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COSTUMES AND CUSTOMS
IN the streets of London the American is
at once struck with the appearance of the dray-horses. They are generally of a
Flemish breed, but such enormous Creatures we never saw in an American town, nor
even in Paris. They are universally used for all heavy business in London, and
the city- proper is full of them during business hours. Their strength is
massive, and their whole appearance one of great solidity and power. They seem
to have a natural tendency to obesity, for we never saw a poor one. Some of them
are as large as three or four common horses, and we once saw one which we
presume would have weighed down half a dozen respectable horses of the common
breed. As many as five or six are sometimes attached to one load, but are always
harnessed one before the other, and never two abreast. The loads which they draw
are enormous, but not beyond their strength. In fact the whole race of horses in
London is far superior to those of Paris. Fine carriages and horses are a rare
sight in the French capital in comparison with the famous West End of London.
Whether the climate of France affects the breed injuriously or not we do not
know, but they are much inferior in size and beauty to the horses of London,
whether dray, carriage, or riding horses.
[-79-] In the matter of carriages, too, the stranger from America is struck with surprise. The family carriages of the aristocracy are perhaps the most magnificent of any in the world. Thousands of dollars are often expended on the grand family carriage, and when the family comes to town for the season, from the country, they come by railway, yet in the family carriage, for it is a peculiar feature to England, that private families ride by rail in their own carriages, which are lashed safely to platform cars - the price of that kind of travelling being dear, as a matter of course.
In this manner they travel quietly and in a secluded manner and when arrived in town, the carriage, which bears the family coat-of-arms, is ready for service, the horses having perhaps arrived in advance. We scarcely ever yet travelled in England by rail, without noticing on every train one (or more), private carriage attached.
With the single exception of handsome family carriages, England is in the rear of America, in that line of manufactures. All other vehicles are at least as heavy again as those used with us. We have often wondered why such unwieldy and enormous things are continued in use in this age of invention. The cabriolets are generally much too heavy for one horse to draw, and the transportation wagons are all twice as heavy as is necessary, and are constructed with little ingenuity.
The omnibuses are tolerably well constructed, and are always, when the road is clear, driven with speed. They hold twelve in and the same number outside. On certain routes you car. travel six miles for three-pence - six cents, American money. The conductors have a wretched way of abbreviating the names of the places to which they drive, so that a stranger finds it impossible to understand them. We were one evening at a family party where George Catlin, of Indian renown, arrived an hour too late. He had been carried miles out of [-80-] his way by trusting tc the voice of an omnibus "cad." As an example, we will give the genuine omnibus-pronunciation of "Kingsland," a district adjoining the city. The conductors going there generally sing out "Ins-la!" "Ins-la!" Other names are murdered in a still more atrocious manner by these unmannerly fellows. There is one conductor in London who has amassed quite a property, but rich as he is, he still continues to attend to the six-pences and three-pences of travellers, at the door of his old omnibus. On pleasant days he dresses in a fine blue broadcloth coat, white vest, and spares no expense in any part of his wardrobe. He is looked upon as a natural curiosity.
At least one half the days in a year of London weather are wet and rainy, and during such weather the streets. are full of mud. We have not the faintest conception of muddy sidewalks in American towns. In such weather no man can walk the streets without covering his nether garments with filth, and it might be supposed that it would be utterly impossible for ladies to walk in such weather. An American town-bred lady would as soon think of swimming up the Thames against tide, as walking far in such ankle-deep mud, but English ladies do it, and with consummate dexterity too. We have often in such weather wondered, how the ladies whom we have met on the side-walks could keep themselves so neat and dry, but continued practice has made them expert. You will see scores of fine ladies on such days, as well as on the sunniest, each suspending her garments gracefully with one hand, just above the reach of the mud, and tripping along on tiptoe with admirable skill, or perhaps walking with wooden clogs under her shoes. Some of them will walk miles in this manner, preserving their dresses and skirts in their original purity. The natural fondness of the English women for out-door exercise, will not be curbed in any weather. Those who are very wealthy and in town, will not walk in [-81-] town, but as soon as the season is over, they fly to the country for air and exercise. The town-season in England is not very long, and therefore, instead of staying out of London, as many of our fashionable people do, out of American towns, for a few weeks, many of the best families stay in it only a few. Those families not rich enough for country-seats and carriages, do not hesitate to get their exercise on foot, and there are many families with one, two, and even three hundred thousand dollars, who do not consider themselves worth enough to keep an establishment of that kind. Men with an income of five or six thousand dollars a year, generally do not keep carriages if residing in London. Some do not wish to keep up an establishment, and others think they cannot afford one.
The passenger-trade from one part of London to another, by the pigmy steamers which ply up and down the river Thames. is a peculiar feature of London. Thousands, and tens of thousands travel up and down the river by these little boats, because they are cheaper than the omnibuses, and in going by them, one avoids the noise of the streets. You can go from London Bridge, in the city, up to Westminster, near the Houses of Parliament, for a hall-penny, penny, or two-pence, according to the line of boats you take, and the distance is more than three miles. Or you can go from Chelsea, an upper suburb of London, down to Thames Tunnel, a distance of eight miles, for three-pence. These boats are very small, and have no comfortable cabins for passengers, and all sit upon deck, no matter what the weather may be. This would not suit the American public, but Englishmen are, though great grumblers, not so luxurious in their tastes as we are - at least in such matters. On pleasant days the ride on the river-boats is delightful and refreshing, after moving amid the hubbub of the streets.
These steamers are all worked on the 1ow-pressure principle, and it is low enough to suit anybody, we are sure. A few [-82-] years since one of the cheap boats burst its boiler, and great was the excitement over England, though, if we recollect aright, only one man was killed.
There are half-penny, penny, and two-penny boats constantly running between different points, from early in the morning until one o'clock at night. The captains of the boats always stand on the paddle-box, and with one hand makes the signs for the helmsman to follow, and a boy stands perched over the engineer's department, who sings out in a shrill voice the orders of the captain, that the grim officer below, who has the machinery under the control of his fingers, may know when to start, when to stop, and when to reverse the motion of the paddle-wheels. The master of the boat, though perhaps never in his life out of sight of St. Paul's, nevertheless has the air of a man who has braved "the mountain wave," and whose "home is on the deep." And he is as weather-beaten as any sea-veteran, for he hardly ever leaves his boat.
Londoners do not pronounce many of their words as Americans do. We are inclined to think that well-bred Englishmen take more pains with their pronunciation, than the same class with us, but if the whole population is taken into account, we are far, very far in advance of England. There is a peculiar pronunciation common to Londoners, and the stranger who has a careful ear, can at once distinguish it from the pronunciation of Manchester or Bristol, and easily from that of an American.
There are words used too, which have a very different signification with us, and some which would be called vulgar. Expressions are common in comparatively good society, which would not suit American ears. A wet, disagreeable day is often called by fine ladies, "a nasty day," and when a person is exhausted with a long walk, or any physical exertion, it is common to say, "I am knocked up," a phrase which to a foreigner has no signification whatever. Why physical [-83-] weariness should be styled "knocked-up-ness," we cannot possibly imagine.
The word "guess" has no such signification in England, as is given to it in Yankee-land. However we have high authority for clinging to our use of the word. The old authors used it in the same manner.
Ever since Judge Halliburton, of Nova Scotia, wrote his "Sam Slick," Englishmen have supposed that the dialect of that worthy gentleman, is the dialect of pretty much the whole American people. Whenever any journalist wishes to give Jonathan a severe hit, the expressions, " tarnation smart" or "pretty considerable," are used with terrible effect! We doubt if there is a people under the sun, that so murders its own language as the English. There are many dialects, even in England. A well-educated man cannot understand the working-people in country parts. Some drop the letter h., where it should be used, and vice versa, and others give every letter a wrong sound. Surely it ill becomes any one belonging to such a country to find fault with American pronunciation.
There are many classes of people to be met
in the streets of London, and occasionally there are faces and figures which it
is impossible to forget. There is little man-worship in the business streets - a
lord in Cheapside, is no more than a merchant, and nobody stops to inquire
whether he be a lord, or tallow chandler. lip at the West End, beyond the
precincts of the city-proper, you will find plenty of it, for Trade does not
reign supreme there, but Wealth and Blood. There you may see a plenty of fine
carriages every day, and lords and splendid ladies, and the people often gaze at
them as if awe-struck. Some of the English nobles are intensely proud and will
not acknowledge a civility.
[-84-] A friend of ours was one day walking in one of the Parks. when the Duke of Wellington chanced to ride past on horse-back. Several English gentlemen, within a few feet of him, pulled off their hats and bowed. The old Duke looked straight at them, but never touched his hat nor bowed his head in return Our friend trusted that the sycophants had learned a lesson which would profit them. How different was his conduct from that of George Washington on such occasions. No man ever bowed to him, however humble in station, without an acknowledgment of the compliment.
West of Charing Cross, the carriages in the streets are generally elegant, and the horses fine and full of mettle. The people walking in the streets are unlike those down in the city. There is a look of fashion in their garments, a gentility in figure, one does not see in the Cheapside, or Lombard-street. There are more idlers here-men hunting after pleasure, instead of poor clerks with pale faces hurrying away on errands, or portly merchants going to, or returning from the Exchange. At the proper time of day, splendid carriages stand before the doors of some of the elegant shops, while the beautiful ladies who came in them are shopping. Countesses and Duchesses in any quantity are occasionally thus employed. The female nobility of England is, without any doubt, the finest in the world. Their beauty is almost unequalled, and their graceful pride only gives to it a wondrous charm. They are far superior as a class to the male nobility, in beauty, and there is no class of merely fashionable women in the world who will bear a comparison with them. They do not disdain to get sufficient physical exercise for health, while in the country, taking long rides and walks and rambling over the fields, and riding on horseback while in town. The fashionable women of America do not look one half so healthy or wholesomely beautiful, for they are too fastidious for out-of-door exercise. But the true type of the American women is [-85-] sweeter, fairer, more delicately beautiful, than even an English peeress.
But if the West End of London can show its proud and beautiful peeress, the East End has its pale factory, or shop- girl, and the sight of some of these is enough to draw tears into any eyes. Imagine a girl of fifteen, with soft blue eyes, once merry perhaps, and a face white as snow, and long, thin, and trembling arms, a slight body and almost tottering steps. See how sad those young eyes are, which at so young an age should only know smiles, but ire fact know only tears. The sight is as touching a picture, as any you can look at in any painting-gallery in London. The very poverty of her dress as it is neat, and even graceful, adds to the pathos of the sight. She turns those blue, tearful eyes up at von, as if she thought you of a different race from herself, belonging to another world, for you are well dressed, and have money and a look of pride, While she never knows what it is to sit down to a well-furnished table, or to ride in a carriage, or to ride at all. No, she cannot even walk among the trees and flowers in the country - they are too far away, and she must work all the livelong day, or starve.
This sight is not an uncommon one in London, by any means, nor are you obliged always to leave the West End to find it, for there are wan and suffering women right among the proud and noble. We have seen faces in Belgravia which were sad enough to make one weep.
We have often met in the streets, an old-fashioned English farmer, and he is a sight to make one's heart grow warm and merry. For his rubicund figure speaks pleasantly, and emphatically too, of all the comforts of an English farm-house. His face is round and merry, and his cheeks rich as rarest port, while his voice, though rough, is honest and manly. Perchance one of his daughters is with him in his cart, and if so you can see a specimen of the country health of old [-86-] England. Her eyes are full of witchery, and her face all smiles, and you know that she has never known care or suffering. Contrast her fair merry countenance with the pale anxious face of the trembling shop-girl! The streets of London are full of such contrasts.
The old English Squire is another character which one meets, though rarely, in the busy thoroughfares, and we confess that he always looks as if out of his place. He always dresses - if he is of the real old-fashioned class - as English squires dressed two hundred years ago. His face reminds you of ale and port wine, and "the old roast beef of England." His knees shine with silver buckles, and he discards the small clothes of the present age. His horror of anything French amounts to a mania, and a moustache is in his opinion, about as becoming as " a shoe-brush stuck beneath the nose." And though he talks loudly and harshly, with all his stiff toryism, and his utter detestation of all new lights, ideas, and politics, the old Squire has a warm heart beating beneath that old-fashioned waistcoat. He is generous to a fault, as you would be sure to believe, were you once to sit down to his plenteous table, and live with him awhile at home. He has no business to be seen in London, however - he is not in keeping there.
The English merchant is generally a fine-looking man, with an easy countenance, just tinged with wine perhaps. On 'Change' he is not the being that he is at home. Business seems for a time to freeze up his manners and sympathies. In the streets you can tell him by his portly dignified air. He looks different from the American merchant, because possessed of more phlegm. A New York or Boston man of business looks too worn and excited when in the streets, to compare favorably with one of the same class in London.
The chimney-sweeps are a class that could not well be dispensed with, and they are a singular class, too. Their cries may he heard in every street, early in the morning, as [-87-] one lies upon his pillow. Their vocation is a bad one, and they deserve better pay than they get. Many of them are mere boys, and we once knew of a case where a lad was sent up a chimney by his brutal master while it was yet warm, and when he came down he was almost smothered, and so severely burned that he died in a few hours.
day for splendid costume is nearly over in England. The old days, "the
brave days of old," are passed away never to return. Perhaps no country in
the world has paid more attention to all "the pomp and circumstance'' of
dress than England, in the centuries that are past. But now even professional
costume is nearly extinct. Black is now the universal color ; it used to be
distinctive of the clerical profession, but the innovating age has made it
common to all classes, and clergymen have now nothing but the white cravat to
distinguish their dress from anybody's else, and that even is worn by many
A man of the world may in the morning put on his dashing colors if he please - his flashing vest and pants, but as soon as evening comes he becomes sober, and a rigid etiquette obliges him to wear a dress of black. But the clergyman cannot even vary his color, nor wear moustaches, though he can dance on certain occasions.
The bar, and the army and navy, the police and the beadles, have each their peculiar dress, while on duty. In the street you cannot tell a peer from a shopman by the dress, generally the peer is the plainer dressed of the two. But you can always tell a gentleman by his manners. All nobles are not gentlemen, nor all gentlemen nobles, but a true gentleman will command respect wherever he is, unless it be among a certain portion of fashionable aristocracy.
[-88-] There is a peculiar set of people in all countries distinguish more for their worship of trifles than of genius, intellect, or goodness ; where a gentleman is not always sure of attenion - but real gentlemen avoid the society of such.
The Court dress, although splendid, has little of the extravagance of the courts of Elizabeth and James I. It is said that the shoes worn by Sir Walter Raleigh on levee-days were worth more than thirty thousand dollars, they were so studded with precious stones, and the rest of his attire was in a similar style of extravagance. A couple of pounds will now shoe the best peer in England.
The artists complain of the penuriousness of the present age. In the old times a painting was worth looking at with its fine drapery and great show of dress; but now every one is dressed plain and sleek, and all are alike. In a group of figures in a painting it certainly makes some difference in the effect whether all are arrayed alike, or differently.
It is said that the finest example of royal costume extant may be seen in the effigy of Edward III. in Westminster Abbey, and his queen, Philippa. The king is arrayed in a long dalmatic, open in front nearly to the thigh, and showing the tunic beneath. The mantle is fastened across the breast by a belt richly jewelled. The queen wears a close-fitting gown, a richly jewelled girdle, and tight sleeves. A wreath is fastened by brooches on the shoulders. Prince Albert and Queen Victoria were thus attired at the grand "Bal Masque" given at Buckingham Palace in the year 1842.
The mutations in costume during the last three and four centuries are too frequent to describe. In head-dress at one time lofty periwigs were in fashion ; at another pomatum and powder, a fashion which Pitt knocked to pieces when he invented the Hair Powder Tax.
The sex has been guilty of some of the most grotesque costumes, and the absurdest of all was the hoop-petticoat, [-89-] which gave the wearer the appearance of a walking balloon. There are many strange stories as to its invention; probably it was introduced for the accommodation of the ladies of the court, who were of easy virtue - such is the opinion of good judges. Certain it is that public sentiment had a good share in driving the fashion out of existence, by accusing those who clung to it of bad morals. Stiff stays are out of fashion in a majority of English society, and silks are retreating before the sublime array of satins.
The clergy once were guilty of wearing as pompous a costume as the class of courtiers. The Reformation wrought a change, for vestments, emblazoned caps, and rich embroideries, were laid aside. The mysticism of religion in the English Church is done away. In the olden times chasubles, dalmatics, and tunics, which were originally derived from the same class of articles in kingly attire, were worm by Protestant clergy, but were finally rejected by them, and the style of clerical dress became by degrees more refined and severe.
English lawyers cling with an inveterate passion to the ancient styles of legal dress and etiquette, though it is now a common thing to see a member of the legal profession wearing whiskers, a practice which was not allowed in the olden time, those hairy appendages to the human face being then usually confined to military gentlemen.
Boots and shoes are generally made so as to wear longer than ours, but are also higher in price. The extremities are differently shaped from ours, and altogether they are lacking in beauty of shape.
An English woman has not the art of dressing so well as a French woman with the same means. She lacks taste. The English children are dressed in the finest manner. Go into the parks on a pleasant summer day, and you will meet with hundreds of the wee things dressed in Scottish hats and feather, and with their legs entirely bare. The English children [-90-] are generally robustly healthy, and, generally speaking, more pains are taken with their physical education than with children in America.
There is a general idea in America that clothing is much cheaper in England than here. Clothes of certain descriptions are, but a fashionable coat costs as much in London as New York, and pantaloons more. A West End tailor charges inure than a New York tailor, but cheap garments can be purchased, ready made, with les money in England than in America.
When we entered for the first time an
English drawing- room, almost our first thought was- "How robust are the
English ladies!" and after much observation we are ready again to repeat
the thought. The room contained perhaps a dozen women, from eighteen to fifty
years of age, and not one among the number was sallow or faded, much less
wrinkled, with age. After walking in the leading promenades of fashion and
beauty, we found it the same there ; the women were healthy-physically
well-educated. A friend, who is an American, chanced to be in the House of Lords
when it was prorogued by the Queen in person, and there was present a splendid
collection of female nobility-he was astonished to see such unmistakable health
upon every face.
It was the same wherever we went - in the lecture-room; in the great hall; at the concert, the theatre, and the church -the appearance of the vast majority of the women indicated abundant and vigorous health. The cheek was round, and hued with the rose; the forehead exuberant ; the eye large and beautiful ; the chest well developed ; and - we confess it -the feet somewhat large.
`We at first were tempted to denominate the beauty of English women as gross, but after thought, could not do so. If [-91-] pure nature be gross, if health be not refined, then certainly we do prefer grossness to refinement. If illness breeds a superior beauty, then give to us the inferior charms which are the offspring of health.
"Comparisons are odious," yet the reader will excuse us if we make a comparison between American and English women of fashion, on the simple point of health and healthy habits. The tastes of the two classes do not seem to agree in this matter. In many of our fashionable circles it is not the desire of women to be in robust health. If a young lady be languishing, with a snowy check just tinged with crimson, if she have a tremulous voice, she may expect to break a score of hearts. For such a creature to think of walking a mile, would be sheer madness. If she goes out, it is in her softly-cushioned carriage, with servants to wrap her carefully away from the benignant influences out of doors, and the vulgar wind and sunshine have not a stray peep at that exquisite skin of hers.
As for the fields and flowers, never in her life have her soft feet danced upon them - yet for hours she has waltzed upon the arm of some handsome young navy-officer in a hot dancing-assembly. Never in her life has she played in the wild-wood with the birds and flowers ; with June skies over her, and a June sun looking into her open, radiant face Never has she been gloriously flushed with exercise got from chasing after rare flowers and plants ; from climbing to the summits of lofty hills - for this all would have been vulgar. Have we exaggerated the picture ? Here is one of English women of fashion.
In England, the highest ladies exercise much in the open air - and as they are healthy in body, so in mind. Sickly sentimentalism and a "rose-water philanthropy" which expends itself over French romances and artificial flowers, has no lot or portion in their characters. They are noble women; [-92-] and their children are worthy of them, for they are red checked, of stout muscle and nimble gait, of fine health hind appetite. The simple reason is, that English women, as well as children, exercise in the open air. An English woman of refinement thinks nothing of walking half a dozen miles, nothing of riding on horseback twenty, nothing even of leaping hedges on the back of a trusty animal.
We remember once being at the home of William and Mary Howitt, before they had left "The Elms," when some one proposed that we should make a little family visit to Epping Forest - distant four or five miles. The thought did not enter our brain that they expected to go on foot. As we crossed the threshold, we looked for the carriage, but the ladies said we were going a-foot, of course! And so we walked all the way there, and rambled over the beautiful forest. As we walked back, we half expected to see the ladies faint, or drop down exhausted, amid when we sat down a moment upon a bit of greensward, we ventured to ask- "Are you not very tired ?"
The reply was, and accompanied by a merry laugh, "To be sure not - I could walk a half-dozen miles yet!"
We were once conversing with an English lady eighty years old - the mother of a distinguished author - upon this excellent habit of walking, when she remarked -
"When I was a young woman, and in the country, I often walked ten miles to meeting of a Sunday morning!" This was the secret of her mellow old age. The English women love flowers, and also to cultivate them, and we know of no more beautiful sight than of a fair, open-browed, rosy-checked woman among a garden full of plants and flowers. Talk of your merry creatures in hot drawing-rooms "by the light of a chandelier" - to the marines. Here is beauty fresh from God's hand, and Nature's - here are human flowers and those of nature blooming together.
[-93-] Mrs. Browning, in " Lady Geraldine's Courtship," has a beautiful picture of an English woman;-
"Thus, her foot upon the new-mown grass - bareheaded with the flowing
Of the virginal white vesture gathered closely to her throat;
With the golden ringlets in her neck, just quickened by her going,
And appearing to breathe sun for air, and doubting if to float,
"With a branch of dewy maple, which her right hand held above her,
And which trembled, a green shadow, in betwixt her and the skies,
As she turned her face in going - thus she drew me on to love her,
And to study the deep meaning of the smile hid in her eyes.
"And thus, morning after morning, spite of oath, and spite of sorrow
Did I follow at her drawing, while the week-days passed along;
Just to feed the swans this noontide, or to see the fawns tomorrow
Or to teach the hill-side echo, some sweet Tuscan in a song.
"Aye, and sometimes on the hill-side, while we sat down in the gowans,
With the forest green behind us, and its shadow cast before;
And the river running under; and across it front the rowans,
A brown partridge whirring near us, till we felt the air it bore.
"There obedient to her praying, did I read aloud the poems
Made by Tuscan flutes."
English tourists in America are given to ridiculing the excessive prudery of our women, but we much prefer that delicate sense of what is improper which characterizes American women. In this the English women of certain classes are coarser than ours. The Continent is so near that they imbibe a certain laxity, not in their morals, but in their modes of expression, dress, and manners, which the best classes of American women would not tolerate. Mrs. Trollope calls them prudes for this, but notwithstanding that, we prefer the [-94-] exquisite purity of mind and manners to be found among our women, to the less refined habits of English ladies. There is a beauty also among the rural women of America, which in exquisite delicacy is not rivalled in any portion of the world. But in the matter of physical health, we can learn a useful lesson from England.
BURIALS IN LONDON.
We beg pardon of the reader for saying a
few words upon an unpleasant subject-that of London burials. We shall not give
you pleasant pictures of country church-yards, with tall cedars of Lebanon and
cypresses, and waving grass over the graves-alas no; there is little of beauty
and serenity in London church-yards!
And yet the cemeteries are beautiful, but they are far beyond the limits of the town. There is beautiful Highgate Cemetery, Kensal Green Cemetery, and Abney Park - all pleasant amid quiet spots. But it is only the privileged ones who are buried in such places, only the rich and powerful. Wealth in London helps a man after death. It can and does lay his aching bones to rest in a quiet spot, it covers over his grave with flowers, amid the songs of birds - is not that something?
The wealthy are buried here - where are the poor buried? In Paris, city burials were long ago abolished. It is the same in almost all European towns, but it is not so in London. A few years since, the subject was brought before Parliament, and facts were elicited which created great excitement, and which resulted in good, but the practice still continues with some restrictions. We are the more determined to give our readers an insight into this unpleasant subject, as it is of great importance that the inhabitants of American cities should, before they become any older, avoid the errors of European Cities. We [-95-] are glad that Boston has her lovely Mount Auburn, New York her sweet Greenwood shades, and Philadelphia her Laurel Hill ; and we hope with all our heart, that in every city in America, cemeteries without the confines of the town may spring up, and that public opinion, will prevent any more burials in town.
Many times in our walks about London we have noticed the grave-yards attached to the various churches, for in almost every case, they are elevated considerably above the level of the sidewalk, and in some instances, five or six feet above it. The reason was clear enough - it was an accumulation for years of human dust, and that too in the centre of the largest city in the world.
We soon made the discovery that the burial business (we beg of the reader not to be shocked, for we tell the unvarnished truth) was a thieving trade in London, a speculation into which many enter, and a great profit to the proprietors of the city churches, whether State or Dissenting. Upon reading authorities, we were thunderstruck at the state of things only three or four years since, and which are now only slightly improved. Extra cautions were taken during the cholera year, but since, matters have been allowed to take the old and accustomed channels.
The facts which we state are but too true. They were sworn to by men to be trusted, before a Committee of the house of Commons, appointed by that body to search into this horrible burial trade.
St. Martin's Church, measuring 295 feet by 379, in the course of ten years received 14,000 bodies. St. Mary's, in the region of the Strand, and covering only half an acre, has by fair computation during fifty years received 20,000 bodies. Was ever anything heard of more frightful? But hear this: two men built, as a mere speculation, a Methodist Church in New Kent Road, and in a mammoth vault [-96-] beneath the floor of that church, 40 yards long, 25 wide, and 20 high, 2000 bodies were found, not buried, but piled up in coffins of wood one upon the other. This in all conscience is horrible enough, but seems quite tolerable in comparison with another case.
A church, called Enon Chapel, was built some twenty years ago, by a minister, as a speculation, in Clement's Lane in the Strand, close on to that busiest thoroughfare in the world. He opened the upper part for the worship of God, and devoted the lower - separated from the upper merely by a board floor - to the burial of the dead. In this place, 60 feet by 29 and 6 deep, 12,000 bodies have been interred! It was dangerous to sit in the church ; faintings occurred every day in it, and sickness, and for some distance about it, life was not safe. And yet people not really knowing the state of things, never thought of laying anything to the vault under the chapel.
But perhaps the reader will exercise his arithmetical powers, and say that it would be impossible to bury 12,000 persons in so small a place, within twenty years. He does not understand the manner in which the speculating parson managed his affairs. It came out before the Committee of the House of Commons, that sixty loads of mingled dirt and human remains were carted away from the vault at different times, and thrown into the Thames the other side of Waterloo Bridge. Once a portion of a load fell off in the street, and the crowd picked up out of it a human skull. It was no longer safe to cart away the remains, and yet the reverend speculator could not afford to lose his fine income from the burials, and so his ever-busy intellect invented a novel mode of getting rid of the bodies - he used great quantities of quicklime! But quicklime would not devour coffins, and so they were split up and burnt in secret by the owner [-97-] of the chapel. several witnesses swore to this before the Committee. Said one of them:
"I have seen the man and his wife burn them it is quite a common thing."
It may be said that this state of things has passed away - but such is not the fact. We have ourselves looked into an open grave which was filled up with coffins to within a foot of the surface of the ground, and that too within ten rods of one of the busiest streets in London. A friend of ours assured us he has witnessed of late, things quite as horrible as any that were related before the Committee of the House of Commons.
It was proved that very many of the churches in London were in the habit of carting away the remains of bodies at intervals to make mourn for the later dead. St. Martin's in Ludgate, St. Anne's, in Soho, St. Clement's, in Portugal. street, and many others were proved guilty of the practice.
W. Chamberlain, grave-digger at St. Clement's, testified that the ground was so full of bodies that he could not make a new grave "without coming into other graves." He said:
"We have come to bodies quite perfect, and we have cut parts away with choppers and pickaxes. We have opened the lids of coffins, and the bodies have been so perfect that we could distinguish males from females and all those have been chopped and cut up. During the time I was at this work, the flesh has been cut up in pieces and thrown up behind the boards which are placed to keep the ground up where the mourners are standing-and when time mourners are gone this flesh has been thrown m and jammed down, and the coffins taken away and burnt."
An assistant grave-digger testified that, happening to see his companion one day chopping off the head of a coffin, he saw that it was his own father's! Another digger testified that bodies were often cut through when they had been [-98-] buried only three weeks. Another testified to things more horrible than ever Dante saw in hell. He says: " One day I was trying the length of a grave to see if it was long and wide enough, and while I was there the ground gave way, and a body turned right over, and the two arms came and clasped me round the neck!"
We beg the pardon of the reader for relating such horrible facts - but they occurred in London, and the cities and towns of America may well profit by them. There need not be such terrible curses attending a crowded state of population, but such will be the case eventually in our own towns unless we take warning,
When one thinks of the thousands in London who must look forward to a burial in the pent-up church-yards in the city, it makes the heart ache. To think of burying a kind mother so - of following a dear sister to such a grave. Yet thousands from poverty must do so.
Contrast with such spots the sweet though lovely burial grounds in the country, with its tall cedars, its solemn cypresses, and its grassy mounds, over which affection lingers and weeps. The church-spire is old and kindly in its look, the breezes are solemn and pure - oh the contrast!
We once made a delightful journey into an old and ancient part of England with a friend, going on foot miles away from the line of railway in a quiet old village, which seemed a thousand years old. The reader can hardly imagine the quaintness of everything there - the sweet quietness which brooded over the neglected spot. After a meal by ourselves in the ancient in of the place, we wndered out into the village streets and over the fields. The people seemed old and quaint, but the beauty of the hills and valleys we never saw surpassed. Wandering at will we at length came to the village church and burial-ground. The church stood .i the midst of a field of graves, and was nearly covered [-99-]with green runners and vines. There were ancient tombs grassed over and mossed over by centuries; there were cedars of Lebanon, and solemn cypresses, and flowers, and all that is holy and beautiful. We entered the little gate and walked slowly from tomb to tomb, reading the solemn inscriptions with chastened thoughts. The sun was almost down, but shone with a solemn splendor upon the spot, and the gravestones cast long shadows to the eastward. We could hear faintly in time distance the murmurs of a waterfall, and the music seemed plaintive there. There was no music, no eager life, but the spirit of holy Quiet was there. Gradually the shadows grew longer, until at last the burning sun dropt down behind the western hills, and the church-yard was in gloom.
A gentle south wind sprung up among the Lebanon cedars in tones of sorrow; the tall grass waved to and fine over the craves, and so like the close of a good man's life closed the day.
And that spot is a place where one could love to weep over a dear, departed friend. There, among the flowers and branches, sunshine and shadows, one could rest over a mother's or a sister's grave, and look forward to a home there, as a place where to
"Wrap the drapery of his couch around him,
And lie down to pleasant dreams."
The beauty of the country portions of England, and
especially those which surround London, cannot be too touch extolled. There is a
serenity in it, a holy sweetness, which charms one like music. There is great
difference in localities, but whether one rambles in the region of London, or
along the valley of the Wye, or among the hills of Derby-[-100-]shire, it matters
not-he is sure of being entranced. By nature England was not possessed of
extraordinary charms, but Industry has made it what it is. Every acre is
cultivated, and cultivated thoroughly. The hills are covered with the richest
verdure, the valleys teem with golden acres of crop., with tall, ancient trees,
and gentle streams, and birds which sing with wonderful sweetness. Old castles,
haunted with delightful reminiscences, quaint legends, and historical truths,
are scattered over the country everywhere, and the farmhouses possess the
prettiest farmers' daughters ever seen.
It is true that an American cannot forget while among such delicious beauty, the utter wretchedness which is scattered among it. Close by magnificent parks, containing thousands of acres of the richest soil, devoted to deer, and trees, and all that is charming and exquisite, there are men and women and little children starving. Let beauty, voluptuousness, and luxury, never exist at the expense of humanity The nobles of England are so accustomed to that which shocks us, that they do not appear to notice the horrible contrast which lies in full view of their hall windows. Their system causes the poverty and wretchedness around them, and they ease their consciences in a devotion to Beauty and Art!
The country churches with their grave-yards are the saddest, sweetest places in the world. There is none of that barbarous taste exhibited, which distinguishes certain portions of America. We have Greenwood, and Auburn, but in how many of our villages and country towns are the burial-places a disgrace to a civilized people. How it makes one shudder to pass by such spots, and think that in them sleep the forms of those once dear, and that the friends left to mourn them manifest no care of their last resting-place.
We stopped at sunset once to see the burial-place of ancient Wendover, and as we rested, the lines of Mrs. Brownmg, in the "Duchess May," came to mind:
[-101-] "In the belfry, one by one, went the ringers from the sun-
Six abeles i' the kirk-yard grow, on the north side in a row,-
And the shadows of their tops rock across the little slopes
Of the grassy graves below.
On the south side, and time west, a small river runs in haste,-
And between the river flowing, and the fair green trees a-growing
Do the dead lie at their rest.
On the east I sat that day, up against a willow gray-
Through the rain of willow-branches I could see the low hill-ranges,
And the river on its way.
There I sat beneath the tree, and the bell tolled solemnly,-
While the trees and river's voices flowed between the solemn noises-
Yet Death seemed more loud to me.
Not far from London
there are many beautiful suburban villages to which a denizen of the city can
easily go. One afternoon of May, just at night, with a friend, we started for a
little country excursion. Just as we arrived at the wharf, below London Bridge,
a crier on board one of the many steamers in sight, sung out, "Passengers
for Greenwich and below!" and as we wished to go "below," we
hastily jumped aboard. It was one of the tiniest boats imaginable, and looked
hardly capacious enough to carry the passengers on her deck - as for officers,
there didn't seem to be many. The captain stood on the wheel-house, which was
about the size of a western cheese-box, and motioned to the man at the wheel, in
the stern of the boat, which way to steer. Whenever he gave out an order or
warning, which was done in a sublime bass, a little boy shrieked it over in
treble to the engineer below. The captain shouted gruffly "All aboard !"
the young one executed his shrill echo - the little paddle-wheels began to turn,
and we were shooting off into the centre of the stream. [-102-] There were many
passengers on board, and it was not difficult to discover from dress or action
their various conditions. Some of them were clerks, who, after a laborious day's
work, were going down to Greenwich to sleep, for health's sake; others were men
of capital, going to their splendid homes down the river, where fatuous dinners
were awaiting them ; it was too late for the pleasure-seekers. At every place
where our boat touched, some one or more of our party deserted the boat - and
now our turn was come, the little steamer touched land for us, we gave up our
tickets and landed in a small village in the midst of the glorious country.
There was a hill away at the left, and as the sun was only half an hour high, we
ran for it. Half our time was lost in gaining its summit, but the view amply
repaid us for our trouble. The sunset was inferior every way to hundreds we have
seen in America, but the landscape was the loveliest we ever had seen.
We were in Surrey, and its soft undulations lay before us like the swells of the sea. Hamlets, hedges, farm-houses and cottage-homes were scattered at our feet. The village green was below in full view, and out upon it were boys and girls shouting for very happiness. How different their voices to the voices of the children in London streets! Around the farm-houses the quiet cows were gathered, and the milkmaids were at their work. Every field was fringed with a beautiful hedge, and every garden bloomed with choice flowers. Their fragrance came up the hill to us on the soft breeze that was playing. There was also some new-mown hay near us, which sent up its pleasant odor for our enjoyment. The breeze came fitfully, never strong, and often dying away completely; at such times, with not a leaf trembling, and the full, bright sun going to rest behind the trees, the scene was a perfect picture of happy peace. No rude noise startled us ; the music of a tiny stream touched our ears pleasantly ; there were no [-103-] harsh London noises; no dismal sights and noxious scents; no whining mendicants or flaunting prostitutes.
The sun had now set, but lo! the full moon arose in the east, promising an evening of great beauty.
We now descended the hill, and entered a quaint little inn and asked for tea and toast. The little room that we had it in looked out upon the west, which was all moonlit, and there we sat and talked, and sipped our tea.
Once more we were out in the open air, with the moonlight pale and tender falling down upon us, instead of the rays of the sun. We took a path into the fields, though the dew was heavy upon the grass, and wandered away among the trees and out on the hills. We soon came in view of an old English castle, deserted now, but once inhabited by princes.
The influence of the moonlight must have been magical, for we existed for a time in the past; and from the windows of the castle streamed the light of a thousand lamps, and the sound of dancing reached our ears. There were princes there, and earls; queens of beauty and grace, with the blood of kings coursing in their veins. As we approached the ruined building, a rabbit leaped out from his hiding-place, and brought our thoughts from the past to the present, and after gazing awhile at the ruins, we passed on to the stream that had tinkled its music so pleasantly in our ears, and sat down n the little bridge which crossed it. And the present seemed more beautiful than the past. Those days so fraught with chivalric deeds were after all bereft of true humanities. Their happiness was a hollow one. The lords and ladies might enjoy the moonlight, but the peasants were chattels. Perhaps a noble earl occasionally ran daring risks for the hand of some fair and titled lady, but he did not hesitate to break the heart of a peasant's only daughter.
But the evening was gone, and we ran over the fields to a [-104-] railway station and in a few moments were whirling back to London, to spend the night at an English home. And a true English home is as sweet and beautiful a place as a Mahometan could wish for his paradise! It exhibits that exquisite finish, which is the consequence of cultivation. When we speak of an English borne, we mean a home among the select middle classes, not among noblemen or working-men, for among the former, there is hollow-heartedness, and abject devotion to mere conventionalities - a disgusting pride of blood, wealth and connections, And were we to describe the homes of the latter - the toiling laborers of England - we should picture broken casements, expiring fires, haggard countenances, and young children crying for bread.
We choose now to describe-
"The merry homes of England!"-
Around their hearths by night,
What gladsome looks of household love
Meet in the ruddy light!
There woman's voice flows forth in song,
Or childhoods tale is told,
Or lips move tunefully along
Some glorious page of' old.
In the English heart there is a deep love of quiet, calm enjoyments, and home joys - this is the reason why the English home is so lovable. Unlike the French, they are not suited with an eternal round of festivities, balls, or theatrical amusements. The Frenchman lives continually abroad, and scarcely at all at home. In England the holidays, even in London, have a rural tinge. When the French man would rush to the Boulevards, the more quiet and sedate English-[-105-]man gathers his children about him, and goes to spend the day at Epping Forest, Gravesend, or Kew Gardens. It would be no pleasure for him to wander over the fashionable walks of the city, but away from the crowd, in the bosom of his family, he indulges in the height of felicity.
Among the middle classes in England, or perhaps we should say the upper-middle, there is no degree of want, but rather profusion of all that can minister to the respectable appetites of mankind. The house, the grounds, the situation and prospect are nearly perfect. We have seen many English homes and never for once came away from one without an enthusiastic admiration of the sweet garden in which it pleasantly nestled. Painting ministers to the eye, and music to the ear.
In the morning at nine the father sits down cosily with his family to his dry toast and coffee, his morning newspaper and family letters, devouring them all together. The Times with fresh news from all quarters of the world lies open before him, and the "resonant steam eagles" have been flying all night that he may read his letters with his morning meal. He then starts for his counting-house, or his office, and with a luncheon at mid-day satisfies his appetite until the dinner- hour-which is at four, five, or six, as circumstances may be-when he dines with his family around him.
Tea is served at seven, a simple but generally a very joyous meal. Supper is ready at nine or ten, of which the children never partake.
A true English home is intelligent, educated, and full of love. All that Painting, Sculpture and Poetry, can do to beautify it, is done, and Music lingers in it as naturally as sunshine in a dell. Those who say the English are not a hospitable, frank, generous people, know nothing of their inner life. A railway ride across from Liverpool to Paris, reveals nothing of the character of the people. It is a part of their system of conventionalities to preserve a cool exterior [-106-] when in the business world. Take these very men at home and the transition is almost miraculous The knitted brow is smoothed with smiles, and the silent tongue has become voluble with joy. And the influence of the English homes upon the children - is it not visible over the world ? Those evening joys never are forgotten, but in the time of temptation, gather about the heart of youth, like a group of angels, guarding it from all sin.
"By the gathering round the winter hearth,
When twilight called unto winter mirth
By the fairy tale or legend old
In that ring of happy faces told;
By the quiet hour when hearts unite
In the parting prayer, and kind good-night;
By the smiling eye and loving tone,
Over their life has a spell been thrown.
It hath brought the wanderer o'er the seas
To die on the hills of his own fresh breeze;
And back to the gates of his father's hall,
It hath led the weeping prodigal.
Christmas is the best of the London
Holidays, being more universally observed than any other. The last Christmas was
our second Christmas in London, and the last was exactly like the first. The
same bustle in all the markets, the same preparations everywhere loaded railway
trains, with game and poultry from the country.
Perhaps a week before Christmas, we noticed that all the markets began to increase in the quantity and quality of their stores, and in front of them all, green branches of holly were hung as emblems of the coming holiday. The game shops were full of pheasants, rabbits, and venison ; the confectioners exhibited a richer than usual assortment of saccha-[-107-]rine toys; at the book-shops, Christmas presents began to appear, consisting of every variety of beautiful books. As the day approached, all these shops, in fact all the shops of whatever kind, increased in the splendor and quantity of their wares; the very countenances of the people in the streets were brighter than usual, and the rose was deeper on more than one young maiden's cheek, as she thought that on the coming festival-day, she would bid farewell forever to maidenhood. For the day is renowned for its weddings throughout England. The reason being, we suppose, because of the festivities everywhere which fall, in the case of a wedding, naturally around the parties as if in their honor, as well as in honor of Christmas.
The day preceding Christmas, the whole of London seemed to be engaged in purchasing the wherewithal to enliven and adorn the next. Then, indeed, the shops did look as if utterly incapable of containing their treasures, and from top to bottom, were lined with sprigs of laurel, and box, and pine, and holly! Then the windows of the confectionery-shops displayed most gorgeous sights for young and eager eyes. In the book-shops Cruikshank and Doyle, Thackeray and Punch, had scattered a thousand laughable books and pictures, as if to make the people laugh during the holidays, whether they wished to do so or not!
The streets on Christmas Eve were one continuous blaze of show and ornament. From Piccadilly to Whitechapel the bells rung, and the people flocked to the churches. For a week previous to Christmas-day, the weather had been black and foggy, full of rain and mud, and hypochondria, but Christmas morning the sun rose to gaze all day long down upon the pleasant earth. The sky was blue and serene, the weather mild, and the chimes of the bells, ringing out against the sunshine, seemed to fill the air with joy. Every shop was shut like the Sabbath, but the streets were full of happy [-108-] faces flocking to and from the churches, or wandering in the streets to sharpen their appetites for the Christmas dinner. At all the Unions, or poor-houses, the inmates had pudding, roast-beef, and porter-happy day for the poor wretches; it was the only day of the year when they could taste of a luxury, and they swung their hats in honor of "merry Christmas."
After noon the streets began to grow thin, and with a friend we left town to eat our Christmas dinner among the trees Christmas in the country! The very thought of it makes the heart glow with pleasure. It conjures up such sights of fairy children with laughing eyes and crimson cheeks, and home-joys and pleasures!
It made our hearts beat fast with pleasure to stand upon the green grass and look into the pleasant sky, and hear the few lingering birds sing - to run races with children, and recall the time when we were young and ran races with our fellows in America!
And when at last we all gathered around that groaning table, fair faces and manly faces, yet. each one full of Christmas smiles, and with pleasant converse and laughing humor tasted the viands it supported, it indeed seemed that Christmas in England was a happy festival.
And when, the dinner past, the shutters were drawn, and the fire blazed bright in the grate, when we drew our chairs before it, and in the flickering fire-light one after another told stories of perils on sea and land, or of pale and shadowy ghosts, so that in the dim and shadowy corners of the drawing-room the shadows from the fire seemed to be ghosts of departed days - we said, - "Merry, merry Christmas!"
And when by a mere touch, all the room looked brilliant as noonday, and the evening plays came on, and we thought of all the pantomimes at the theatres that night - we, choosing to remain in the presence of such natural joys and pleas[-109-]ures rather than to go to Drury Lane or Covent Garden- when we looked into the happy, loving eyes of those around us, and saw how calmly joyous were all in that room ;- and when at last we were in our chamber for sleep, and our head lay on a soft pillow, we thought - last thought before going to sleep - may we never forget the English Christmas - nor Palatine Cottage!
But the next morning - what a change! The day after Christmas is a joyful day for menials, and a provoking on for everybody else. It is a day for "Christmas boxes". On that day every person who has during the previous year served you in any capacity almost, will present himself, tip his hat, and say- "Christmas box, please, sir !" expecting you to make him a present of money. The custom is such an old one that few care to disobey it, but to an American in London it is a disagreeable usage. When the paper-carrier left at our apartments a morning copy of The Times, instead of allowing the servant to bring it to us, as usual, he made his own appearance at our breakfast-room door, and doffing his hat said- "Christmas box, please, sir!" There was no resisting his demand, and our purse was made thinner by his call. In a few moments the postman made his appearance, made a like demand, with like success. An hour later and the coalman wished his Christmas box; still later the laundress hers, until at night we found no silver left in our purse.
Some merchants present the postman with a Christmas box of a guinea, or five dollars. All clerks in large establishments expect to be treated in a like manner. There is a disposition, however, in high quarters, to discontinue the practice. The government, it is said, will no longer allow the postman to demand or ask for any Christmas boxes, and many large mercantile houses have resolved not to obey so senseless a usage any longer.
[-110-] The custom of feeing servants at hotels is another usage of England which is especially vexatious to a foreigner. Not so much because of the expensiveness of the practice as of the indefiniteness of the sum expected. A stranger knows not how much the servants expect for a fee. London waiters expect more than those of Liverpool, and there is no regularity over the kingdom in the amount charged in fees by the servants, in similar situations. The American knows not how much to give, and fearing to offend, generally gives altogether too much.
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