we must be in a place
called the Eastern passage; and so we were. It was about the last
place in the world in which we had any business or reason to be,
but a sudden fog, and some error on the pilot's part, were the
cause. We were surrounded by banks, and rocks, and shoals of all
kinds, but had happily drifted, it seemed, upon the only safe speck
that was to be found thereabouts. Eased by this report, and by the
assurance that the tide was past the ebb, we turned in at three
o'clock in the morning.

I was dressing about half-past nine next day, when the noise above
hurried me on deck. When I had left it overnight, it was dark,
foggy, and damp, and there were bleak hills all round us. Now, we
were gliding down a smooth, broad stream, at the rate of eleven
miles an hour: our colours flying gaily; our crew rigged out in
their smartest clothes; our officers in uniform again; the sun
shining as on a brilliant April day in England; the land stretched
out on either side, streaked with light patches of snow; white
wooden houses; people at their doors; telegraphs working; flags
hoisted; wharfs appearing; ships; quays crowded with people;
distant noises; shouts; men and boys running down steep places
towards the pier: all more bright and gay and fresh to our unused
eyes than words can paint them. We came to a wharf, paved with
uplifted faces; got alongside, and were made fast, after some
shouting and straining of cables; darted, a score of us along the
gangway, almost as soon as it was thrust out to meet us, and before
it had reached the ship - and leaped upon the firm glad earth

I suppose this Halifax would have appeared an Elysium, though it
had been a curiosity of ugly dulness. But I carried away with me a
most pleasant impression of the town and its inhabitants, and have
preserved it to this hour. Nor was it without regret that I came
home, without having found an opportunity of returning thither, and
once more shaking hands with the friends I made that day.

It happened to be the opening of the Legislative Council and
General Assembly, at which ceremonial the forms observed on the
commencement of a new Session of Parliament in England were so
closely copied, and so gravely presented on a small scale, that it
was like looking at Westminster through the wrong end of a
telescope. The governor, as her Majesty's representative,
delivered what may be called the Speech from the Throne. He said
what he had to say manfully and well. The military band outside
the building struck up "God save the Queen" with great vigour
before his Excellency had quite finished; the people shouted; the
in's rubbed their hands; the out's shook their heads; the
Government party said there never was such a good speech; the
Opposition declared there never was such a bad one; the Speaker and
members of the House of Assembly withdrew from the bar to say a
great deal among themselves and do a little: and, in short,
everything went on, and promised to go on, just as it does at home
upon the like occasions.

The town is built on the side of a hill, the highest point being
commanded by a strong fortress, not yet quite finished. Several
streets of good breadth and appearance extend from its summit to
the water-side, and are intersected by cross streets running
parallel with the river. The houses are chiefly of wood. The
market is abundantly supplied; and provisions are exceedingly
cheap. The weather being unusually mild at that time for the
season of the year, there was no sleighing: but there were plenty
of those vehicles in yards and by-places, and some of them, from
the gorgeous quality of their decorations, might have 'gone on'
without alteration as triumphal cars in a melodrama at Astley's.
The day was uncommonly fine; the air bracing and healthful; the
whole aspect of the town cheerful, thriving, and industrious.

We lay there seven hours, to deliver and exchange the mails. At
length, having collected all our bags and all our passengers
(including two or three choice spirits, who, having indulged too
freely in oysters and champagne, were found lying insensible on
their backs in unfrequented streets), the engines were again put in
motion, and we stood off for Boston.

Encountering squally weather again in the Bay of Fundy, we tumbled
and rolled about as usual all that night and all next day. On the
next afternoon, that is to say, on Saturday, the twenty-second of
January, an American pilot-boat came alongside, and soon afterwards
the Britannia steam-packet, from Liverpool, eighteen days out, was
telegraphed at Boston.

The indescribable interest with which I strained my eyes, as the
first patches of American soil peeped like molehills from the green
sea, and followed them, as they swelled, by slow and almost
imperceptible degrees, into a continuous line of coast, can hardly
be exaggerated. A sharp keen wind blew dead against us; a hard
frost prevailed on shore; and the cold was most severe. Yet the
air was so intensely clear, and dry, and bright, that the
temperature was not only endurable, but delicious.

How I remained on deck, staring about me, until we came alongside
the dock, and how, though I had had as many eyes as Argus, I should
have had them all wide open, and all employed on new objects - are
topics which I will not prolong this chapter to discuss. Neither
will I more than hint at my foreigner-like mistake in supposing
that a party of most active persons, who scrambled on board at the
peril of their lives as we approached the wharf, were newsmen,
answering to that industrious class at home; whereas, despite the
leathern wallets of news slung about the necks of some, and the
broad sheets in the hands of all, they were Editors, who boarded
ships in person (as one gentleman in a worsted comforter informed
me), 'because they liked the excitement of it.' Suffice it in this
place to say, that one of these invaders, with a ready courtesy for
which I thank him here most gratefully, went on before to order
rooms at the hotel; and that when I followed, as I soon did, I
found myself rolling through the long passages with an involuntary
imitation of the gait of Mr. T. P. Cooke, in a new nautical

'Dinner, if you please,' said I to the waiter.

'When?' said the waiter.

'As quick as possible,' said I.

'Right away?' said the waiter.

After a moment's hesitation, I answered 'No,' at hazard.

'NOT right away?' cried the waiter, with an amount of surprise that
made me start.

I looked at him doubtfully, and returned, 'No; I would rather have
it in this private room. I like it very much.'

At this, I really thought the waiter must have gone out of his
mind: as I believe he would have done, but for the interposition
of another man, who whispered in his ear, 'Directly.'

'Well! and that's a fact!' said the waiter, looking helplessly at
me: 'Right away.'

I saw now that 'Right away' and 'Directly' were one and the same
thing. So I reversed my previous answer, and sat down to dinner in
ten minutes afterwards; and a capital dinner it was.

The hotel (a very excellent one) is called the Tremont House. It
has more galleries, colonnades, piazzas, and passages than I can
remember, or the reader would believe.


IN all the public establishments of America, the utmost courtesy
prevails. Most of our Departments are susceptible of considerable
improvement in this respect, but the Custom-house above all others
would do well to take example from the United States and render
itself somewhat less odious and offensive to foreigners. The
servile rapacity of the French officials is sufficiently
contemptible; but there is a surly boorish incivility about our
men, alike disgusting to all persons who fall into their hands, and
discreditable to the nation that keeps such ill-conditioned curs
snarling about its gates.

When I landed in America, I could not help being strongly impressed
with the contrast their Custom-house presented, and the attention,
politeness and good humour with which its officers discharged their

As we did not land at Boston, in consequence of some detention at
the wharf, until after dark, I received my first impressions of the
city in walking down to the Custom-house on the morning after our
arrival, which was Sunday. I am afraid to say, by the way, how
many offers of pews and seats in church for that morning were made
to us, by formal note of invitation, before we had half finished
our first dinner in America, but if I may be allowed to make a
moderate guess, without going into nicer calculation, I should say
that at least as many sittings were proffered us, as would have
accommodated a score or two of grown-up families. The number of
creeds and forms of religion to which the pleasure of our company
was requested, was in very fair proportion.

Not being able, in the absence of any change of clothes, to go to
church that day, we were compelled to decline these kindnesses, one
and all; and I was reluctantly obliged to forego the delight of
hearing Dr. Channing, who happened to preach that morning for the
first time in a very long interval. I mention the name of this
distinguished and accomplished man (with whom I soon afterwards had
the pleasure of becoming personally acquainted), that I may have
the gratification of recording my humble tribute of admiration and
respect for his high abilities and character; and for the bold
philanthropy with which he has ever opposed himself to that most
hideous blot and foul disgrace - Slavery.

To return to Boston. When I got into the streets upon this Sunday
morning, the air was so clear, the houses were so bright and gay:
the signboards were painted in such gaudy colours; the gilded
letters were so very golden; the bricks were so very red, the stone
was so very white, the blinds and area railings were so very green,
the knobs and plates upon the street doors so marvellously bright
and twinkling; and all so slight and unsubstantial in appearance -
that every thoroughfare in the city looked exactly like a scene in
a pantomime. It rarely happens in the business streets that a
tradesman, if I may venture to call anybody a tradesman, where
everybody is a merchant, resides above his store; so that many
occupations are often carried on in one house, and the whole front
is covered with boards and inscriptions. As I walked along, I kept
glancing up at these boards, confidently expecting to see a few of
them change into something; and I never turned a corner suddenly
without looking out for the clown and pantaloon, who, I had no
doubt, were hiding in a doorway or behind some pillar close at
hand. As to Harlequin and Columbine, I discovered immediately that
they lodged (they are always looking after lodgings in a pantomime)
at a very small clockmaker's one story high, near the hotel; which,
in addition to various symbols and devices, almost covering the
whole front, had a great dial hanging out - to be jumped through,
of course.

The suburbs are, if possible, even more unsubstantial-looking than
the city. The white wooden houses (so white that it makes one wink
to look at them), with their green jalousie blinds, are so
sprinkled and dropped about in all directions, without seeming to
have any root at all in the ground; and the small churches and
chapels are so prim, and bright, and highly varnished; that I
almost believed the whole affair could be taken up piecemeal like a
child's toy, and crammed into a little box.

The city is a beautiful one, and cannot fail, I should imagine, to
impress all strangers very favourably. The private dwelling-houses
are, for the most part, large and elegant; the shops extremely
good; and the public buildings handsome. The State House is built
upon the summit of a hill, which rises gradually at first, and
afterwards by a steep ascent, almost from the water's edge. In
front is a green enclosure, called the Common. The site is
beautiful: and from the top there is a charming panoramic view of
the whole town and neighbourhood. In addition to a variety of
commodious offices, it contains two handsome chambers; in one the
House of Representatives of the State hold their meetings: in the
other, the Senate. Such proceedings as I saw here, were conducted
with perfect gravity and decorum; and were certainly calculated to
inspire attention and respect.

There is no doubt that much of the intellectual refinement and
superiority of Boston, is referable to the quiet influence of the
University of Cambridge, which is within three or four miles of the
city. The resident professors at that university are gentlemen of
learning and varied attainments; and are, without one exception
that I can call to mind, men who would shed a grace upon, and do
honour to, any society in the civilised world. Many of the
resident gentry in Boston and its neighbourhood, and I think I am
not mistaken in adding, a large majority of those who are attached
to the liberal professions there, have been educated at this same
school. Whatever the defects of American universities may be, they
disseminate no prejudices; rear no bigots; dig up the buried ashes
of no old superstitions; never interpose between the people and
their improvement; exclude no man because of his religious
opinions; above all, in their whole course of study and
instruction, recognise a world, and a broad one too, lying beyond
the college walls.

It was a source of inexpressible pleasure to me to observe the
almost imperceptible, but not less certain effect, wrought by this
institution among the small community of Boston; and to note at
every turn the humanising tastes and desires it has engendered; the
affectionate friendships to which it has given rise; the amount of
vanity and prejudice it has dispelled. The golden calf they
worship at Boston is a pigmy compared with the giant effigies set
up in other parts of that vast counting-house which lies beyond the
Atlantic; and the almighty dollar sinks into something
comparatively insignificant, amidst a whole Pantheon of better

Above all, I sincerely believe that the public institutions and
charities of this capital of Massachusetts are as nearly perfect,
as the most considerate wisdom, benevolence, and humanity, can make
them. I never in my life was more affected by the contemplation of
happiness, under circumstances of privation and bereavement, than
in my visits to these establishments.

It is a great and pleasant feature of all such institutions in
America, that they are either supported by the State or assisted by
the State; or (in the event of their not needing its helping hand)
that they act in concert with it, and are emphatically the
people's. I cannot but think, with a view to the principle and its
tendency to elevate or depress the character of the industrious
classes, that a Public Charity is immeasurably better than a
Private Foundation, no matter how munificently the latter may be
endowed. In our own country, where it has not, until within these
later days, been a very popular fashion with governments to display
any extraordinary regard for the great mass of the people or to
recognise their existence as improvable creatures, private
charities, unexampled in the history of the earth, have arisen, to
do an incalculable amount of good among the destitute and
afflicted. But the government of the country, having neither act
nor part in them, is not in the receipt of any portion of the
gratitude they inspire; and, offering very little shelter or relief
beyond that which is to be found in the workhouse and the jail, has
come, not unnaturally, to be looked upon by the poor rather as a
stern master, quick to correct and punish, than a kind protector,
merciful and vigilant in their hour of need.

The maxim that out of evil cometh good, is strongly illustrated by
these establishments at home; as the records of the Prerogative
Office in Doctors' Commons can abundantly prove. Some immensely
rich old gentleman or lady, surrounded by needy relatives, makes,
upon a low average, a will a-week. The old gentleman or lady,
never very remarkable in the best of times for good temper, is full
of aches and pains from head to foot; full of fancies and caprices;
full of spleen, distrust, suspicion, and dislike. To cancel old
wills, and invent new ones, is at last the sole business of such a
testator's existence; and relations and friends (some of whom have
been bred up distinctly to inherit a large share of the property,
and have been, from their cradles, specially disqualified from
devoting themselves to any useful pursuit, on that account) are so
often and so unexpectedly and summarily cut off, and reinstated,
and cut off again, that the whole family, down to the remotest
cousin, is kept in a perpetual fever. At length it becomes plain
that the old lady or gentleman has not long to live; and the
plainer this becomes, the more clearly the old lady or gentleman
perceives that everybody is in a conspiracy against their poor old
dying relative; wherefore the old lady or gentleman makes another
last will - positively the last this time - conceals the same in a
china teapot, and expires next day. Then it turns out, that the
whole of the real and personal estate is divided between half-a-
dozen charities; and that the dead and gone testator has in pure
spite helped to do a great deal of good, at the cost of an immense
amount of evil passion and misery.

The Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind, at
Boston, is superintended by a body of trustees who make an annual
report to the corporation. The indigent blind of that state are
admitted gratuitously. Those from the adjoining state of
Connecticut, or from the states of Maine, Vermont, or New
Hampshire, are admitted by a warrant from the state to which they
respectively belong; or, failing that, must find security among
their friends, for the payment of about twenty pounds English for
their first year's board and instruction, and ten for the second.
'After the first year,' say the trustees, 'an account current will
be opened with each pupil; he will be charged with the actual cost
of his board, which will not exceed two dollars per week;' a trifle
more than eight shillings English; 'and he will be credited with
the amount paid for him by the state, or by his friends; also with
his earnings over and above the cost of the stock which he uses; so
that all his earnings over one dollar per week will be his own. By
the third year it will be known whether his earnings will more than
pay the actual cost of his board; if they should, he will have it
at his option to remain and receive his earnings, or not. Those
who prove unable to earn their own livelihood will not be retained;
as it is not desirable to convert the establishment into an alms-
house, or to retain any but working bees in the hive. Those who by
physical or mental imbecility are disqualified from work, are
thereby disqualified from being members of an industrious
community; and they can be better provided for in establishments
fitted for the infirm.'

I went to see this place one very fine winter morning: an Italian
sky above, and the air so clear and bright on every side, that even
my eyes, which are none of the best, could follow the minute lines
and scraps of tracery in distant buildings. Like most other public
institutions in America, of the same class, it stands a mile or two
without the town, in a cheerful healthy spot; and is an airy,
spacious, handsome edifice. It is built upon a height, commanding
the harbour. When I paused for a moment at the door, and marked
how fresh and free the whole scene was - what sparkling bubbles
glanced upon the waves, and welled up every moment to the surface,
as though the world below, like that above, were radiant with the
bright day, and gushing over in its fulness of light: when I gazed
from sail to sail away upon a ship at sea, a tiny speck of shining
white, the only cloud upon the still, deep, distant blue - and,
turning, saw a blind boy with his sightless face addressed that
way, as though he too had some sense within him of the glorious
distance: I felt a kind of sorrow that the place should be so very
light, and a strange wish that for his sake it were darker. It was
but momentary, of course, and a mere fancy, but I felt it keenly
for all that.

The children were at their daily tasks in different rooms, except a
few who were already dismissed, and were at play. Here, as in many
institutions, no uniform is worn; and I was very glad of it, for
two reasons. Firstly, because I am sure that nothing but senseless
custom and want of thought would reconcile us to the liveries and
badges we are so fond of at home. Secondly, because the absence of
these things presents each child to the visitor in his or her own
proper character, with its individuality unimpaired; not lost in a
dull, ugly, monotonous repetition of the same unmeaning garb:
which is really an important consideration. The wisdom of
encouraging a little harmless pride in personal appearance even
among the blind, or the whimsical absurdity of considering charity
and leather breeches inseparable companions, as we do, requires no

Good order, cleanliness, and comfort, pervaded every corner of the
building. The various classes, who were gathered round their
teachers, answered the questions put to them with readiness and
intelligence, and in a spirit of cheerful contest for precedence
which pleased me very much. Those who were at play, were gleesome
and noisy as other children. More spiritual and affectionate
friendships appeared to exist among them, than would be found among
other young persons suffering under no deprivation; but this I
expected and was prepared to find. It is a part of the great
scheme of Heaven's merciful consideration for the afflicted.

In a portion of the building, set apart for that purpose, are work-
shops for blind persons whose education is finished, and who have
acquired a trade, but who cannot pursue it in an ordinary
manufactory because of their deprivation. Several people were at
work here; making brushes, mattresses, and so forth; and the
cheerfulness, industry, and good order discernible in every other
part of the building, extended to this department also.

On the ringing of a bell, the pupils all repaired, without any
guide or leader, to a spacious music-hall, where they took their
seats in an orchestra erected for that purpose, and listened with
manifest delight to a voluntary on the organ, played by one of
themselves. At its conclusion, the performer, a boy of nineteen or
twenty, gave place to a girl; and to her accompaniment they all
sang a hymn, and afterwards a sort of chorus. It was very sad to
look upon and hear them, happy though their condition
unquestionably was; and I saw that one blind girl, who (being for
the time deprived of the use of her limbs, by illness) sat close
beside me with her face towards them, wept silently the while she

It is strange to watch the faces of the blind, and see how free
they are from all concealment of what is passing in their thoughts;
observing which, a man with eyes may blush to contemplate the mask
he wears. Allowing for one shade of anxious expression which is
never absent from their countenances, and the like of which we may
readily detect in our own faces if we try to feel our way in the
dark, every idea, as it rises within them, is expressed with the
lightning's speed and nature's truth. If the company at a rout, or
drawing-room at court, could only for one time be as unconscious of
the eyes upon them as blind men and women are, what secrets would
come out, and what a worker of hypocrisy this sight, the loss of
which we so much pity, would appear to be!

The thought occurred to me as I sat down in another room, before a
girl, blind, deaf, and dumb; destitute of smell; and nearly so of
taste: before a fair young creature with every human faculty, and
hope, and power of goodness and affection, inclosed within her
delicate frame, and but one outward sense - the sense of touch.
There she was, before me; built up, as it were, in a marble cell,
impervious to any ray of light, or particle of sound; with her poor
white hand peeping through a chink in the wall, beckoning to some
good man for help, that an Immortal soul might be awakened.

Long before I looked upon her, the help had come. Her face was
radiant with intelligence and pleasure. Her hair, braided by her
own hands, was bound about a head, whose intellectual capacity and
development were beautifully expressed in its graceful outline, and
its broad open brow; her dress, arranged by herself, was a pattern
of neatness and simplicity; the work she had knitted, lay beside
her; her writing-book was on the desk she leaned upon. - From the
mournful ruin of such bereavement, there had slowly risen up this
gentle, tender, guileless, grateful-hearted being.

Like other inmates of that house, she had a green ribbon bound
round her eyelids. A doll she had dressed lay near upon the
ground. I took it up, and saw that she had made a green fillet
such as she wore herself, and fastened it about its mimic eyes.

She was seated in a little enclosure, made by school-desks and
forms, writing her daily journal. But soon finishing this pursuit,
she engaged in an animated conversation with a teacher who sat
beside her. This was a favourite mistress with the poor pupil. If
she could see the face of her fair instructress, she would not love
her less, I am sure.

I have extracted a few disjointed fragments of her history, from an
account, written by that one man who has made her what she is. It
is a very beautiful and touching narrative; and I wish I could
present it entire.

Her name is Laura Bridgman. 'She was born in Hanover, New
Hampshire, on the twenty-first of December, 1829. She is described
as having been a very sprightly and pretty infant, with bright blue
eyes. She was, however, so puny and feeble until she was a year
and a half old, that her parents hardly hoped to rear her. She was
subject to severe fits, which seemed to rack her frame almost
beyond her power of endurance: and life was held by the feeblest
tenure: but when a year and a half old, she seemed to rally; the
dangerous symptoms subsided; and at twenty months old, she was
perfectly well.

'Then her mental powers, hitherto stinted in their growth, rapidly
developed themselves; and during the four months of health which
she enjoyed, she appears (making due allowance for a fond mother's
account) to have displayed a considerable degree of intelligence.

'But suddenly she sickened again; her disease raged with great
violence during five weeks, when her eyes and ears were inflamed,
suppurated, and their contents were discharged. But though sight
and hearing were gone for ever, the poor child's sufferings were
not ended. The fever raged during seven weeks; for five months she
was kept in bed in a darkened room; it was a year before she could
walk unsupported, and two years before she could sit up all day.
It was now observed that her sense of smell was almost entirely
destroyed; and, consequently, that her taste was much blunted.

'It was not until four years of age that the poor child's bodily
health seemed restored, and she was able to enter upon her
apprenticeship of life and the world.

'But what a situation was hers! The darkness and the silence of
the tomb were around her: no mother's smile called forth her
answering smile, no father's voice taught her to imitate his
sounds:- they, brothers and sisters, were but forms of matter which
resisted her touch, but which differed not from the furniture of
the house, save in warmth, and in the power of locomotion; and not
even in these respects from the dog and the cat.

'But the immortal spirit which had been implanted within her could
not die, nor be maimed nor mutilated; and though most of its
avenues of communication with the world were cut off, it began to
manifest itself through the others. As soon as she could walk, she
began to explore the room, and then the house; she became familiar
with the form, density, weight, and heat, of every article she
could lay her hands upon. She followed her mother, and felt her
hands and arms, as she was occupied about the house; and her
disposition to imitate, led her to repeat everything herself. She
even learned to sew a little, and to knit.'

The reader will scarcely need to be told, however, that the
opportunities of communicating with her, were very, very limited;
and that the moral effects of her wretched state soon began to
appear. Those who cannot be enlightened by reason, can only be
controlled by force; and this, coupled with her great privations,
must soon have reduced her to a worse condition than that of the
beasts that perish, but for timely and unhoped-for aid.

'At this time, I was so fortunate as to hear of the child, and
immediately hastened to Hanover to see her. I found her with a
well-formed figure; a strongly-marked, nervous-sanguine
temperament; a large and beautifully-shaped head; and the whole
system in healthy action. The parents were easily induced to
consent to her coming to Boston, and on the 4th of October, 1837,
they brought her to the Institution.

'For a while, she was much bewildered; and after waiting about two
weeks, until she became acquainted with her new locality, and
somewhat familiar with the inmates, the attempt was made to give
her knowledge of arbitrary signs, by which she could interchange
thoughts with others.

'There was one of two ways to be adopted: either to go on to build
up a language of signs on the basis of the natural language which
she had already commenced herself, or to teach her the purely
arbitrary language in common use: that is, to give her a sign for
every individual thing, or to give her a knowledge of letters by
combination of which she might express her idea of the existence,
and the mode and condition of existence, of any thing. The former
would have been easy, but very ineffectual; the latter seemed very
difficult, but, if accomplished, very effectual. I determined
therefore to try the latter.

'The first experiments were made by taking articles in common use,
such as knives, forks, spoons, keys, &c., and pasting upon them
labels with their names printed in raised letters. These she felt
very carefully, and soon, of course, distinguished that the crooked
lines SPOON, differed as much from the crooked lines KEY, as the
spoon differed from the key in form.

'Then small detached labels, with the same words printed upon them,
were put into her hands; and she soon observed that they were
similar to the ones pasted on the articles.' She showed her
perception of this similarity by laying the label KEY upon the key,
and the label SPOON upon the spoon. She was encouraged here by the
natural sign of approbation, patting on the head.

'The same process was then repeated with all the articles which she
could handle; and she very easily learned to place the proper
labels upon them. It was evident, however, that the only
intellectual exercise was that of imitation and memory. She
recollected that the label BOOK was placed upon a book, and she
repeated the process first from imitation, next from memory, with
only the motive of love of approbation, but apparently without the
intellectual perception of any relation between the things.

'After a while, instead of labels, the individual letters were
given to her on detached bits of paper: they were arranged side by
side so as to spell BOOK, KEY, &c.; then they were mixed up in a
heap and a sign was made for her to arrange them herself so as to
express the words BOOK, KEY, &c.; and she did so.

'Hitherto, the process had been mechanical, and the success about
as great as teaching a very knowing dog a variety of tricks. The
poor child had sat in mute amazement, and patiently imitated
everything her teacher did; but now the truth began to flash upon
her: her intellect began to work: she perceived that here was a
way by which she could herself make up a sign of anything that was
in her own mind, and show it to another mind; and at once her
countenance lighted up with a human expression: it was no longer a
dog, or parrot: it was an immortal spirit, eagerly seizing upon a
new link of union with other spirits! I could almost fix upon the
moment when this truth dawned upon her mind, and spread its light
to her countenance; I saw that the great obstacle was overcome; and
that henceforward nothing but patient and persevering, but plain
and straightforward, efforts were to be used.

'The result thus far, is quickly related, and easily conceived; but
not so was the process; for many weeks of apparently unprofitable
labour were passed before it was effected.

'When it was said above that a sign was made, it was intended to
say, that the action was performed by her teacher, she feeling his
hands, and then imitating the motion.

'The next step was to procure a set of metal types, with the
different letters of the alphabet cast upon their ends; also a
board, in which were square holes, into which holes she could set
the types; so that the letters on their ends could alone be felt
above the surface.

'Then, on any article being handed to her, for instance, a pencil,
or a watch, she would select the component letters, and arrange
them on her board, and read them with apparent pleasure.

'She was exercised for several weeks in this way, until her
vocabulary became extensive; and then the important step was taken
of teaching her how to represent the different letters by the
position of her fingers, instead of the cumbrous apparatus of the
board and types. She accomplished this speedily and easily, for
her intellect had begun to work in aid of her teacher, and her
progress was rapid.

'This was the period, about three months after she had commenced,
that the first report of her case was made, in which it was stated
that "she has just learned the manual alphabet, as used by the deaf
mutes, and it is a subject of delight and wonder to see how
rapidly, correctly, and eagerly, she goes on with her labours. Her
teacher gives her a new object, for instance, a pencil, first lets
her examine it, and get an idea of its use, then teaches her how to
spell it by making the signs for the letters with her own fingers:
the child grasps her hand, and feels her fingers, as the different
letters are formed; she turns her head a little on one side like a
person listening closely; her lips are apart; she seems scarcely to
breathe; and her countenance, at first anxious, gradually changes
to a smile, as she comprehends the lesson. She then holds up her
tiny fingers, and spells the word in the manual alphabet; next, she
takes her types and arranges her letters; and last, to make sure
that she is right, she takes the whole of the types composing the
word, and places them upon or in contact with the pencil, or
whatever the object may be."

'The whole of the succeeding year was passed in gratifying her
eager inquiries for the names of every object which she could
possibly handle; in exercising her in the use of the manual
alphabet; in extending in every possible way her knowledge of the
physical relations of things; and in proper care of her health.

'At the end of the year a report of her case was made, from which
the following is an extract.

'"It has been ascertained beyond the possibility of doubt, that she
cannot see a ray of light, cannot hear the least sound, and never
exercises her sense of smell, if she have any. Thus her mind
dwells in darkness and stillness, as profound as that of a closed
tomb at midnight. Of beautiful sights, and sweet sounds, and
pleasant odours, she has no conception; nevertheless, she seems as
happy and playful as a bird or a lamb; and the employment of her
intellectual faculties, or the acquirement of a new idea, gives her
a vivid pleasure, which is plainly marked in her expressive
features. She never seems to repine, but has all the buoyancy and
gaiety of childhood. She is fond of fun and frolic, and when
playing with the rest of the children, her shrill laugh sounds
loudest of the group.

'"When left alone, she seems very happy if she have her knitting or
sewing, and will busy herself for hours; if she have no occupation,
she evidently amuses herself by imaginary dialogues, or by
recalling past impressions; she counts with her fingers, or spells
out names of things which she has recently learned, in the manual
alphabet of the deaf mutes. In this lonely self-communion she
seems to reason, reflect, and argue; if she spell a word wrong with
the fingers of her right hand, she instantly strikes it with her
left, as her teacher does, in sign of disapprobation; if right,
then she pats herself upon the head, and looks pleased. She
sometimes purposely spells a word wrong with the left hand, looks
roguish for a moment and laughs, and then with the right hand
strikes the left, as if to correct it.

'"During the year she has attained great dexterity in the use of
the manual alphabet of the deaf mutes; and she spells out the words
and sentences which she knows, so fast and so deftly, that only
those accustomed to this language can follow with the eye the rapid
motions of her fingers.

'"But wonderful as is the rapidity with which she writes her
thoughts upon the air, still more so is the ease and accuracy with
which she reads the words thus written by another; grasping their
hands in hers, and following every movement of their fingers, as
letter after letter conveys their meaning to her mind. It is in
this way that she converses with her blind playmates, and nothing
can more forcibly show the power of mind in forcing matter to its
purpose than a meeting between them. For if great talent and skill
are necessary for two pantomimes to paint their thoughts and
feelings by the movements of the body, and the expression of the
countenance, how much greater the difficulty when darkness shrouds
them both, and the one can hear no sound.

'"When Laura is walking through a passage-way, with her hands
spread before her, she knows instantly every one she meets, and
passes them with a sign of recognition: but if it be a girl of her
own age, and especially if it be one of her favourites, there is
instantly a bright smile of recognition, a twining of arms, a
grasping of hands, and a swift telegraphing upon the tiny fingers;
whose rapid evolutions convey the thoughts and feelings from the
outposts of one mind to those of the other. There are questions
and answers, exchanges of joy or sorrow, there are kissings and
partings, just as between little children with all their senses."

'During this year, and six months after she had left home, her
mother came to visit her, and the scene of their meeting was an
interesting one.

'The mother stood some time, gazing with overflowing eyes upon her
unfortunate child, who, all unconscious of her presence, was
playing about the room. Presently Laura ran against her, and at
once began feeling her hands, examining her dress, and trying to
find out if she knew her; but not succeeding in this, she turned
away as from a stranger, and the poor woman could not conceal the
pang she felt, at finding that her beloved child did not know her.

'She then gave Laura a string of beads which she used to wear at
home, which were recognised by the child at once, who, with much
joy, put them around her neck, and sought me eagerly to say she
understood the string was from her home.

'The mother now sought to caress her, but poor Laura repelled her,
preferring to be with her acquaintances.

'Another article from home was now given her, and she began to look
much interested; she examined the stranger much closer, and gave me
to understand that she knew she came from Hanover; she even endured
her caresses, but would leave her with indifference at the
slightest signal. The distress of the mother was now painful to
behold; for, although she had feared that she should not be
recognised, the painful reality of being treated with cold
indifference by a darling child, was too much for woman's nature to

'After a while, on the mother taking hold of her again, a vague
idea seemed to flit across Laura's mind, that this could not be a
stranger; she therefore felt her hands very eagerly, while her
countenance assumed an expression of intense interest; she became
very pale; and then suddenly red; hope seemed struggling with doubt
and anxiety, and never were contending emotions more strongly
painted upon the human face: at this moment of painful
uncertainty, the mother drew her close to her side, and kissed her
fondly, when at once the truth flashed upon the child, and all
mistrust and anxiety disappeared from her face, as with an
expression of exceeding joy she eagerly nestled to the bosom of her
parent, and yielded herself to her fond embraces.

'After this, the beads were all unheeded; the playthings which were
offered to her were utterly disregarded; her playmates, for whom
but a moment before she gladly left the stranger, now vainly strove
to pull her from her mother; and though she yielded her usual
instantaneous obedience to my signal to follow me, it was evidently
with painful reluctance. She clung close to me, as if bewildered
and fearful; and when, after a moment, I took her to her mother,
she sprang to her arms, and clung to her with eager joy.

'The subsequent parting between them, showed alike the affection,
the intelligence, and the resolution of the child.

'Laura accompanied her mother to the door, clinging close to her
all the way, until they arrived at the threshold, where she paused,
and felt around, to ascertain who was near her. Perceiving the
matron, of whom she is very fond, she grasped her with one hand,
holding on convulsively to her mother with the other; and thus she
stood for a moment: then she dropped her mother's hand; put her
handkerchief to her eyes; and turning round, clung sobbing to the
matron; while her mother departed, with emotions as deep as those
of her child.

* * * * * *

'It has been remarked in former reports, that she can distinguish
different degrees of intellect in others, and that she soon
regarded, almost with contempt, a new-comer, when, after a few
days, she discovered her weakness of mind. This unamiable part of
her character has been more strongly developed during the past

'She chooses for her friends and companions, those children who are
intelligent, and can talk best with her; and she evidently dislikes
to be with those who are deficient in intellect, unless, indeed,
she can make them serve her purposes, which she is evidently
inclined to do. She takes advantage of them, and makes them wait
upon her, in a manner that she knows she could not exact of others;
and in various ways shows her Saxon blood.

'She is fond of having other children noticed and caressed by the
teachers, and those whom she respects; but this must not be carried
too far, or she becomes jealous. She wants to have her share,
which, if not the lion's, is the greater part; and if she does not
get it, she says, "MY MOTHER WILL LOVE ME."

'Her tendency to imitation is so strong, that it leads her to
actions which must be entirely incomprehensible to her, and which
can give her no other pleasure than the gratification of an
internal faculty. She has been known to sit for half an hour,
holding a book before her sightless eyes, and moving her lips, as
she has observed seeing people do when reading.

'She one day pretended that her doll was sick; and went through all
the motions of tending it, and giving it medicine; she then put it
carefully to bed, and placed a bottle of hot water to its feet,
laughing all the time most heartily. When I came home, she
insisted upon my going to see it, and feel its pulse; and when I
told her to put a blister on its back, she seemed to enjoy it
amazingly, and almost screamed with delight.

'Her social feelings, and her affections, are very strong; and when
she is sitting at work, or at her studies, by the side of one of
her little friends, she will break off from her task every few
moments, to hug and kiss them with an earnestness and warmth that
is touching to behold.

'When left alone, she occupies and apparently amuses herself, and
seems quite contented; and so strong seems to be the natural
tendency of thought to put on the garb of language, that she often
soliloquizes in the FINGER LANGUAGE, slow and tedious as it is.
But it is only when alone, that she is quiet: for if she becomes
sensible of the presence of any one near her, she is restless until
she can sit close beside them, hold their hand, and converse with
them by signs.

'In her intellectual character it is pleasing to observe an
insatiable thirst for knowledge, and a quick perception of the
relations of things. In her moral character, it is beautiful to
behold her continual gladness, her keen enjoyment of existence, her
expansive love, her unhesitating confidence, her sympathy with
suffering, her conscientiousness, truthfulness, and hopefulness.'

Such are a few fragments from the simple but most interesting and
instructive history of Laura Bridgman. The name of her great
benefactor and friend, who writes it, is Dr. Howe. There are not
many persons, I hope and believe, who, after reading these
passages, can ever hear that name with indifference.

A further account has been published by Dr. Howe, since the report
from which I have just quoted. It describes her rapid mental
growth and improvement during twelve months more, and brings her
little history down to the end of last year. It is very
remarkable, that as we dream in words, and carry on imaginary
conversations, in which we speak both for ourselves and for the
shadows who appear to us in those visions of the night, so she,
having no words, uses her finger alphabet in her sleep. And it has
been ascertained that when her slumber is broken, and is much
disturbed by dreams, she expresses her thoughts in an irregular and
confused manner on her fingers: just as we should murmur and
mutter them indistinctly, in the like circumstances.

I turned over the leaves of her Diary, and found it written in a
fair legible square hand, and expressed in terms which were quite
intelligible without any explanation. On my saying that I should
like to see her write again, the teacher who sat beside her, bade
her, in their language, sign her name upon a slip of paper, twice
or thrice. In doing so, I observed that she kept her left hand
always touching, and following up, her right, in which, of course,
she held the pen. No line was indicated by any contrivance, but
she wrote straight and freely.

She had, until now, been quite unconscious of the presence of
visitors; but, having her hand placed in that of the gentleman who
accompanied me, she immediately expressed his name upon her
teacher's palm. Indeed her sense of touch is now so exquisite,
that having been acquainted with a person once, she can recognise
him or her after almost any interval. This gentleman had been in
her company, I believe, but very seldom, and certainly had not seen
her for many months. My hand she rejected at once, as she does
that of any man who is a stranger to her. But she retained my
wife's with evident pleasure, kissed her, and examed her dress with
a girl's curiosity and interest.

She was merry and cheerful, and showed much innocent playfulness in
her intercourse with her teacher. Her delight on recognising a
favourite playfellow and companion - herself a blind girl - who
silently, and with an equal enjoyment of the coming surprise, took
a seat beside her, was beautiful to witness. It elicited from her
at first, as other slight circumstances did twice or thrice during
my visit, an uncouth noise which was rather painful to hear. But
of her teacher touching her lips, she immediately desisted, and
embraced her laughingly and affectionately.

I had previously been into another chamber, where a number of blind
boys were swinging, and climbing, and engaged in various sports.
They all clamoured, as we entered, to the assistant-master, who
accompanied us, 'Look at me, Mr. Hart! Please, Mr. Hart, look at
me!' evincing, I thought, even in this, an anxiety peculiar to
their condition, that their little feats of agility should be SEEN.
Among them was a small laughing fellow, who stood aloof,
entertaining himself with a gymnastic exercise for bringing the
arms and chest into play; which he enjoyed mightily; especially
when, in thrusting out his right arm, he brought it into contact
with another boy. Like Laura Bridgman, this young child was deaf,
and dumb, and blind.

Dr. Howe's account of this pupil's first instruction is so very
striking, and so intimately connected with Laura herself, that I
cannot refrain from a short extract. I may premise that the poor
boy's name is Oliver Caswell; that he is thirteen years of age; and
that he was in full possession of all his faculties, until three
years and four months old. He was then attacked by scarlet fever;
in four weeks became deaf; in a few weeks more, blind; in six
months, dumb. He showed his anxious sense of this last
deprivation, by often feeling the lips of other persons when they
were talking, and then putting his hand upon his own, as if to
assure himself that he had them in the right position.

'His thirst for knowledge,' says Dr. Howe, 'proclaimed itself as
soon as he entered the house, by his eager examination of
everything he could feel or smell in his new location. For
instance, treading upon the register of a furnace, he instantly
stooped down, and began to feel it, and soon discovered the way in
which the upper plate moved upon the lower one; but this was not
enough for him, so lying down upon his face, he applied his tongue
first to one, then to the other, and seemed to discover that they
were of different kinds of metal.

'His signs were expressive: and the strictly natural language,
laughing, crying, sighing, kissing, embracing, &c., was perfect.

'Some of the analogical signs which (guided by his faculty of
imitation) he had contrived, were comprehensible; such as the
waving motion of his hand for the motion of a boat, the circular
one for a wheel, &c.

'The first object was to break up the use of these signs and to
substitute for them the use of purely arbitrary ones.

'Profiting by the experience I had gained in the other cases, I
omitted several steps of the process before employed, and commenced
at once with the finger language. Taking, therefore, several
articles having short names, such as key, cup, mug, &c., and with
Laura for an auxiliary, I sat down, and taking his hand, placed it
upon one of them, and then with my own, made the letters KEY. He
felt my hands eagerly with both of his, and on my repeating the
process, he evidently tried to imitate the motions of my fingers.
In a few minutes he contrived to feel the motions of my fingers
with one hand, and holding out the other he tried to imitate them,
laughing most heartily when he succeeded. Laura was by, interested
even to agitation; and the two presented a singular sight: her
face was flushed and anxious, and her fingers twining in among ours
so closely as to follow every motion, but so slightly as not to
embarrass them; while Oliver stood attentive, his head a little
aside, his face turned up, his left hand grasping mine, and his
right held out: at every motion of my fingers his countenance
betokened keen attention; there was an expression of anxiety as he
tried to imitate the motions; then a smile came stealing out as he
thought he could do so, and spread into a joyous laugh the moment
he succeeded, and felt me pat his head, and Laura clap him heartily
upon the back, and jump up and down in her joy.

'He learned more than a half-dozen letters in half an hour, and
seemed delighted with his success, at least in gaining approbation.
His attention then began to flag, and I commenced playing with him.
It was evident that in all this he had merely been imitating the
motions of my fingers, and placing his hand upon the key, cup, &c.,
as part of the process, without any perception of the relation
between the sign and the object.

'When he was tired with play I took him back to the table, and he
was quite ready to begin again his process of imitation. He soon
learned to make the letters for KEY, PEN, PIN; and by having the
object repeatedly placed in his hand, he at last perceived the
relation I wished to establish between them. This was evident,
because, when I made the letters PIN, or PEN, or CUP, he would
select the article.

'The perception of this relation was not accompanied by that
radiant flash of intelligence, and that glow of joy, which marked
the delightful moment when Laura first perceived it. I then placed
all the articles on the table, and going away a little distance
with the children, placed Oliver's fingers in the positions to
spell KEY, on which Laura went and brought the article: the little
fellow seemed much amused by this, and looked very attentive and
smiling. I then caused him to make the letters BREAD, and in an
instant Laura went and brought him a piece: he smelled at it; put
it to his lips; cocked up his head with a most knowing look; seemed
to reflect a moment; and then laughed outright, as much as to say,
"Aha! I understand now how something may be made out of this."

'It was now clear that he had the capacity and inclination to
learn, that he was a proper subject for instruction, and needed
only persevering attention. I therefore put him in the hands of an
intelligent teacher, nothing doubting of his rapid progress.'

Well may this gentleman call that a delightful moment, in which
some distant promise of her present state first gleamed upon the
darkened mind of Laura Bridgman. Throughout his life, the
recollection of that moment will be to him a source of pure,
unfading happiness; nor will it shine less brightly on the evening
of his days of Noble Usefulness.

The affection which exists between these two - the master and the
pupil - is as far removed from all ordinary care and regard, as the
circumstances in which it has had its growth, are apart from the
common occurrences of life. He is occupied now, in devising means
of imparting to her, higher knowledge; and of conveying to her some
adequate idea of the Great Creator of that universe in which, dark
and silent and scentless though it be to her, she has such deep
delight and glad enjoyment.

Ye who have eyes and see not, and have ears and hear not; ye who
are as the hypocrites of sad countenances, and disfigure your faces
that ye may seem unto men to fast; learn healthy cheerfulness, and
mild contentment, from the deaf, and dumb, and blind! Self-elected
saints with gloomy brows, this sightless, earless, voiceless child
may teach you lessons you will do well to follow. Let that poor
hand of hers lie gently on your hearts; for there may be something
in its healing touch akin to that of the Great Master whose
precepts you misconstrue, whose lessons you pervert, of whose
charity and sympathy with all the world, not one among you in his
daily practice knows as much as many of the worst among those
fallen sinners, to whom you are liberal in nothing but the
preachment of perdition!

As I rose to quit the room, a pretty little child of one of the
attendants came running in to greet its father. For the moment, a
child with eyes, among the sightless crowd, impressed me almost as
painfully as the blind boy in the porch had done, two hours ago.
Ah! how much brighter and more deeply blue, glowing and rich though
it had been before, was the scene without, contrasting with the
darkness of so many youthful lives within!

* * * * * *

At SOUTH BOSTON, as it is called, in a situation excellently
adapted for the purpose, several charitable institutions are
clustered together. One of these, is the State Hospital for the
insane; admirably conducted on those enlightened principles of
conciliation and kindness, which twenty years ago would have been
worse than heretical, and which have been acted upon with so much
success in our own pauper Asylum at Hanwell. 'Evince a desire to
show some confidence, and repose some trust, even in mad people,'
said the resident physician, as we walked along the galleries, his
patients flocking round us unrestrained. Of those who deny or
doubt the wisdom of this maxim after witnessing its effects, if
there be such people still alive, I can only say that I hope I may
never be summoned as a Juryman on a Commission of Lunacy whereof
they are the subjects; for I should certainly find them out of
their senses, on such evidence alone.

Each ward in this institution is shaped like a long gallery or
hall, with the dormitories of the patients opening from it on
either hand. Here they work, read, play at skittles, and other
games; and when the weather does not admit of their taking exercise
out of doors, pass the day together. In one of these rooms,
seated, calmly, and quite as a matter of course, among a throng of
mad-women, black and white, were the physician's wife and another
lady, with a couple of children. These ladies were graceful and
handsome; and it was not difficult to perceive at a glance that
even their presence there, had a highly beneficial influence on the
patients who were grouped about them.

Leaning her head against the chimney-piece, with a great assumption
of dignity and refinement of manner, sat an elderly female, in as
many scraps of finery as Madge Wildfire herself. Her head in
particular was so strewn with scraps of gauze and cotton and bits
of paper, and had so many queer odds and ends stuck all about it,
that it looked like a bird's-nest. She was radiant with imaginary
jewels; wore a rich pair of undoubted gold spectacles; and
gracefully dropped upon her lap, as we approached, a very old
greasy newspaper, in which I dare say she had been reading an
account of her own presentation at some Foreign Court.

I have been thus particular in describing her, because she will
serve to exemplify the physician's manner of acquiring and
retaining the confidence of his patients.

'This,' he said aloud, taking me by the hand, and advancing to the
fantastic figure with great politeness - not raising her suspicions
by the slightest look or whisper, or any kind of aside, to me:
'This lady is the hostess of this mansion, sir. It belongs to her.
Nobody else has anything whatever to do with it. It is a large
establishment, as you see, and requires a great number of
attendants. She lives, you observe, in the very first style. She
is kind enough to receive my visits, and to permit my wife and
family to reside here; for which it is hardly necessary to say, we
are much indebted to her. She is exceedingly courteous, you
perceive,' on this hint she bowed condescendingly, 'and will permit
me to have the pleasure of introducing you: a gentleman from
England, Ma'am: newly arrived from England, after a very
tempestuous passage: Mr. Dickens, - the lady of the house!'

We exchanged the most dignified salutations with profound gravity
and respect, and so went on. The rest of the madwomen seemed to
understand the joke perfectly (not only in this case, but in all
the others, except their own), and be highly amused by it. The
nature of their several kinds of insanity was made known to me in
the same way, and we left each of them in high good humour. Not
only is a thorough confidence established, by those means, between
the physician and patient, in respect of the nature and extent of
their hallucinations, but it is easy to understand that
opportunities are afforded for seizing any moment of reason, to
startle them by placing their own delusion before them in its most
incongruous and ridiculous light.

Every patient in this asylum sits down to dinner every day with a
knife and fork; and in the midst of them sits the gentleman, whose
manner of dealing with his charges, I have just described. At
every meal, moral influence alone restrains the more violent among
them from cutting the throats of the rest; but the effect of that
influence is reduced to an absolute certainty, and is found, even
as a means of restraint, to say nothing of it as a means of cure, a
hundred times more efficacious than all the strait-waistcoats,
fetters, and handcuffs, that ignorance, prejudice, and cruelty have
manufactured since the creation of the world.

In the labour department, every patient is as freely trusted with
the tools of his trade as if he were a sane man. In the garden,
and on the farm, they work with spades, rakes, and hoes. For
amusement, they walk, run, fish, paint, read, and ride out to take
the air in carriages provided for the purpose. They have among
themselves a sewing society to make clothes for the poor, which
holds meetings, passes resolutions, never comes to fisty-cuffs or
bowie-knives as sane assemblies have been known to do elsewhere;
and conducts all its proceedings with the greatest decorum. The
irritability, which would otherwise be expended on their own flesh,
clothes, and furniture, is dissipated in these pursuits. They are
cheerful, tranquil, and healthy.

Once a week they have a ball, in which the Doctor and his family,
with all the nurses and attendants, take an active part. Dances
and marches are performed alternately, to the enlivening strains of
a piano; and now and then some gentleman or lady (whose proficiency
has been previously ascertained) obliges the company with a song:
nor does it ever degenerate, at a tender crisis, into a screech or
howl; wherein, I must confess, I should have thought the danger
lay. At an early hour they all meet together for these festive
purposes; at eight o'clock refreshments are served; and at nine
they separate.

Immense politeness and good breeding are observed throughout. They
all take their tone from the Doctor; and he moves a very
Chesterfield among the company. Like other assemblies, these
entertainments afford a fruitful topic of conversation among the
ladies for some days; and the gentlemen are so anxious to shine on
these occasions, that they have been sometimes found 'practising
their steps' in private, to cut a more distinguished figure in the

It is obvious that one great feature of this system, is the
inculcation and encouragement, even among such unhappy persons, of
a decent self-respect. Something of the same spirit pervades all
the Institutions at South Boston.

There is the House of Industry. In that branch of it, which is
devoted to the reception of old or otherwise helpless paupers,

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