Page images
PDF
EPUB

P. 67.

book, and how glad I am I did not read it. She must have spoken the truth though, for lies do not rankle so. «« Qui ne nous touche point, ne nous fait pas rougir."

vol. i. At the following characteristic passages even an American may smile :• Young

breakfasted with us. On one occasion he said, when he was acting Richard the Third, some of the underlings kept their hats on while he was on the stage, whereat he remonstrated, requesting them in a whisper to uncover, as they were in the presence of a king ; to which admonition he received the following characteristic reply : “ Fiddlestick! I guess we know nothing about kings in this country."'-p. 155.

• I was much surprised to find two baths in one room, but it seems to me that the people of this country have an aversion to solitude, whether eating, sleeping, or under any other circumstances. . . . As to privacy at any time, or under any circumstances, 'tis a thing that enters not into the imagination of an American. ... They live all the days of their lives in a throng, eat at ordinaries of two or three hundred, sleep five or six in a room, take pleasure in droves, and travel by swarms'.—pp. 173-255.

• He (Mr. -) sent a die of his crest to a manufacturer to have it put upon his gig harness. The man sent home the harness, when it was finished, but without the die; after sending for which sundry times, Mr. called to enquire after it himself, when the reply was,-'

“ Lord! why I didn't know you wanted it.”—“I tell you I wish to have it back.”—“Oh, pooh! you can't want it much, nowdo you ?”—“ I tell you, sir, I desire to have the die back immediately.”

-" Ah well, come now, what'll you take for it ?”—“D'ye think I mean to sell my crest? why you might as well ask me to sell my name. “ Why, you see, a good many folks have seen it and want to have it on their harness, as it's a pretty-looking concern enough."-pp. 127128.

*Went into a shop to order a pair of shoes. The shopkeepers in this place, with whom I have hitherto had to deal, are either condescendingly familiar, or insolently indifferent in their manner. Your washerwoman sits down before you, while you are standing speaking to her; and a shop-boy bringing things for your inspection, not only sits down, but keeps his hat on in your drawing-room.'-p. 125.

On this last passage she adds very fairly :

• There is a striking difference in this respect between the tradespeople of New-York and t use of Boston and Philadelphia; and in my opinion the latter preserve quite self-respect enough to acquit their courtesy and civility from any charge of servility. The only way in which I can account for the difference, is, the greater impulse which trade receives in New York, the proportionate rapidity with which fortunes are made, the ever-shifting materials of which its society is

composed, composed, and the facility with which the man who has served you behind his counter, having amassed an independence, assumes a station in the first circle, where his influence becomes commensurate with his wealth. This is not the case either in Boston or Philadelphia ; at least, not to the same degree.'-p. 126.

There are scattered through the volumes a great many very sensible remarks on the state of society in America, as regards aristocracy and democracy. We select one passage which is wellworthy of attention on many accounts :

I think the pretension to pre-eminence, in the various societies of North America, is founded on these grounds-in Boston, a greater degree of mental cultivation; in New York, the possession of wealth ; and a lady, of whom I enquired the other day what constituted the su. periority of the aristocracy in Philadelphia, replied, " Why, birth, to be sure!" Virginia and Carolina, indeed, long prided themselves upon their old family names, which were once backed by large possessions; and for many years the southern gentlemen might not improperly be termed the aristocracy of America: but the estates of those who embraced the king's cause during the rebellion were confiscated; and the annulling the laws of entail and primogeniture, and the parcelling out of property under the republican form of government, have gradually destroyed the fortunes of most of the old southern families. Still, they hold fast to the spirit of their former superiority, and from this circumstance, and the possession of slaves, which exempts them from the drudgery of earning their livelihood, they are a much less mercantile race of men than those of the northern states; generally better informed, and infinitely more polished in their manners. The few southerners with whom I have become acquainted resemble Europeans both in their accomplishments, and the quiet and reserve of their man

On my remarking, one day, to a Philadelphia gentleman, whose general cultivation keeps pace with his political and financial talents, how singular the contrast was between the levelling spirit of this government, and the separating and dividing spirit of American society, he replied, that if his many vocations allowed him time, he should like to write a novel illustrating the curious struggle which exists throughout this country between its political and its social institutions. The anomaly is, indeed, striking. Democracy governs the land; whilst, throughout society, a contrary tendency shows itself, wherever it can obtain the very smallest opportunity. It is unfortunate for America that its aristocracy must, of necessity, be always one of wealth." -Pp. 249-250.

In this last observation we do not quite agree. All aristocracy is founded on wealth-its other and better features are superadded by the refinement and elegance of manner and sentiment, for the cultivation of which wealth affords the opportunity, and which, after some generations, assume that habitual and hereditary influence which is called aristocratic. If wealth becomes heredi

tary tary in America, its purse-proud spirit will be mitigated, and its better influences will be developed and naturalized, and she may, in time, possess an aristocracy of the best kind.

On the same topic we find in another place the following curious facts and sly and sensible observations:

• My father has been introduced to half the town (New York), and tells me that far from the democratic Mister, which he expected to be every man's title here, he had made the acquaintance of a score of municipal dignitaries, and some sixty colonels and major-generals — of militia. Their omnibuses are vehicles of rank, and the Ladies Washington, Clinton, and Van Rensalear,* rattle their crazy bones along the pavement for all the world like any other old women of quality.

· These democrats are as title-sick as a banker's wife in England. My father told me to-day, that Mr. talking about the state of the country, spoke of the lower orders finding their level: now this enchants me, because a republic is a natural anomaly; there is nothing republican in the construction of the material universe; there be highlands and lowlands, lordly mountains as barren as any aristocracy, and lowly valleys as productive as any labouring classes. The feeling of rank, of inequality, is inherent in us, a part of the veneration of our natures; and, like most of our properties, seldom finds its right channels—in place of which it has created artificial ones suited to the frame of society into which the civilized world has formed itself. I believe in my heart that a republic is the noblest, highest, and purest form of government; but I believe that according to the present disposition of human creatures, 'tis a mere beau ideal, totally incapable of realization. What the world may be fit for six hundred years hence, I cannot exactly perceive ; but in the mean time, 'tis my conviction that America will be a monarchy before I am a skeleton.'-pp. 60, 61.

Her graver matter Mrs. Butler has in general sequestered from the too colloquial text into separate notes, which are, for the most part, written with great à plomb and good sense; and contain remarks—in the style of those just quoted—on the political state of America—the character and pursuits of the men, and the education and habits of the women-which we can almost, without an exception, recommend even to the gravest reader—but we have no room for such disquisitions ; and, indeed, to do them justice they must be read in extenso. We shall conclude with extracting two or three passages of such opposite character, as do credit to the versatility of Mrs. Butler's powers.

The first is a description of the performance of Romeo and Juliet, at the Holyday-Street theatre, at Baltimore, which we quote, not merely as a ludicrous incident, drolly narrated, but as a

These are the titles of three omnibuses which run up and down Broadway all the day long.'

confirmation

confirmation of what we have already said of the influence of the theatrical profession on a young female. In the midst of our amusement at the following scene-surgit amari aliquid-we are pained at seeing a gifted young woman exposed to such

personal contact with a vulgar stranger :

• Young called, and stayed about an hour with us. At halfpast five, took coffee, and off to the theatre. The play was Romeo and Juliet; the house was extremely full: they are a delightful audience. My Romeo had gotten on a pair of trunk breeches, that looked as if he had borrowed them from some worthy Dutchman of a hundred years ago. Had he worn them in New York, I could have understood it as a compliment to the ancestry of that good city ; but here, to adopt such a costume in Romeo, was really perfectly unaccountable. They were of a most unhappy choice of colours, too,– dull, heavy-looking blue cloth, and offensive crimson satin, all bepuckered, and be-plaited, and be-puffed, till the young man looked like a magical figure growing out of a monstrous, strange-coloured melon, beneath which descended liis unfortunate legs, thrust into a pair of red slippers, for all the world like Grimaldi's legs en costume for clown. The play went off pretty smoothly, except that they broke one man's collar-bone, and nearly dislocated a woman's shoulder by flinging the scenery about. My bed was not made in time, and when the scene drew, half a dozen carpenters in patched trowsers and tattered shirtsleeves were discovered smoothing down my pillows, and adjusting my draperies. The last scene is too good not to be given verbatim :Romeo.

Rise, rise, my Juliet,
And from this care of death, this house of horror,

Quick let me snatch thee to thy Romeo's arms ! --(Here he pounced upon me, plucked me up in his arms like an un. comfortable bundle, and staggered down the stage with me) –

Juliet. (aside.) Oh, you've got me up horridly!--that'll never do; let me down, pray let me down. Romeo. There! breathe a vital spirit on thy lips,

And call thee back, my soul, to life and love ! Juliet. (aside.) Pray, put me down !-you'll certainly throw me down if you don't set me on the ground directly!

In the midst of “cruel, cursed fate,” his dagger fell out of his dress; I, embracing him tenderly, crammed it back again, because I knew I should want it at the end. Romeo. Tear not our heart-strings thus !

They crack! they break ! Juliet! Juliet! (dies.) Juliet. (to corpse.) Am I smothering you?

Corpse (to Juliet.) Not at all; could you be so kind, do you think, as to put my wig on again for me?—it has fallen off.

Juliet. (to corpse.) I'm afraid I can't, but I'll throw my muslin veil over it. You've broken the phial, haven't you?

(Corpse nodded.)
Juliet. (to corpse.) Where's your dagger ?

Corpse. Corpse. (to Juliet.) 'Pon my soul, I don't know.'-vol. ii. pp. 112114.

The description of that grave assembly, the Senate of the United States, and a speech of its most eloquent member, is worth contrasting with what was the British Parliament :

• We went first into the senate, or upper house, because Webster was speaking, whom I especially wished to hear. The room itself is neither large nor lofty; the senators sit in two semi-circular rows, turned towards the president, in comfortable arm-chairs. On the same ground, and literally sitting among the senators, were a whole regiment of ladies, whispering, talking, laughing, and fidgeting. A gallery, level with the floor, and only divided by a low partition from the main room, ran round the apartment: this, too, was filled with pink, and blue, and yellow bonnets; and every now and then, while the business of the house was going on, and Webster speaking, a tremendous bustle, and waving of feathers, and rustling of silks, would be heard, and in came streaming a reinforcement of political beauties, and then would commence a jumping up, a sitting down, a squeezing through, and a how-d'ye-doing, and a shaking of hands. The senators would turn round; even Webster would hesitate, as if bothered by the row; and, in short, the whole thing was more irregular, and unbusiness-like, than any one could have imagined.'-pp. 121-122.

Our final extract shall be the last page of her book-the visit to Niagara

• When we were within about three miles of the Falls, just before entering the village of Niagara, [i. e., we presume, Mr. Butler] stopped the waggon; and then we heard distinctly, though far off, the voice of the mighty cataract. Looking over the woods, which appeared to overhang the course of the river, we beheld one silver cloud rising slowly into the sky,—the everlasting incense of the waters. A perfect frenzy of impatience seized upon me: I could have set off and run the whole way; and when at length the carriage stopped at the door of the Niagara house, waiting neither for my father, D--, nor — I rushed through the hall, and the garden, down the steep footpath cut in the rocks. I heard steps behind me; was following me ; down, down I sprang, and along the narrow footpath, divided only by a thicket from the tumultuous rapids. I saw through the boughs the white glimmer of that sea of foam. “ Go on, go on ; don't stop !" shouted -; and in another minute the thicket was passed; I stood upon Table Rock.

seized me by the arm,

and without speaking a word, dragged me to the edge of the rapids, to the brink of the abyss—I saw Niagara. Oh, God! who can describe that sight ?'

This is undoubtedly clever and striking. The representation of the constant mist which arises from this stupendous fall, as the everlasting incense of the waters, appears to us one of the most beautiful allusions we ever met—daring, indeed, but appropriate then the rapidity - the frenzy of her impatience suddenly

checked

« PreviousContinue »