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MEN AND THINGS.
SPENCER T. HALL
MR. HALL owes his fame this side of the
Atlantic, principally to his success in the science of mesmerism - it is not
generally known that he has achieved a moderate reputation in England, for
verse-writing. We saw him first at the bookstore of a mutual friend, and were
struck with his physiognomy, at once. He is rather tall than otherwise, with a
fresh countenance. His forehead is capacious almost to deformity, in the region
of the perceptive organs. His hair is of a light auburn, and his eyes of a hazel
that sometimes, when illumined, you cannot distinguish from black. His nose has
a twist to one side, which, though slight, mars the appearance of his face.
He was born Dec. 16th, 1812, in a little thatched cottage n the banks of a rivulet near the village of Sutton, in Ashfield. This country village lies only a mile from the celebrated Robin Hood hills, in Sherwood Forest. This forest originally comprised 90,000 acres of land, covered with old oak woods, tinkling streams, and high hills, and low valleys. At the time of his birth, about one third of it had been enclosed, and brought under the subjection of the plough - the remaining two thirds being open to the hunter and shepherd. Born with a great love for nature, here was the finest opportunity [-294-] to gratify and cultivate that love, and the boy spent many days here when released from the toil of the manufactory at Ashfield. His ancestors, on his father's side, were foresters- his mother was a shepherdess and dairy-maid when young, among the mountains of Derbyshire. His parents were Friends, and their teachings are apparent in Mr. Hall's integrity and love of the gentler attributes of humanity. His father was a poor shoemaker, and could ill afford to send him to school. Yet he was determined that Spencer should know how to read, and so he posted up conspicuously in his workshop the letters of the alphabet, and while at work taught his boy their different powers. When he was seven years old, he went at work in the manufactory at Ashfield, his employment being to wind cotton for the stocking-makers At eleven he made stockings himself, and did the full work of a man. In one of his volumes he has described the first developments of poetry in his mind. He says:-
"The first deep poetical impression I recollect receiving, was when so young that my father was carrying me in his arms. It was from seeing the fields all covered with white, and in a breezeless morning, the snow falling slowly and solemnly, flake by flake, from a calm dim sky upon them. This was the early awakening of my mind to the sublimity of simple and common nature, which, because it is simple and common, we so little perceive and enjoy. I once received another impression akin to this, but from different causes. It was one bright February morning, when I was seven or eight years old, in a lane at Fulwood, about a mile from Sutton. The whole landscape was sparkling with gems of frozen dew - not hoar-frost, but that bright powdery scattering which is next akin to it. A little cluster of rustic cottages was sending up light curling smoke-wreaths just by, and a green holly-bush, the only green object to be seen, was sweetly glowing at a bend of the lane beyond them, making me feel as if by step-[-295-]ping as far, I should be all that nearer to the coming spring. Well, it is a very wide landscape that spreads away from that spot, cut into diamonds by hedge-rows, and dotted with cottages, farms, churches, villages, corn-stacks, windmills, villas, and all the other indications of quiet rural life, up to where the North Peak of Derbyshire brings its blue hills in a semi-circle, and hems in the prospect. All this, in the sunshine, was very delicious ; and quietly pondering over it, the love of rural beauty bewitched my heart, almost like the sweet and silent joy of the love of a young maiden. The bowery and streamy haunts, too, of Brookhill, which I often lingered at and looked into, but could not then enter, would feed my childish soul with wonder and gladness - and such, with me, was the beginning of poetry.
His neighbors were kind, and lent him books, and gradually he grew from a weak boy into a strong-minded, yet very modest young man. When he was fifteen, a kind neighbor lent him the life and works of Dr. Franklin. He studied them closely, read and re-read them, and became restless. It was the restlessness of genius. He could not remain contented, a simple, lowly, stocking-weaver; so one morning, just after his sixteenth birth-day, he packed up his few books, an extra shirt, and a single pair of stockings, and ran away. All the money that he possessed in the world was 13 pence, or 26 cents. The village evening lights were burning, as he escaped - on he trudged till ten o'clock, and then for a little supper and a bed, he paid his 13 pence. The next day was a cold one, and he subsisted on a frozen turnip, and slept at night upon the cold floor of a workshop. The following morning he arrived at Nottingham, went to the office of one of the principal papers, offered himself as an apprentice to the printer's trade, and was accepted. During the first year lie worked hard, and .lived upon the coarsest food, and in his leisure hours he studied incessantly. At the commencement [-296-] of the second, his employer took him into his own house, and made him his confidential assistant. About this time, he accidentally met a volume of Bloomfield's Poems, and to him they opened a world of beauty and pleasure. His first poem was a description of Clifton Grove, the favorite haunt of Henry Kirke White. In his eighteenth year he had acquired quite a reputation in Nottingham, and was styled "the young Quaker of the Mercury office!". He was favored with the society of William Howitt, who was at this time an Alderman in Nottingham, and Robert Witter, the poet, and other distinguished characters. When twenty years of age, he became a contributor to the Mirror and Metropolitan Magazine, and was fast acquiring a reputation. When his apprenticeship had expired, he took charge of a large printing establishment in York, and published a small volume of poetry entitled "THE FORESTER'S OFFERING." Previous to this he had often been called "The Sherwood Forester". His poetry is quiet and soothing, and he never attempt. the impetuous or grand. It is simplicity itself, yet none he less pleasing. Here are a few of his verses, descriptive of his boy hood and parents:
"Oft, too, would they describe my country's ports,
Crowded with gallant ships from every clime-
Her smiling palaces, and frowning forts-
Whate'er of her was beauteous or sublime,
The fruit of modern taste, or ancient time
From domes remote, that through dark woodlands rise
To cities crowned with spires that proudly climb
And flash the sunlight back through summer skies
Until my young soul swelled with gladness and surprise.
And much I wished, as in my mind would grow
A sense of Britain's grandeur and her might,
That, in her sons a warm desire might glow
To use their matchless strength and skill aright,
And in the ways of love and truth delight.
[-297-] For oh, an early consciousness was mine
That power misguided operates but to blight
All that is glorious, beautiful, benign,
And glooms with woe a world which else in bliss might shine
* * * * *
And not for lore alone of song or story,
Or youth's delicious dream, or childhood's glee,
But of the simpler, yet sublimer glory
Of Truth's pure teachings, here first known to me,
Grows glad my soul, dear native cot, in thee;
And thought and feeling in deep reverence bend.
Whilst now I bare my head and bore my knee
To HIM from whom all truth and light extend-
Whose throne is in the heart, whose kingdom has no end
And how beautiful is this description of his story-telling "could mither"-
"The birds on Bonsall Leas' sang in. thy song;
The flowers of Wirksworth Moor bloomed in thy tale;
In thy descriptionsm crags o'er Derrvent hang
In awe to hear it roar through Matlock Dale;-
Plain, at thy word, I saw the clouds all pale
Roll silent o'er gray Barrowledge's side;
And, O! how well in mystery could'st thou veil
Those deeds of other times that dimly hide
Where ancient woods frown down from Dunsley's lofty side!"
When his first volume was published, Leigh
Hunt wrote a flattering letter to him, and Montgomery told him that he read the
whole at one sitting, so pleased was he with its contents. He now was appointed
to the vacant Governorship of Hallis Hospital, a philanthropic and educational
institution of York. While here he published a volume of prose, which met with a
kind reception from the public.
And now it was that he turned his attention to the science of mesmerism. He soon wrought astonishing experiments, and all Britain was alive with excitement. He was suddenly famous. Harriet Martineau, the writer, who had been con-[-298-]fined three years to her room by sickness, was entirely cured by Mr Hall, through the soothing powers of mesmerism. He went through all the great cities, and thousands came to see and hear him as a wonder. He shrunk from such prominency, but there was no retreat for him. At his private conversaziones, such men as Liebig and Combo sat at his feet as pupils. Of course many opposed him, and some even went so far as to throw odium upon his character, in connection with his cure of Miss Martineau. This grieved his pure but sensitive heart. In 1846, his health failed him, and he was obliged to relinquish his mesmeric lectures. He accepted the high post of Secretary to the British Anti-Capital-Punishment Society, for a year, at the end of which, his health being restored, he returned to his favorite science. His present position is an agreeable one. He never claimed to be a great poet, nor is he one. But he has written good poetry and prose, and his stern energy is an example to the young.
Among the celebrated men of London, during
the session of Parliament, we may safely reckon Mr. G. F. Muntz, who sits for
He is not a man of great intellect by any means, but he is a man of extraordinary decision of character of great energy and undoubted honesty lie always acts in a straightforward manner - there is little of the mere politician in his character; he is too much of a man for that.
As a speaker he is not eloquent, but he has an earnestness that makes every one feel that he knows what he is saying is true, and such oratory is often more convincing than what is usually called eloquence. He never makes long speeches, but says what he has to say in a short. space of time. It is said that in Birmingham before a mass-meeting of his constituents [-299-]he is less brief and more eloquent; we can believe it, for Parliament has a strange power in cooling the eloquence of the mere orator. Many a powerful out-door speaker has gone to sit there, and scarcely ever opened his mouth, and even then to speak soberly and mathematically. It would be well if our Congress were to imitate Parliament in this respect. As if to guard against a desire to make showy speeches, no women are allowed to enter the House or Gallery while it is sitting.
Mr. Muntz is quiet in the tone of his voice and in gesture, and sits alone as if he had no friends, and (as is the fact) was of no party. In personal appearance he is the most singular man whom we ever saw. We saw him first in the street. We saw a. man apparently about fifty years of age, walking slowly and with heavy steps along the pavement. He was about the middle height, and. possessed a beard of astonishing proportions. It was jet black and completely covered the lower portion of his face. He is renowned for this beard. It is thick and long, and bushy, and as he never has it combed or trimmed, it gives him the wildness of a demi-savage.
He has a fine forehead and brilliant eyes, but his terrible beard completely spoils his personal appearance. It has been the laugh of England for years, but he is fonder of it than ever. This is perhaps not in the least strange. There are a good many people in this world who will not be laughed out of a thing.
He is very strangely built, and is physically a powerful man. His face is rather sallow in complexion, and its general expression is one of reserve and sometimes of sadness. In his dress, he is peculiar. His pantaloons are generally constructed of coarse material, and are broad and flowing, and in England, where everybody wears pantaloons tight to the skin, they have a singular appearance. He usually walks with a cane, and attracts great attention.
[-300-] It is said that upon his first appearance in the House of Commons, many years ago, he excited more general interest than any other new member for a long time previous. He is much esteemed in Birmingham by all classes, and deserves to be, for he is an honest man, which Pope says, is the noblest work of God. He is neither of the Joseph Sturge Universal Suffrage party, nor exactly a Chartist, but holds a number of democratical opinions, which in England subject him to a good deal of odium.
There is not such another country in the world where society and fashion sneer at radicalism as they do in England. In France you may suffer pains and penalties for your ultra-isms, as they are called, but the voice of fashion and society is not so bitterly against you. You can reckon a host of distinguished members of society who hold your opinions, and though Government persecutes you, Society will not. But in England it is otherwise Government will not touch you. but in Society you are handled as if something terribly vulgar and unnatural. Hardly a poet of renown in England avows himself anywhere in favor of liberty in the simple matter of' universal suffrage. Not an author or artist of' renown dares acknowledge himself a Chartist. Radicalism has a taint for all perfumed gentlemen. It is vulgar to help the poor unless you do it in certain prescribed and fashionable modes. To avow yourself the friend of the dirty and ragged millions of England, is to lose your place among gentlemen of fashion; in fact it hurts you worse than to be guilty of almost any kind of genteel crime.
The women even look coldly upon you. It is a sad sight to see a woman without a heart throbbing with sympathy for the suffering of the earth. She is not a woman who is entirely bereft of such sympathies, but is a mere fashionable plaything, a refined courtesan, and has no right to call herself by that holiest of all earthly names - woman! Gentleness, [-301-] pity, nobility of heart, are all wanting; and where these are wanting in one of the sex, who would give anything for what remains?
SIR PETER LAURIE.
SIR PETER LAURIE has been for many years
almost a fixture in the city Government of London. To not know him
and live within forty miles of London were about as great a sin of ignorance as
not to know something of the antics of Lord Brougham in the House of Lords.
He has been an alderman for more than twenty years, is, we believe, a bachelor, has been Lord Mayor, and is one of the best-humored men in London. He is exceedingly popular as a man and officer, notwithstanding he is a Tory in politics. One great reason why he is so popular, is because he is so inveterately fond of a joke. While Lord Mayor he constantly indulged in his passion for fun, even when on the bench, in his official capacity, and he has such a merry, rubicund face, that no one can possibly resist his jokes. Like very many distinguished men in London he is by birth a Scotchman, but what is a little stranger than that, he was once a saddler. He worked as a journeyman saddler once, somewhere near Charing Cross, with a young man who afterwards became Sir Richard Birnie. By unwearied industry as a contractor for military stores for the Government and India, Mr. Laurie amassed a large fortune, became known to his fellow-citizens, was elected alderman, and subsequently Lord Mayor, and was knighted at the hands of Royalty. He was during the days of the Reform Bill a liberal, but afterwards became a Tory. This change is a stain upon his public character, for it had a bad look - as if he deserted the people who had raised him to honor and fame, as soon as the aristocracy got for him the honor of knighthood.
But notwithstanding this defect in his life, he is a popular [-302-] character; more perhaps from his great good-nature and witticisms than any statesmanlike dignity of character. His wit is not at all like Benjamin D'Israeli's - the black-eyed member for Buckinghamshire has no joviality in his wit. It cuts like the frost of a winter morning, in Canada, and when he utters his witticisms his eyes do smile, but in the smile there is a look of savage triumph!
Not so is it with Sir Peter, for his wit never hurts. It is good-humored and only meant for pleasure. He has not in fact any of the exquisite intellect of D'Israeli, and could not, were he to try, cut like him, he is too much of an alderman, and loves mock-turtle too well.
He is renowned for his examination of prisoners, always contriving to ferret out their inmost secrets. In this respect he is the equal of any criminal lawyer in London. He is never quiet, in court or out of it, but is constantly moving. He will jump from his seat, fold his hands upon his breast, then sit down, get up again and walk, rest his head upon his hand, ask questions hurriedly and yet acutely, and the stranger will conclude that he never sleeps, at least not for an hour at a time. His face ever has a smile on it, so that you are constantly on the lookout for a joke, and old as he is, his jocularity becomes him admirably. In religion he is a member of the Church of England, but is no bigot.
In person he is aldermanic - about the middle height, pretty well conditioned, (was there ever alderman who was not?) has a fine, large, open brow, an humorous countenance, and on the whole looks finely in his mellow old age.
He is past sixty years of age, but that is not astonishing in a place where the Duke of Wellington, aged 82, rides about on horseback, hale and hearty; and Lords Brougham, Lyndhurst, Denman, Campbell, the Marquis of Lansdowne, and Joseph Hume, are active as at any period of their lives, and yet range from 70 to 80 in years. By a sort of universal [-303-] consent Sir Peter Laurie is a favorite ; his faults are overlooked because of his goodness of heart. We have portrayed him to the American reader as a type of a certain class of Englishmen. He is a noted man in London, though little known in America, and indeed could not he - still though he is a lion of no great pretensions, we hope to be excused for attempting his portrait in our humble work.
Temperance Reform moves slowly in England, from the fact that the English are
eminently a social people, and their drinking customs are almost inseparably
connected in the general mind with their sociality. Many, very marry estimable
people esteem the wine-cup as a part of their hospitality, and we know of
several families, and distinguished ones, too, whose members "touch not,
taste not," yet whose tables are always loaded with the poisonous beverage, for
the sake of guests who would almost feel it an insult to be invited to dinner
without wine. The most celebrated dissenting minister in London once said to us:
"Yours would be a fine country, were it not for Slavery and the tyranny of
Temperance!" We will not mention his name, but he is the most
talented preacher in London, as we can testify by personal experience, and his
name is familiar to the religious world. He once made a tour to this country, incog.,
and found extreme trouble in taking his glass of wine in respectable religious company. Perhaps he was right, but the same kind f tyranny frowns down
licentiousness, theft and murder. The
public advocates of the temperance cause in England, so far as we were capable
of forming an opinion, were of the second and third orders of talent, and
somewhat shabby in general appearance. Where so much attention is paid to
position and respectability as in Britain, great pains should be [-304-] taken to secure advocates of position and power.
advocates, like Joseph Sturge, Robert Charlton, and Henry Vincent, do the real
work among the respectables, while Hudson, Whitaker, Edwards, &c.,
influence the lower classes.
Thomas Beggs was for some time the leader in this department of English reform, and an abler, more thorough advocate of any cause, could not be found in any country. He is the English counterpart of Dr. Jewett, full of facts and argumentative eloquence. But he has quit the temperance field altogether, whether from want of support, or from the want of a sufficient number of respectable gentlemen to surround him, we do not know, but we do know, that to be a temperance lecturer, in England, is to meet privations and contumely, which here are unknown. Temperance here is popular - there unpopular, and so much so, that hundreds of reformers in the Anti-Slavery, Anti-State and Church, and Universal Suffrage ranks, continue in the drinking habits. Some of the best personal acquaintances of ours in England, are those who taste the sparkling champagne. Mr. Beggs, though powerful, is sometimes sarcastic to eccentricity. He once went down into the country to lecture, and had for an audience a small collection of miserable, taxed-to-death workmen, who cheered him loudest when he was the tamest, just according to the state of their lungs, and finally by their untimely roars and ignorant cries, he became quite irritated and provoked, and determined to say something so pointed that it should pierce their thick skulls; so for a peroration he said with solemnity: "Gentlemen, I trust God has forgiven me for coming down here to-night; if so, I promise him never again to do so foolish a thing!" He is now connected with the Financial Reform Association.
There is not a land under the sun which needs a thorough reformation from intemperance so badly as Great Britain. France, Russia, Austria, Prussia or Italy are not so besotted [-305-] with intoxicating liquors as England, although in energy and intelligence England is their superior. The working classes have become imbruted with beer, which is one of the vilest compounds ever invented. It is far worse than genuine brandy, for it makes a fool of the moan who drinks it.
There were drank last year in Great Britain, 22,962,912 gallons of home-made spirits!
In England --- 9,053,676 imperial galls.
In Scotland - - - 5,935,063 " "
In Ireland --- 6,973,333 " "
The duty upon that quantity amounted to over 25,000,000 of dollars, and such is the revenue to government, that it would receive a heavy shock were all Britons to-morrow to become tee-totalers. This does not include rum, brandy, or beer. The whole retail cost of this enormous number of gallons was over $85,000,000 ! And this was borne principally by people too poor to enjoy the common comforts of life - a people, five sixths of whom cannot cast a vote because of their poverty - a people who a few years since died by thousands of famine, and yet that very year consumed grain enough for distilling purposes to have given bread to all the starving wretches that died, and to have saved the nation from positive suffering and want.
There were consumed last year 644,758 gallons of rum, swelling the total cost of home-made spirits and rum to the enormous amount of one hundred millions of dollars!
Beside this there are two other important items - brandy and beer - the last being a common and favorite beverage of he working people.
Of brandy there were drank last year 2,187,501 gallons in the United Kingdon, at a cost of more than $15,000,000.
Duty was paid to the Government during the last year on nearly 40,000,000 bushels of malt, and between 400 and 500,000,000 gallons of beer were manufactured. At least [-306-] $120,000,000 were then spent by the inhabitants of Great Britain last year for beer!
The figures stand thus-
Home-made Spirits - 85,000,000
Two hundred and thirty-five millions of dollars nett! And consumed by a nation of poverty-stricken men and women. It is in the power of the working men of Great Britain to compel the Government to grant them universal suffrage. If they would stop drinking and save their money for the purchase of freeholds, in a short time they could outvote the aristocracy, or they should by such a course bring the Government upon its knees. Nothing will make a European Government tremble quicker than a diminution in its revenues; and the revenue arising from beer, brandy, and spirits is very great.
It is a very difficult matter to write just criticisms upon
the English people - much more difficult than many people imagine. A visitor who
sees none but the nobility (the Websters and Bancrofts), may live in England a
half-century, and yet know very little of the real condition and prospects of
the people. Or he may grope about the splendid houses of the merchant princes,
among the traders, or circulate through the principal literary circles, and yet
know nothing, or next to nothing, of the people as a whole. The feeling of caste
is so very strong throughout England, that when a man enters the country, and is
introduced by a person who is the member of a certain class, he will never,
unless by accident, go [-307-] above or below that particular class. This may seem
strange, but it is true, with a very few exceptions ; and those exceptions, if
carefully studied, will prove to be the results of accident. It is like going to
Oregon - to enter England - you have, at the starting-point, your choice of routes;
but once started on the upper route and you cannot see the lower, or if you
choose the lower, then you cannot see the upper, unless you commence anew.
There are no intersecting roads. If you chance to have a good introduction to
Lord Palmerston, Russell, or Ashley, or any of their associates, you will fare
sumptuously every day, and get an exalted opinion of English liberality and
elegance - but, alas! you have not seen the backgrounds of the picture.
It is only by comparing the notes of persons who have moved in the different classes - thus embracing all - that a just criticism may be formed of the English people. The people are divided into numerous classes - properly castes - the members that exist on the confines of any one, sometimes stepping over to the frontiers of the other.
First, there is the class of nobles, which has, at least, a half-dozen subdivisions or degrees in rank.
Second, we ought to class the literati, for though they are often found among all classes, and move, by virtue of their genius and talents, among all, yet they are a class - though not exclusive - a far nobler class, too, than that styled noble.
Third in rank, is the class of merchants and manufacturers. Below this, the divisions are so multifarious, that it is useless to attempt a classification. The most degraded class is, we think, that of the agricultural laborers, although we have had no opportunity to see the miners. This horrible feeling of caste is as plainly visible among the (so styled) lower orders, as among the higher, for if is extremely natural everywhere for the lower to imitate the weaknesses of the higher - the poor those of the rich. A place-mechanic feels [-308-] as much above his brother journeyman, as the lord above the merchant, or the merchant above the draper who retails the goods which he imported ; and in like manner is this odious feeling traceable everywhere in England.
The nobility are proud, rich, and possessed of educated refinement. They patronize the fine arts, and encourage literature - they are somewhat voluptuous, yet better moralists and Christians than the aristocrats of the Continent. They love plainness and solidity, amid in their houses and carriages this can be seen, for this is an important ingredient in an Englishman's character. They think all foreigners several steps below them in the social scale, except Americans, and we are their sons or they would excommunicate us. It is considered beneath the dignity of an old family to contract an alliance with a French, Spanish, or even German. It is deteriorating the stock - it is contaminating the blood. This pride in the age of families we cannot appreciate, and it seems almost laughable to us sometimes. The future prospects of the nobility are not flattering, for though Reform moves at a slow pace in England, yet it never retraces a step once taken. There are no reactionary movements there slowly but certainly as the sun moves to the zenith, so moves Reform in England towards its noon. The lords and earls may hinder, but cannot prevent the grand final consummation. Long, very long, have they swayed the destinies of Britain - too long for the good of her suffering, starving people. The condition of the burgeoise, or great middle class, is enviable, for they have wealth, morality, and refinement. In no country can a class be found superior in intelligence, Christianity, and wealth, to this class. Their houses are filled with all that can add comfort, and there is an absence of that vulgarity that is too often seen in America. This class is that which makes England what she is upon the ocean, and in her immense possessions. They furnish (not create) her capital, and [-309-] skilfully use it; they build her churches and public buildings, her railroads and canals. They are as proud, perhaps, as the nobility, but they are so closely connected with the lower classes that they are brought within the reach of their prayers, and often sympathize with them. We are inclined to believe that a majority of the middle class are in favor of radical reforms, that will tend to raise the lower classes from their degraded position to that of acting, powerful men. Upon this point hangs their future welfare, for if they side with the masses in a call for reform, then reform will certainly come, and England's leaders will be chosen by acclamation from among the burgeoise. But - if they neglect those demands, and side with the oppressive aristocracy, they may for a time keep off the day when the producers of England's wealth shall stand erect in their manhood, but when that day does come, it will be a sad day to them For the enraged millions will remember their course, and will cause their ruin. It is the height of conservatism for these men at once to show their colors on the side of the oppressed masses. For it is by, and out of them that they live, and when they rise - as they must peacefully or in mob array - then will the merchants, the ministers, the lawyers, and manufacturers, rue the day of their adhesion to the Guizot policy, for an oppressed people in time madden and destroy what they will.
The class of laboring mechanics and agriculturists are in a condition too sad to contemplate. Wages are generally extremely low - an agricultural laborer getting in the summer months at the rate of from 30 to 60 cents a day, and boarding himself at that. In the winter he is glad to get half his summer pay. Lord Ashley, the glib-tongued philanthropist, often hires men at the rate of 25 cents a day, and those men having large families suffering for want of bread. This was true at a time when he made such a furor in the House about the factories of Manchester. We had some opportunity to [-310-] see for ourself the state of agriculturists,. but principally gained our knowledge from frank and enlightened Englishmen of the higher classes. The state of the laboring or agricultural population is debased and sensual. They see few luxuries, and as for education, they are on an equality with the brutes.
The mechanics or operatives suffer as much perhaps from want of food as the tillers of the soil, but they are more intelligent, and can oftener read and write. A skilful mechanic can earn a good living sometimes, but he is not certain of it. But however well he may do, he may never expect to shake hands with him who is refined and educated. There is a great gulf between the producer and the consumer - between the man who sells tallow-candles and the man who tries the tallow! This is strange and exquisitely foolish, yet it is a stern fact. Labor is not respected in England, and too often the laborer shares the same fate that a man of color does in America.
The price of labor is low, and then comes the army of taxes that eat off the half of every starving man's loaf!
But the prospects of the class are brightening every day, Privileged abuses are being swept away, and their day is hastening on rapidly. They must, however, learn self-denial yet, before they gain liberty - they must be willing to die for it ere they will prize it as it should be prized. The working classes, by abstaining from their beer for six months, could bring the British Government upon its knees, and themselves into the full stature of men. But they are too social - or love their merry carousals too well. They are not prepared to suffer for liberty, and they do not deserve it. An Englishman hates a revolution - that is, one involving anarchy- as he hates the French. Yet England is the greatest country in the world for peaceful agitators. An American, upon attending some of their public meetings, would think of the old [-311-] days of '76. The Government is denounced in the most violent manner, and reform is advocated with the freedom of a Patrick Henry. But you soon discover that their courage is very like that of a barking cur who is beyond the reach of your whip. They know just how much it is safe to say, and you never catch them over that Mason and Dixon's line.
Yet reform will come in England, and that, too, without fighting. If the reformers would attempt a fight, the Government would be delighted, but the people are too wise for that. They know that they could make no headway against a disciplined army. They will wait till by moral force they gain a majority in the House of Commons, and then they can disband the army, and demand what they please.
The art of housekeeping is carried to perfection in England
The quietness and smoothness with which the routine of domestic duties glide
along, astonishes the American who is accustomed to noise and hurry, voracity
and fretfulness, as the accompaniment to "household joys." The universal haste
to get rich in this country, is an effectual bar to the full or generous
development of family pleasures and amusements. Men struggle, as if for life,
when with economy and contentment they might enjoy life far better than princes
do. Even our richest men of business, though not urged on by the fear of
immediate poverty, are striving like madmen to keep up a position. Fathers
toil in the counting-room from morning till night, adding furrows to their
that their wives and daughters may ride in their splendid carriages with costly
shawls upon their shoulders, when more walking by day and less flaunting by
night, would be their health, wealth, and salvation. There is more steadiness
in the English aim to get rich - or rather there is less aiming to become rich,
and [-312-] more
to secure a comfortable income. A good business is sufficient, if its income is
all that is needed to support a man in comfortable style, and its owner never
anticipates a retirement from business, till old age overtakes him. So he
settles down with the determination to enjoy as much, spend as much, this
year, as any year in the future, and thus the real happiness of his house
and home is secure. The comparative absence of pretensions to wealth in England
attracted our attention particularly. We remember once of meeting at an evening
party a very modest yet amiable man, who had the quiet manners of a true
gentleman, yet whose moderate pretensions were such as to lead one used to
American society to suppose him very poor. After the party was over, a friend
who accompanied us asked-
"Did you observe that modest, farmer-like man, Mr. S-?"
We replied in the affirmative.
"Well, he is the richest land-holder in the County - he can ride a dozen miles in one direction on his own grounds!"
This is not a single instance:- many and many a time we have had occasion to ask the wealth of men whose bearing was quiet and unostentatious, and have been surprised to learn their great wealth. Upon the whole, we are inclined to think that the "almighty dollar" has a more abject worship in America than in England, or at least, in American cities, than in those of Britain. The absence, or partial absence of this feverish desire to become rich, acts like a charm upon the social influences that surround, or should surround a home. A gentleness settles around it like the flowers in its garden, full of heavenly perfume.
If a man can afford to keep a carriage, he does so without any particular ostentation ; if he cannot, he does not ; and what is more, he shows no senseless sensitiveness in trying to conceal the fact that he cannot afford to keep one. We have [-313-] heard more than one fine man declare in open company that he could not afford to keep a carriage, without the least shame ; and we could not help contrasting his outspokenness with many others in like circumstances here, who would make all manner of deceptive manoeuvres to avoid any question bearing on so delicate a subject.
As the English man of business is more free from the terrible desire to get suddenly rich than men of business here, so having more time to spend in the bosom of his home, to cultivate and refine it, in exact proportion his surpasses ours in all that is gentle, refined, lovely and pleasant.
We spent many happy days, while in London, at the suburban residence of a dear friend who is a member of that opulent class of business men, known as merchant-manufacturers - a man who manufactures largely, and exports what he manufactures. As his home is a sample of others in his sphere of life, and may serve as a sample of home life in London, we will describe it without exposing those home-scenes which are all the sweeter that they are choice, and must remain mysteries to all those who do not seek after them in a true spirit of home-devotion. His cottage was built of stone - in the antique French style of architecture - all about it lay a garden, capacious, and full of exquisite flowers, old branching trees, water-courses, green grassy lawns, and fruits of all species.
The breakfast hour was nine, winter and summer, and more than once in June we have awoke from sleep and looked out upon the pleasant sunshine on the lawn, saying to ourself, " We have four or five hours yet to sleep." The birds were singing so loudly many times, that we almost laughed at the idea of sleeping! At nine we used to enter the breakfast-room, and sit down to tea, chocolate, and dry-toast. Plates, knives and forks were scarcely ever used - eggs we ate, but were never tempted with meats or vegetables. After [-314-] breakfast, the owner of the mansion rode invariably into town, to his counting-room, where he was absorbed till tea, or supper, as the state of his business demanded. In the morning hours we could write, walk, ride, make excursions with the ladies - in short, amuse ourse-]f exactly as we thought best. At 12 M. generally, a slight luncheon was served. At three, four, or five, according to circumstances, the dinner was eaten. This was the meal of the day, and a good deal of etiquette was thrown about it. It occupied from one to two hours, and sometimes a longer period. Soup commenced the meal, and a luxurious dessert always ended it. Without the least confusion or noise the servants removed or brought on various tried or untried dishes, and any want or wish of the guests was attended to, if signified by a mere nod. It seemed to us strange to see the working of such perfect order. At the table everyone ate slowly, masticating thoroughly the food, talking leisurely, and waiting with patience the disappearance of one course, and the appearance of another. The haste, so awful to behold here, where we thrust the keen knife-blade down our throats, was never seen by us, except when a company of railway passengers were eating a dinner that must be swallowed in ten minutes.
At seven, we generally drank tea, which was accompanied with toast, amid the lighter species of cake. This was to us a delightful repast - especially in winter, by the cheerful fire. It is generally devoted to pleasant talk and social glee. One could sit at table or not, as his fancy suggested. Gathered all about the pleasant fire, some on the sofa, and others in the "old arm-chairs," or at the table, it was a cheerful sight to look upon or participate in.
Supper generally came on at nine or ten, or sometimes much later. This was in every essential, like the dinner, - hot meats, cold meats, &c. &c., being served up in the most palatable manner Then the evening hours were devoted to [-315-] home pleasures. Of course, when out-door pleasures were sought, the supper hour was postponed until the return, at midnight, or later. Then to our pleasant room, where attentive servants always placed plenty of water, towels, and every convenience. A bell-rope always hung over our pillow, and a slight jerk in case of illness, would summon help at once.
There are many noble philanthropists in England, hut if one
were to judge from the tenor of Exeter Hall speeches he would be led to suppose
that oppression was a crime unknown in England. That such is not the fact the
reader will readily believe. We will not now allude to the gross oppression of
that system, which, while it taxes all Englishmen, only allows one in six to
cast a vote, thus imposing taxation without representation - which always is
tyranny. But we will look for a moment abroad, and view the workings of British
rule there. The small but powerful kingdom of Great Britain, has vast
possessions in the shape of colonies and dependencies. But a small portion of
them are in the situation of Canada, which being contiguous to a land of
political freedom, has demanded and received many political privileges not accorded to other colonies.
There are countries of vast extent over which the
officers in Downing Street, London, exercise a most despotic sway. The Russian
bear is not more self-willed and iron-hearted than these rulers over millions
whom they never saw, and never expect to see.
British India contains 514,190 square miles, besides which, there are 1,128,000 under the protection of the British Crown. That is, the native chiefs, and their people over this vast area of territory, are bound hand and foot, and are completely the subjects of the British Government. A commercial company, called the East India Company, holds in trust for the crown [-316-] this great Indian Empire, and has done so for many years The iniquities which have been perpetrated upon the natives have often been exposed, but the English people have never manifested anything like national shame or repentance. The charter we believe expires the present year - and was granted by Queen Elizabeth. It remains to be seen whether the British Parliament will renew a charter which is really a lease granted to Despotism.
The Indian Government in England consists of twenty-four directors, appointed by the East India Company, which is under the control of an Indian Board in London appointed by the Crown. In India there is a Governor General, advised by a small Council which is also nominated by authorities in London. This is the whole Government of India! There is no Legislature - the people are entirely unrepresented.
British India is divided into the presidencies of Calcutta,· Madras and Bombay, the population of which combined amounts to 100,000,000! These millions have no voice in the management of their own affairs. Not a vote can they cast, but they are dumb, driven slaves, to all intents and purposes. The annual tax which is levied upon this people, is over $100,000,000. And what is still more astonishing - every farthing of this immense sum goes into British pockets, and nine tenths of it leaves India for England. The oppressed natives pay the salaries of the great English lords who come to rule them ; they pay all the salaries of the lazy clerks on Indian matters in London; aye and pay for the support of that British Army which butchers them as if they were beasts, and not men destined to immortality. The great India dinners which are given at the aristocratic London Tavern at a great expense, are paid for by these poor wretches in India. They also pay the interest on the heavy debt which the Company has incurred in subjugating them to a state of vassalage and slavery, and what is still more damning [-317-] they actually pay ten per cent interest on the merely nominal capital of the Honorable East India Company!
One hundred millions are thus annually wrung from the natives of India by military force, ready to butcher them if they utter the first note of remonstrance. The land is taxed and its products, all imports and exports and in return for this the natives receive, not a solitary privilege, not the shadow of political liberty!
The enormous sum of money drained from India yearly, deeps England flooded with capital. Although the country of all countries for bitter poverty, yet at the same time it is full of gold. Capital is abundant - money almost a drug. The few receive it, keep it, or loan it. Millions keep flowing in from India, and nothing goes back. There is no return, for the money does not come for goods or provisions, but is forced from the people without any equivalent therefor being given. This influx of capital keeps the aristocratic classes rolling in splendor, and also renders them, in a certain sense, independent of the poverty-stricken condition of the English people. A panic at home does not touch them, for they lean upon India, and they can laugh when national calamity cometh. The taxes in India are paid principally in native products, and English merchants are upon the spot always ready to purchase them for half their value, and sell again in the markets of the world. Thus the natives are cheated, even in the payment of their unjust taxes. Yet very little is said in England about this great system of fraud and oppression save by a few men like George Thomson and John Bright. Exeter Hall resounds with eloquence directed against negro slavery - but India is passed over in silence.
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