Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION III. - Harriet Martineau's Autobiography, vol. 1
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SECTION III. - Harriet Martineau, Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography, vol. 1 
Harriet Martineau’s Autobiography, ed. Maria Weston Chapman (Boston: James R. Osgood & Co., 1877). 2 vols. Vol. 1.
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While at Liverpool, I was the guest of my old friends, the Misses Yates, for a few days; on one of which days, Miss E. Yates and I went out to dinner, while Miss Yates paid a family visit. On our return, she looked very bright and happy; but it did not strike me that it was from any hidden secret. Mr. Richard V. Yates came to breakfast the next morning; and he was placed next to me, — and next to my best ear. The conversation soon turned on his projected Eastern journey, about which I had before had some talk, — remarkably free in regard to the dangers and disagreeables, — with Mrs. R. V. Yates, as we afterwards remembered with much amusement. Mr. Yates now renewed that conversation, consulting me about turning back at the first cataract of the Nile, or going on to the second. From “Would you go on to the second?” Mr. Yates changed his question to “Will you go on to the second?” and, after a few moments of perplexity to me, he said “Now, seriously, — will you go with us? Mrs. Yates will do every thing in her power to render the journey agreeable to you; and I will find the piastres.” At first, I felt and said, while deeply gratified, that I could not go; and for hours and days it seemed impracticable. I was engaged to write a new series of “The Playfellow” for Mr. Knight, and had sent him the M.S. of the first (“The Billow and the Rock.”) I had just begun housekeeping, and had left home without any other idea than returning for the winter: and the truth was, I had the strongest possible inclination to return, and indisposition to wander away from the repose and beauty of my home. But the way soon cleared so as to leave me no doubt what I ought to do. My family urged my accepting an opportunity too fine ever to recur; Mr. Knight generously proposed to put my story into his “Weekly Volume,” and wait for more “Playfellows,” — sending the money at once, to make my outfit easy; and my neighbours at Ambleside promised to look after my house and servant, and let the house if possible. Tenants were in it for a part of the time, and Jane was well taken care of for the rest; so that nothing could turn out better than the whole scheme. We were joined en route by Mr. J. C. Ewart, the present representative of Liverpool; and he remained with us till we reached Malta on our return. He thence wrote to his sister about our parting, — he to go to Constantinople, and we homewards; saying that our experience was, he feared, a very rare one; — that of a travelling party who had been in the constant and close companionship imposed by Nile and Desert travelling, for eight months, and who, instead of quarrelling and parting, like most such groups, had travelled in harmony, were separating with regret, and should be more glad to meet in future than we were before we set out. It is worth mentioning this, because I heard, a year or so afterwards, that a report was abroad that our party had quarrelled immediately, — in France, — and that I had prosecuted my Eastern journey alone. My book, however, must have demolished that fiction, one would think: but such fictions are tenacious of life. In my preface to that book, I related the kindness of my companions in listening to my journal, and in authorising me to say that they bore testimony to the correctness of my facts, to the best of their judgment, while disclaiming all connexion with the resulting opinions. I have a letter from Mr. Yates, in acknowledgment of his copy of the book, in which he bears the same testimony, with the same reservation, and adds an expression of gratification, on Mrs. Yates’s part and his own, at the manner in which they are spoken of throughout the work. Some idle reports about this matter, injurious to those excellent friends of mine, are probably extinct already: and if not, this statement will extinguish them.
My travelling companions and I met in London in October, after I had secured my outfit there, and run down into Norfolk to see old Norwich again. We had had hopes that Mr. Atkinson could go with us; and the plan had been nearly arranged; but he was prevented at the last, and could accompany us no further than Boulogne. We traversed France to Marseilles, resting for two days at Paris, where, strange to say, I had never been before. We were quite late enough at best; but the evil chance which sent us on board the mail-packet Volcano caused a most vexatious delay. We were detained, at the outset, for the mails. The captain started with a short supply of coal, because it was dear at Marseilles, and soon found that he had been “penny wise and pound foolish.” The engines of the vessel were too weak for her work; and the wind was dead against us. The captain forsook the usual route, and took the northerly one, for I forget what reason; and thus we were out of the way of succour. The vessel swarmed with cockroaches; two ill-mannered women shared the cabin with Mrs. Yates and me; the captain was so happy flirting with one of them as to seem provokingly complacent under our delays. It was really vexatious to see him and the widow sitting hand-in-hand, and giggling on the sofa, while our stomachs turned at the sea-pie to which we were reduced, and our precious autumn days were slipping away, during which we ought to have been at Cairo, preparing for our ascent of the Nile. It was worse with others on board, — gentlemen on their way to India, whose clothes and money were now sure to have left Malta before they could arrive there. One of these gentlemen was to meet at Malta a sister from Naples, whom he had not seen for twenty years, and who must either be in agony about his fate, or have given up the rendezvous as a failure. This gentleman, whose good manners and cheerfulness in company never failed, told me on deck, when no one was within hearing, that the trial was as much as he could bear. Some passengers were ill, — some angry, — some alarmed; and the occasion was a touch-stone of temper and manners. All our coal was consumed, except enough for six hours, — that quantity being reserved to carry us into port. Every morning, the captain let us sail about a little, to make believe that we were on our way; but every evening we found ourselves again off Pantellaria, which seemed as much an enchanted island to us as if we had seen Calypso on its cliffs. Now and then, Sicily came provokingly into view, and the captain told us he was bound not to touch there or any where till we were in extremity; and we should not be in extremity till he had burned the cabin wainscot and furniture, and the stairs and berths, and there was nothing whatever left to eat. We now had cheese and the materials for plum-pudding. Every thing else on table began to be too disgusting for even sea-appetites. A young lieutenant offered us a receipt for a dish which he said we should find palatable enough when we could get nothing better, — broiled boot leather, well seasoned. — As for me, I was an old sailor; and, when the sickness was once over, I kept on deck and did very well. The weather was dreary, — the ship sticky and dirty in every part, — and our prospects singularly obscure; but there was clearly nothing to be done but to wait as good-humouredly as we could.
One afternoon, just before dinner, the fellow-passenger who pined for his sister, hastily called the captain, who, looking towards the southern horizon, was in earnest for once. A thread of smoke was visible where all had been blank for so many days; and it was astonishing to me that the wise as well as the foolish on board jumped to the conclusion that it was a steamer sent from Malta in search of us. They were right; and in another hour we were in tow of our deliverer. There had been time for only two or three questions before we were on our course. I left the dinner-table as soon as I could, and went to the bows, to see how her Majesty’s mail-steamer looked in tow. The officers of the two vessels wanted to converse; but the wind was too high. “Try your trumpet,” was written on a black board in the other vessel. “Have not got one,” was our Lieutenant’s reply; to which the black board soon rejoined, “Why, that lady has got it.” They actually took my special trumpet for that of the ship. When in sight of Malta, we burned our remnant of coal; and at midnight a gun in Valetta harbour told the inhabitants that the Volcano was safe in port. Our party remained on board till the morning; but the brother and sister met that night; and we saw them on the ramparts next day, arm-in-arm, looking as happy as could be. I was made uneasy about my own family by hearing that Valetta newspapers had gone to England the day before, notifying the non-arrival of the Volcano, and the general belief that she was gone to the bottom, with the addition that I was on board. My first business was to close and dispatch the journal-letter which I had amused myself with writing on board. Before it arrived, some of my relatives had been rendered as uneasy as I feared by the inconsiderate paragraph in the Valetta paper.
At Malta I began to feel (rather than see) the first evidences of the rivalry then existing between the English and French at the Egyptian Court. I could not conceive why Captain Glasscock, whose ship was then in the port, made so much of me; but his homage was so exaggerated that I suspected some reason of policy. He came daily, bringing his lady, and all his officers in parties; he loaded me with compliments, and seized every occasion of enforcing certain views of his own, which I was glad to hear in the way of guidance in a new scene; and his most emphatic enforcement of all was in regard to the merits of a certain Englishman who was waiting, he intimated, to worship us on our landing at Alexandria. Captain Glasscock insisted on sending my party in his man-of-war’s boat to the Ariel, in which we were to proceed to Egypt. We saw his friend at Alexandria, and received the promised homage, and, really, some agreeable hospitality, but not the impressions of the gentleman’s abilities of which we had been assured. By degrees it became apparent to me that what was wanted was that I should write a book on Egypt, like Mrs. Romer, who had preceded me by a year or two; and that, like Mrs. Romer, I should be flattered into advocating the Egyptian Railway scheme by which the English in Egypt hoped to gain an advantage over the French, and for which the Alexandrian gentleman had already imported the rails. There they lay, absorbing his capital in a very inconvenient manner; and he seized every chance of getting his scheme advocated. With Mrs. Romer he succeeded, but not with me. At Cairo I had the means of knowing that much more was involved in the scheme, — much difficulty with the Bedoueens and others besides the French, — than I had been told at Alexandria. I knew what would be the consequences of my treatment of the matter in my book; and I learned them in an amusing way. An acquaintance of mine in London told me, a day or two after publication, that the brother of the Alexandrian gentleman, and part-owner of the rails, had got a copy of the book already. “And he does not like it,” said I: “he tells you it is damned humbug.” My friend burst into a fit of laughter, shouting out, “Why, that is exactly what he did say.”
The greater was my reluctance to go this journey under my new and happy domestic circumstances, the stronger is the evidence of my estimate of its advantages. I should not have gone but for the entire conviction that it would prove an inestimable privilege. Yet, I had little idea what the privilege would turn out to be, nor how the convictions and the action of the remnant of my life would be shaped and determined by what I saw and thought during those all-important months that I spent in the East. I need say nothing here of the charms of the scenery, and the atmosphere, and the novelty, and the associations with hallowed regions of the earth. The book I wrote on my return gives a fresher impression of all that enjoyment than any thing I could write now: but there were effects produced on my own character of mind which it would have been impertinent to offer there, even if the lapse of years had not been necessary to make them clear to myself. I never before had better opportunity for quiet meditation. My travelling companions, and especially the one with whom I was the most inseparably associated, Mrs. Yates, had that invaluable travelling qualification, — the tact to leave me perfectly free. We were silent when we chose, without fear of being supposed unmannerly; and I could not have believed beforehand that so incessant and prolonged a companionship could have entailed so little restraint. My deafness which would, in the opposite case, have imposed a most disabling fatigue, was thus rather an advantage. While we had abundance of cheerful conversation at meals and in the evenings, and whenever we were disposed for it, there were many hours of every day when I was virtually as much alone as I could have been in my own house; and, of the many benefits and kindnesses that I received from my companions, none excited my lasting gratitude more than this. During the ten weeks that we were on the Nile, I could sit on deck and think for hours of every morning; and while we were in the desert, or traversing the varied scenery of Palestine, or winding about in the passes of the Lebanon, I rode alone, — in advance or in the rear of the caravan, or of our own group, without a word spoken, when it was once understood that it was troublesome and difficult to me to listen from the ridge of my camel, or even from my horse. I cannot attempt to give an idea what I learned during those quiet seasons. All the historical hints I had gained from my school days onward now rose up amidst a wholly new light. It is impossible for even erudite home-stayers to conceive what is gained by seeing for one’s self the scenes of history, after any considerable preparation of philosophical thought. When, after my return, the Chevalier Bunsen told me that he would not go to Egypt, if he had the leisure, because he already knew every thing that could be learned about it, I could not but feel that this was a matter which could be judged of nowhere but on the spot; and that no use of the eyes and mind of Lepsius could avail him so well as the employment of his own. Step by step as we proceeded, evidence arose of the true character of the faiths which ruled the world; and my observations issued in a view of their genealogy and its results which I certainly did not carry out with me, or invent by the way side. It was not till we had long left the Nile, and were leaving the desert, that the plan of my book occurred to me. The book itself had been determined on from the time when I found the influx of impressions growing painful, for want of expression; and various were the forms which I imagined for what I had to say; but none of them satisfied me till that in which it afterwards appeared struck me, and instantly approved itself to me. It happened amidst the dreariest part of the desert, between Petra and Hebron, — not far from the boundary of Judea. I was ill, and in pain that day, from the face-ache which troubled me in the dryest weather, amidst the hottest part of the desert; and one of our party rode beside me, to amuse me with conversation. I told him that I had just been inspired with the main idea of my book about the East. “That is,” said he, “you think it the best scheme till you prefer another.” “No,” I replied; “there can be but one perfect one; and this completely answers to my view. My book will illustrate the genealogy, as it appears to me, of the old faiths, — the Egyptian, the Hebrew, the Christian and the Mohammedan.” After my life-long study of the Hebrew and Christian, our travels in Palestine brought a rich accession of material for thought; and the Syrian part of the journey was the more profitable for what had gone before. The result of the whole, when reconsidered in the quiet of my study, was that I obtained clearness as to the historical nature and moral value of all theology whatever, and attained that view of it which has been set forth in some of my subsequent works. It was evident to me, in a way which it could never have been if I had not wandered amidst the old monuments and scenes of the various faiths, that a passage through these latter faiths is as natural to men, and was as necessary in those former periods of human progress, as fetishism is to the infant nations and individuals, without the notion being more true in the one case than in the other. Every child, and every childish tribe of people, transfers its own consciousness, by a supposition so necessary as to be an instinct, to all external objects, so as to conclude them all to be alive like itself; and passes through this stage of belief to a more reasonable view: and, in like manner, more advanced nations and individuals suppose a whole pantheon of Gods first, — and then a trinity, — and then a single deity; — all the divine beings being exaggerated men, regarding the universe from the human point of view, and under the influences of human notions and affections. In proportion as this stage is passed through, the conceptions of deity and divine government become abstract and indefinite, till the indistinguishable line is reached which is supposed, and not seen, to separate the highest order of Christian philosopher from the philosophical atheist. A future point of my narrative will be the proper one for disclosing how I reached the other point of view for which I was now exchanging the theological and metaphysical. What I have said will indicate the view under which I set about relating what I had seen and thought in the birthplaces of the old family of faiths.
I have said thus much, partly to show how I came by the views which I have been absurdly supposed to derive, in some necromantic way, from Mr. Atkinson. The fact is, our intercourse on these subjects had as yet hardly amounted to any thing. It may be dated, I think, from a letter which I wrote him in November 1847, and his reply. I had returned from the East in June 1847, after an absence of eight months: I had then paid the visits which had been intercepted by my eastern travel, and had returned home early in October. After settling myself, and considering the plan and materials of my book, I consulted Mr. Atkinson as to whether honesty required that I should avow the total extent of my dissent from the world’s theologies. I thought not, as my subject was the mutual relation of those theologies, and not their relation to science and philosophy. I had no desire to conceal, as my subsequent writings have shown, my total relinquishment of theology; but it did not seem to me that this book was the natural or proper ground for that kind of discussion. The birthplaces of the four faiths had been my study; and the four faiths were my specific subject; and it seemed to me that it would spoil the book to intrude any other. Thus it was settled; and the consideration of the point led to my writing the following letter to Mr. Atkinson. I give it here that it may be seen how my passage from theology to a more effectual philosophy was, in its early stages, entirely independent of Mr. Atkinson’s influence. It is true, these letters exhibit a very early stage of conviction, — before I had attained firmness and clearness, and while a large leaven of the old anxiety and obscurity remained. I was, as Mr. Atkinson said, out of the old ways; and he was about to show me the shortest way round the corner.
“Sunday evening, Nov. 7th, 1847.
“My dear Friend, —
I seem to have much to say; but I waited to hear from you, because, when people’s letters once cross, as ours did last time, they generally continue to do so. How I pity you for your yellow fog! Here it is grey mist, hanging or driving about the mountain ridges. In the early morning I love to see it rising from the lake. I always go out before it is quite light; and in the fine mornings I go up the hill behind the church, — the Kirkstone road, — where I reach a great height, and see from half way along Windermere to Rydal. When the little shred of moon that is left, and the morning star, hang over Wansfell, among the amber clouds of the approaching sunrise, it is delicious. On the positively rainy mornings, my walk is to Pelter Bridge and back. Sometimes it is round the south end of the valley. These early walks (I sit down to breakfast at half-past seven) are good, among other things, in preparing me in mind for my work. It is very serious work. I feel it so, more and more. The more I read (and I am reading a good deal) and the more I am struck with the diversity of men’s views, and the weakness, in some point or other, of all, in the midst of great learning, the more presumptuous it appears in me to speak at all. And yet, how are we to learn, if those who have travelled to the birthplaces of the old world do not tell what they think, in consequence of what they have seen? I have felt a good deal depressed, — or rather, say oppressed, — today about this. Tomorrow morning I begin upon my (necessary) sketch of the history of Egypt; and in preparation, I have been today reading again Heeren and Warburton. While I value and admire their accumulation of facts, I cannot but dissent from their inferences; that is, some of the most important of them. For instance, Warburton declares that rulers have ever strenuously taught the people the doctrines of a future life, and reward and punishment, without believing them; admits that some of the Egyptian priests believed in the Unity of God, and that Moses knew their opinions; and then argues that it is a proof that Moses’ legation was divine that he did not teach a future life, but a protracted temporal reward and punishment, extending to future generations. The existence, on the temple walls, of representations of judgment scenes, from the earliest times, and the presumption that the Egyptian priests believed in One (national) god, — Moses being in their confidence, — are inestimable facts to me; but my inference from the silence of Moses about a future life is that he was too honest to teach what he did not know to be true. But no more of this.
“The depressing feeling is from the conflict of opinions among people far wiser than myself about points which I do not believe at all; points which they believe, but in different ways. I am pretty confident that I am right in seeing the progression of ideas through thousands of years, — a progression advanced by every new form of faith (of the four great forms) — every one of these faiths being beset by the same corruptions. But I do not know of any one who has regarded the matter thus: and it is an awful thing to stand alone in; — for a half-learned person at least. But I cannot decline speaking about it. We cannot understand the old Egyptians and Arabians through any other channel of study. I must speak as diffidently as I truly feel, and as simply as possible. One thing (which I am to work out tomorrow) I cannot be wrong in; — in claiming for the old heathens the same rule we claim to be judged by. If we refuse to have our faith judged by our state of society, we must not conclude on theirs by their state of society. If we estimate our moral ideas by the minds of our best thinkers, we must estimate theirs by their philosophers, and not by the commonalty. Insisting on this, I think I can show that we have no right to despise either their faith or their best men. I must try, in short, to show that Men’s faculties exist complete, and pretty much alike, in all ages; and that the diversity of the objects on which they are exercised is of far less consequence than the exercise itself. — Do you not feel strangely alone in your views of the highest subjects? I do. I really know of no one but you to whom I can speak freely about mine. To a great degree, I always did feel this. I used to long to be a catholic, though I deeply suspected that no reliance on authority would give me peace of mind. Now, all such longings are out of the question; for I feel that I never could believe on any ground of reasoning what I once took for granted in prejudice. But I do feel sadly lonely, for this reason, — that I could not, if I tried, communicate to any one the feeling that I have that the theological belief of almost every body in the civilized world is baseless. The very statement between you and me looks startling in its presumption. And if I could, I dare not, till I have more assurance than I have now that my faith is enough for my own self-government and support. I know, as well as I ever knew any thing, that for support I really need nothing else than a steady desire to learn the truth and abide by it; and, for self-government, that it is enough to revere my own best nature and capabilities: but it will require a long process of proof before I can be sure that these convictions will avail me, under daily pressure, instead of those by which I have lived all my life. At my age, when the season of moral resolution, and of permanent fervour from the reception of new ideas is pretty well over, one’s goodness must be, I fear, more the result of habit than of new inspiration. — And yet there is hope that some youthfulness is left in me, too. I trust so from my interest in the subjects I am now writing about: and I have lately fairly broken the only two bad habits that ever had much power over me. ... ...
“I quite enjoy your letter. I am always pleased to have your thoughts on your present subjects of study, — as I show by sending you mine. I agree emphatically with you about philosophers inventing methods instead of learning from nature how to teach.
“My house is so pretty, now it is finished! I hope Emerson is coming. Would you like to come and meet him or not? I don’t know whether he interests you. ... ... ... ... .”
Mr. Atkinson’s reply was delightful to me at the time; and it is so now, in remembrance of that time, — the beginning of my free communication to him of my views and studies. It is no fair specimen of his letters when I rose to a more equal reciprocity of intercourse, and when the comfort and satisfaction which I derived from standing firm on a higher standpoint than I had at this time reached rendered unnecessary the kind of encouragement which I derived from the following letter.
“18, Upper Gloucester Place, November 13, 1847.
“My dear Friend, —
Your letter has interested me extremely. — Most certainly we must judge the tree by its fruit, and the doctrine by its influence; calculating, of course, the whole circumstances and material in which that doctrine has to operate: and it would appear that all opinions with regard to a God and a future life had much the same fruits and sustaining influence, though producing results in proportion to the grossness and immorality of the times. But we must consider each view as a stage in the progress of knowledge and reason, and so, perhaps, essential to the circumstances of the times in which it existed. I would strongly urge a full consideration of this view; that Man cannot interfere with truth or nature; but that himself and his opinions are evolved in due course, — not in a perceptible direct line, but necessarily so, as regards the whole; so that in a wide view of the question, whatever is, is right, in its general and ultimate bearing, and ever must be so. That legislators have ever given forth certain views from motives of policy, and not from conviction of their truth, seems to me a most unwarrantable assertion, and certainly not agreeing with facts of the present times which we are able to recognise; though doubtless it was and is often so. You will do a great and good thing if you can trace the origin and progress of opinion in Egypt. I had designed to do this in a general and philosophical sense in the Introduction to my contemplated work, and to wage war, tooth and nail, as they say, against the assumptions of natural theology. Philosophers, with hardly an exception, cling to the idea of a God creator: Bacon at the head of them, saying that he would rather believe in all things most gross and absurd, than that creation was without a mind. How unphilosophical — I had almost said contemptible!* I recognised a godhead long after I rejected a revelation; but I can now perceive no tittle of evidence, in the mind or out of the mind, so to speak, — for such a belief, but that all evidence, reason and analogy are against it; and that the origin of the idea is traceable to the errors (and necessary errors) of the mind striving in ignorance.
“I delight in the tone of mind in which you enter on the inquiry with regard to Egypt’s Faith. That noble feeling — faith, how sadly is it cramped and misapplied, — though never to be considered sad in its position in the chain of progress, any more than pain or death is sad, as essential to the progress of life, and the fulfilment of the law. It is well that men feel loneliness in advancing in truth, for it holds them back to instruct and bring others forward, and gives them a mission to perform, to save their fellows from that to which they cannot return. For knowledge, to the truthful and earnest, is a mistress to whom you are wedded for life: and in confidence and constancy must you seek your self-respect and happiness, whatever may be the peril and disaffection of the world. ‘I place a sword in the world,’ said Christ, ‘and set brother against brother.’—‘But blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.’ I see no pleasure in martyrdom: but I feel it necessary to die if it must be, in maintaining what I believe — earnestly, and in reason and faith believe, — to be true: to sacrifice friendship and every other thing to maintain this predominating impulse and want. You feel, nevertheless, a sense of loneliness now; and so do I; and have done more than I do now. But this is passing away, and one friend in truth is a host against the world assembled. The time may come when you, and perhaps I, may be pointed at and despised by thousands. Pshaw! what matter? I have more fear of an east wind or a November fog, than of all the hubbub they can make. But we may reasonably hope that it will not be so. There are too many believing as we believe on vital questions, and many more who are indifferent; and others may be convinced. Yet, still, the sense of loneliness will accompany you more or less through much of your social intercourse; and friends may grow cold, and you may be misrepresented and misunderstood. But out of this sense of loneliness shall grow your strength, as the oak, standing alone, grows and strengthens with the storm; whilst the ivy, clinging for protection to the old temple wall, has no power of self-support. Be sure that you will find sufficient, if you hold to the truth, and are true to yourself. How well does the great philosopher speak of the pleasure of standing fortified in truth watching the wandering up and down of other minds, and in pity and charity bending over their weakness! Strong in the faith and knowledge of good intentions, we must endeavour to fix the good, true, and noble impulses, and obliterate the evil ones. Thus we shall be strong in resignation and gratitude, enjoying all things that we may; indifferent as to the end, seeing that it is of no more consequence that we should live again, than that the pebble-stones should rise and become living beings. The difficulty is not in the condition of self-reliance, but in the want of sympathy under the pressure of adverse opinion, and the mass of our prejudices which still encumber the brain’s action, and the soil where better thoughts and habits should have been early sown. Lesser minds will hereafter float easily and merrily down the stream where you find impediments; but the necessity of self-support will give you strength, and pleasures which they shall not feel; and so the balance and opportunity are more even than would at first appear. A noble path lies before you, and stern necessity bids you accept unmoved what was ‘designed’ — for you from all time, — that link of being in which you exist and act. Not alone are we, but bound in the eternal laws of the whole. Let us unindividualize ourselves; — merge our personality in the infinite; — raise the ideal in our mind; — see each as but a part of that ideal; — and we lose the sense of imperfection — the sense of individual opinions and character, and rise into a new life of god-like conceptions — active, practical, and earnest; but above the accidents of life: not altogether separate from, but superior to them; enjoying all the harmonious action of mind and body; loving with all our heart and in spirit, all that is good and noble and most beautiful; — casting out and destroying every wrong action of the mind, as we would the pains and ills of the body: — warming with affection and interest for every human being; untouched except by pity for their ill thoughts of us: — such are aspirations which may live in the breast which has rejected its Man-God, and lost all faith in consciousness revived in the same shape and being from the grave. At least we lose the fear, (if we have not the hope,) and the curse of a cruel uncertainty, and are left free to enjoy the present in seeking our best and highest happiness and exaltation. The highest minds will still impress the world with the sense of what is right; and the religion of morals and philosophy will advance, until theology is in the grave, and man will be free to think, and, morally expanded, will be more free to act than perhaps has yet entered into many brains to conceive; because men, in their fears and ignorance, look into the darkness and not into the light, and cannot measure beyond their knowledge. But this is too much of a preachment, — so I say stop!
“I should like, indeed, very much to see Emerson if it could be, you may be sure. I think you have a very high opinion of him. I fear I have filled up my letter with nothing, when I have so much in my thoughts to say that has engaged my attention.
“Well, well, — all in time. I am glad to hear Mr. — — is talking over such important questions with you. I hope you will find him free and wise. Pray remember me to them, will you? and to that cheerful, dear woman, Mrs. —. You have not told me what is to be the motto of your dial. Never mind but you should differ from the world; and, with that wise doubt of self which you express, you need not fear; for that will lead you to dwell on evidence, and on the cause of your opponent’s errors, and how you should be satisfied if your convictions be indeed the truth.
“Adieu, &c., &c.,
“H. G. ATKINSON.”
“P. S. — A friend just writes to me that he cannot understand the consciousness of doing wrong, if we have no free will, and are not accountable. This is at the root of the errors of philosophers, who take a particular state of feeling for the simple and essential condition of an innate sense. They argue a God from a similar error. Conscience arises from a sense of right, with the desire that the right should be done. But what is felt to be right depends much on the state of opinion and society. The sense of sinning is a mere condition and habit of thinking, arising from a belief in free will — a deifying of the mind.
“Much of the manner that has been thought pride in me, has arisen from a sense of loneliness and non-sympathy with the opinions of others, and that they would dislike my opinions if they fully knew them. But I am passing over this barrier, in losing the care and thought of sympathy, in a livelier interest and care for the happiness of all, and in the thought of the ultimate glory and triumph of all truth — when the wrong shall prove right, and the right shall become wrong.”
My reply will close, for the present, the subject of my anti-theological views, at the beginning of my intimate correspondence with Mr. Atkinson.
“Ambleside, November 21, 1847.
“My dear Friend, —
It was very kind of you to write that last letter to me. I agree in, and like, almost every word of it: but I was especially pleased to see your distinct recognition of the good of the old superstitions in their day. As a necessarian, you are of course bound to recognize this: but the way in which you point it out pleases me, because it is the great idea I have before me in my book. I have found the good of those old superstitions in my day. How it might have been with me (how much better) if I had had parents of your way of thinking, there is no saying. As it was, I was very religious (far beyond the knowledge and intentions of my parents) till I was quite grown up. I don’t know what I should have done without my faith; for I was an unhealthy and most unhappy child, and had no other resource. Yet it used to strike me often, and most painfully that, whatever relief and comfort my religion gave to my feelings, it did not help me much against my faults. Certainly, my belief in a future life never was either check or stimulus to me in the matter of self-government. Five-and-twenty years ago I became a thoroughly grounded necessarian. I have never wavered for an hour on that point since; and nothing ever gave me so much comfort. Of course this paved the way for the cessation of prayer. I left off praying however, less from seeing the absurdity, (though I did see it) of petitioning about things already ordained, than from a keen sense of the impiety of prayer. First, I could not pray for daily bread, or for any outward good, because I really did not wish to ask for them, — not knowing whether they would be good for me or not. So, for some years, I prayed only for good states of mind for myself and others. Of course, the feeling grew on me that true piety required resignation about spiritual matters as much as others. So I left off express prayer: and without remorse. As for Christ’s example and need of prayer, — I felt that he did not mean what we mean by prayer: and I think so still. I think he would condemn our prayers as much as he did those of the Pharisees of his time: and that with him prayer was contemplation and aspiration chiefly. — Next, I saw very painfully, (I mean with the pain of disgust) how much lower a thing it is to lead even the loftiest life from a regard to the will or mind of any other being, than from a natural working out of our own powers. I felt this first as to resignation under suffering, and soon after as to moral action. Now, I do know something of this matter of resignation. I know it to the very bottom. I have been a very great sufferer, — subject to keen miseries almost all my life till quite lately; and never, I am pretty confident, did any one acquiesce in God’s will with a more permanent enthusiasm than I did; — because this suited the bent of my nature. But I became ashamed of this; — ashamed of that kind of support when I felt I had a much higher ground of patience in myself. (Only think how shocked the orthodox would be at this, and how they would talk of the depravity of our nature, and of my awful presumption! I saw a sort of scared smile on Mrs. —’s face the other day, when, in talking about education, I said we had yet to see what could be done by a direct appeal to our noble human nature. She, liberal as she is, thinks we have such active bad tendencies, such interior corruption, that we can do nothing without — not effort, or toil, but — Help. Yet she, and Mrs. — too, devours my Household Education papers, as if she had never met with any thing true before on that subject. She says I most certainly have been a mother in a pre-existent state: and yet, if she knew that these papers were founded on ‘infidel’ and phrenological principles, she would mourn over me with deep grief.) — Well but, — you see now, how long a preparation I have had; and how gradual, for my present freedom. — As to what my present views are, when clearly brought to the point of expression, they are just these. I feel a most reverential sense of something wholly beyond our apprehension. Here we are, in the universe! this is all we know: and while we feel ourselves in this isolated position, with obscurity before and behind, we must feel that there is something above and beyond us. If that something were God, (as people mean by that word, and I am confident it is not) he would consider those of us the noblest who must have evidence in order to belief; — who can wait to learn, rather than rush into supposition. As for the whole series of Faiths, my present studies would have been enough, if I had not been prepared before, to convince me that all the forms of the higher religions contain, (in their best aspect) the same great and noble ideas, which arise naturally out of our own minds, and grow with the growth of the general mind; but that there is really no evidence whatever of any sort of revelation, at any point in the history. The idea of a future life, too, I take to be a necessary one, (I mean necessary for support) in its proper place, but likely to die out when men better understand their nature and the summum bonum which it incloses. At the same time, so ignorant as I am of what is possible in nature, I do not deny the possibility of a life after death: and if I believed the desire for it to be as universal as I once thought it, I should look upon so universal a tendency as some presumption in favour of a continuous life. But I doubt the desire and belief being so general as they are said to be: and then, the evidence in favour of it is nothing; — except some unaccountable mesmeric stories. — As for your correspondent’s very young question, about why we should do right, — how such remarks show that we neglect our own nature while running after the supposed pleasure of another! I am sure I never felt more desirous of the right than I do now, or more discomposed when it flashes across me that I have done wrong. But I need not write about this to you, of all people. — What a long confession of faith I have written you! Yes, it is faith, is it not? — and not infidelity, as ninety-nine hundredths of the world would call it. — As for the loneliness I spoke of, I don’t generally mind it: and there is abundant ground of sympathy between me and my best friends, as long as occasion does not require that I should give names to my opinions. I have not yet had any struggle with my natural openness or indiscretion. I never could conceal any opinion I hold, and I am sure I never would: and I know therefore that I am at the mercy (in regard to reputation and some of my friendships) of accident, which may at any hour render an avowal necessary. But I do not fear this. I have run so many inferior risks, and suffered so little in my peace by divers avowals and heresies, that I am not likely to tremble now. What does give me a qualm sometimes, is thinking what such friends as — and as — will suffer, whenever they come to know that I think their “Christian hope” baseless. They are widows, and they live by their expectation of a future life.* I seriously believe that — would go mad or die, if this hope was shaken in her: and my opinions are more to her than any others since her husband’s death. But I say to myself as you would say, — that these matters must take care of themselves. If the truth comes to me, I must believe it. — Yes, I should not wonder if there is a prodigious clamour against me, some day, as you say; — perhaps after this book comes out. But I don’t think I should care for that, about a matter of opinion. I should (or might) about a matter of conduct; for I am sadly weak in my love of approbation: but about a matter of opinion, I can’t and don’t believe what I once did; and there ’s an end. It is a thing which settles itself; — for there is no going back to discarded beliefs. It is a great comfort to me to have you to speak to, and to look to for sympathy. It is a delightful indulgence and refreshment: but if you were to die, or to be engrossed by other interests and occupations, so as to diverge from me, I think I could do without sympathy, in a matter so certain as my inability to believe as I once did. — But enough and too much. There will surely never be occasion to write you such a letter again. But I have written, not so much about my mind, as about a mind, which you, as a philosopher, may like to see into, as well as to sympathise with as a friend. ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
I walk every morning, never stopping for weather. I shall have the young moon now for ten days. Emerson is engaged (lecturing) deep at present, but hopes to come by and by. He is free, if any man is. So I hope you can come when he does. — The motto of the dial is, “Come, light! Visit me!” Old Wordsworth likes this much.
“O! your letter was very pleasant to me. We rarely agree as completely as I do in that.
“Good night! — it is late.
Ever yours truly,
Mr. Emerson did come. He spent a few days in February with me; and, unfavourable as the season was for seeing the district, — the fells and meadows being in their dunnest hay-colour instead of green, — he saw in rides with a neighbour and myself some of the most striking features in the nearer scenery. I remember bringing him, one early morning, the first green spray of the wild currant, from a warm nook. We met soon after in London, where Mr. Atkinson made acquaintance with him. It was a great pleasure to me to have for my guest one of the most honoured of my American hosts, and to find him as full as ever of the sincerity and serenity which had inspired me with so cordial a reverence twelve years before.
The mention of “Household Education” in the letter just quoted reminds me of some work that I was busy about when invited to go to the East. “The People’s Journal” was then in the hands of Mr. Saunders, who has since shown more of his quality than he had scope for in that periodical, but who engaged my respect by the spirit in which he carried on his enterprise. He was a perfect stranger to me before; but we soon became friends on the ground of that enterprise of his; and I wrote a good deal for him; — a set of papers called “Surveys from the Mountain,” and many on desultory subjects: I forget when it was that he suggested the subject of “Household Education” to me, as one which required different treatment from any that it had hitherto met with: but it was certainly after my return from the East, and after his discontinuance of the “People’s Journal,” that I planned the volume, — the first chapters of which had been written at his request. When I was entirely independent of him, and had nothing to consider but the best use to make of my opportunity, I resolved to write the book for the Secularist order of parents. It had been conveyed to me, before this time, that there was a great want of juvenile literature for the Secularists, who could obtain few story-books for their children which were not stuffed with what was in their eyes pernicious superstition. People of all beliefs can see the hardship of this; and I was forcibly struck by it. If the age of fiction-writing had not been over with me, so that I felt that I could not write good stories, I should have responded to the appeal by writing more children’s tales. The next best thing that I could do was to write for the Secularists a familiar book on “Household Education.” Two surprises awaited me, on the appearance of that volume: — the bulk of the Secularist body, and the cordial reception of the book by Christian parents. After the publication of the “Atkinson Letters,” I had reason to know how very different was the state of opinion in England from any thing that I had supposed when I had felt lonely in my views. I then found that I was, as far as I can discover, actually on the side of the majority of sensible and thoughtful persons; and that the Christians, who are apt to look on a seceder as, in some sort, a fallen person, are in fact in a minority, under that mode of reckoning. The reception of my book, when its qualities came to be understood, prepared me for the welcome discovery of the actual condition of the Secularists, and their daily extending prospects; while it proved that there are a good many Christian parents who can accept suggestion and aid from one who will not pronounce their Shibboleth; and that they can enter into moral sympathy with one who finds aspiration to be wholly unconnected with notions of inherent human corruption, free will, and the immortality of the soul. The book was published in 1848; and it must be published again; for it has been for some time out of print.
The winter of 1847-8 passed delightfully in the preparation of my book. I doubt whether there is any higher pleasure, in which intellectual and moral enjoyment are commingled, than in writing a book from the heart; — a book of one’s own conception and wrought out all alone: and I doubt whether any author could feel more satisfaction, (in proportion to individual capacity for pleasure, of course) in the production of a book than I did in regard to “Eastern Life.” I wrote on in entire security about its publication; for I had made an agreement with Mr. Murray in the autumn. His father had wished to publish for me, and had made more than one overture; and I wished to try whether there was advantage, in point of circulation, in being published by Murray. After the failure of the “Game Law Tales,” I considered myself fully authorised to do the best I could for my next work; and especially for one so considerable as “Eastern Life.” I had every desire that Mr. Murray should know precisely what he was undertaking; and I explained to him, in the presence of a witness, as distinctly as possible, and even with reiteration, what the plan and agreement of the book were designed to be. He seemed so entirely satisfied, and offered his terms afterwards with so much good will, that I never dreamed of difficulty, and sent him the M. S. of the two first volumes when finished. After a note of acknowledgment and compliment, the M. S. was immediately returned, with a curt note which afforded no explanation. Mr. Murray could not publish the book; and that was all. The story goes that Mr. Murray was alarmed by being told, — what he then gave forth as his plea for breach of contract, — that the book was a “conspiracy against Moses.” Without crediting this joke in full, we may suppose that his clerical clients interfered to compel him to resign the publication; and I understood, on good authority, long after, when the success of the book was secure, that he heartily regretted the mischance. I wrote by the same day’s post to Mr. Moxon, to tell him the facts of the case, and to offer him the publication, which he accepted by return of post, — on the usual terms; viz., that Mr. Moxon should take the risk, and give me two-thirds of the profits. The first year’s proceeds made my house and its contents my own. I declined all interest in the second edition, desiring that my share of the proceeds should go to the cheapening of the book. I had got all I wanted from it, in the way of money, and I had an earnest desire that it should circulate widely among the less opulent class who were most likely to sympathise with its contents. I do not know why I should not relate an incident, in connexion with this matter, which it gratifies me to recall. One day in the desert, when some hostile Arabs waylaid our party, my camel-leader trotted me away, against my will, from the spectacle of the fight which was to ensue. The same thing happened to Mr. and Mrs. Yates; and we three found ourselves near a clump of acacias where we were to await the event of the feud, and the rest of our caravan. We alighted, and sat down in the scanty shade. Mr. Yates observed that this encounter would be a picturesque incident for my book: and this led us to talk of whether there should be a book or not. I told Mr. Yates that this was a good opportunity for mentioning my chief scruple about writing the book at all. I knew he and Mrs. Yates would not sympathise in it; but yet it was best to utter it frankly. I scrupled about making money by a journey which was his gift. The surprise expressed in his countenance was really amusing. “O, dear!” said he: “I am sure Mrs. Yates and I shall be very happy indeed if you should be able so soon to make your house completely your own. It will be, indeed, another pleasant consequence of this journey, that we had not thought of.” It gave me hearty satisfaction, after this, to write to them that, through this book, their kind wish was fulfilled.
An event occurred last Saturday night which makes us ask ourselves whether we have really passed the middle of our century. In the course of Saturday night, the twentieth of November, one died who could and did tell so much of what happened early in the reign of George the Third, that hearers felt as if they were in personal relations with the men of that time. Miss Berry was remarkable enough in herself to have excited a good deal of emotion by dying any time within the last seventy years. Dying now, she leaves as strong as ever the impression of her admirable faculties, her generous and affectionate nature, and her high accomplishments, while awakening us to a retrospect of the changes and fashions of our English intellect, as expressed by literature. She was not only the woman of letters of the last century carried forward into our own — she was not only the woman of fashion who was familiar with the gaieties of life before the fair daughters of George the Third were seen abroad, and who had her own will and way with society up to last Saturday night: she was the repository of the whole literary history of fourscore years; and when she was pleased to throw open the folding-doors of her memory, they were found to be mirrors, and in them was seen the whole procession of literature, from the mournful Cowper to Tennyson the laureate.
It was a curious sight — visible till recently, though now all are gone — the chatting of three ladies on the same sofa — the two Miss Berrys and their intimate friend, Lady Charlotte Lindsay. Lady Charlotte Lindsay was the daughter of Lord North; and the Miss Berrys had both received, as was never any secret, the offer of the hand of Horace Walpole. It is true he was old, and knew himself to be declining, and made this offer as an act of friendship and gratitude; but still, the fact remains that she, who died last Saturday night, might have been the wife of him who had the poet Gray for his tutor. These ladies brought into our time a good deal of the manners, the conversation and the dress of the last century; but not at all in a way to cast any restraint on the youngest of their visitors, or to check the inclination to inquire into the thoughts and ways of men long dead, and the influence of modes long passed away. It was said that Miss Berry’s parties were rather blue; and perhaps they were so; but she was not aware of it: and all thought of contemporary pedantry dissolved under her stories of how she once found on the table, on her return from a ball, a volume of “Plays on the Passions,” and how she kneeled on a chair at the table to see what the book was like, and was found there — feathers and satin shoes and all — by the servant who came to let in the winter morning light; or of how the world of literature was perplexed and distressed — as a swarm of bees that have lost their queen — when Dr. Johnson died; or of how Charles Fox used to wonder that people could make such a fuss about that dullest of new books — Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations.” He was an Eton boy, just promised a trip to Paris by his father, when Miss Berry was born; and Pitt was a child in the nursery, probably applauded by his maid for success in learning to speak plain. Burns was then toddling in and out, over the threshold of his father’s cottage. Just when she was entering on the novel-reading age, Evelina came out; and Fanny Burney’s series of novels were to that generation of young people what Scott’s were to the next but one. If the youths and maidens of that time had bad fiction, they had good history; for the learned Mr. Gibbon gave them volume after volume which made them proud of their age. They talked about their poets, and, no doubt, each had an idol in that day as in our’s and every body’s. The earnestness, sense, feeling and point of Cowper delighted some; and they reverently told of the sorrows of his secluded life, as glimpses were caught of him in his walks with Mrs. Unwin. Others stood on tiptoe to peep into Dr. Darwin’s “chaise” as he went his professional round, writing and polishing his verses as he went; and his admirers insisted that nothing so brilliant had ever been written before. Miss Berry must have well remembered the first exhibition of this brilliancy before the careless eyes of the world; and she must have remembered the strangeness of the impression when Crabbe tried the contrast of his homely pathos, encouraged to do so by Burke. And then came something which it is scarcely credible that the world should have received during the period of Johnson’s old age, and the maturity of Gibbon, and Sir William Jones, and Burns — the wretched rhyming of the Batheaston set of sentimental pedants. In rebuke of them, the now mature woman saw the theory of Wordsworth rise; and in rebuke of him, she saw the young and confident Jeffrey and his comrades arise; and in rebuke of them, saw the “Quarterly Review” arise, when she was beginning to be elderly. She saw Joanna Baillie’s great fame rise and decline, without either the rise or decline changing in the least the countenance or the mood of the happy being whose sunshine came from quite another luminary than fame. She saw the rise of Wordsworth’s fame, growing as it did out of the reaction against the pomps and vanities of the Johnsonian and Darwinian schools; and she lived to see its decline when the great purpose was fulfilled, of inducing poets to say what they mean, in words which will answer that purpose. She saw the beginning and the end of Moore’s popularity; and the rise and establishment of Campbell’s. The short career of Byron passed before her eyes like a summer storm: and that of Scott constituted a great interest of her life for many years. What an experience — to have studied the period of horrors — represented by Monk Lewis — of conventionalism in Fanny Burney — of metaphysical fiction in Godwin — of historical romance in Scott — and of a new order of fiction in Dickens, which it is yet too soon to characterise by a phrase.
We might go on for hours, and not exhaust the history of what she saw on the side of literature alone. If we attempted to number the scientific men who have crossed her threshold — the foreigners who found within her doors the best of London and the cream of society, we should never have done. And what a series of political changes she saw — the continental wars, the establishment of American independence — the long series of French revolutions — the career of Washington, of Napoleon, of Nelson, of Wellington, with that of all the statesmen from Lord Chatham to Peel — from Franklin to Webster! But it is too much. It is bewildering to us, though it never overpowered her. She seemed to forget nothing, and to notice every thing, and to be able to bear so long a life in such times; but she might well be glad to sink to sleep, as she did last Saturday night after so long-drawn a pageant of the world’s pomps and vanities, and transient idolatries and eternal passions.
Reviewing the spectacle, it appears to us, as it probably did to her, that there is no prevalent taste, at least in literature, without a counteraction on the spot, preparing society for a reaction. Miss Berry used to say that she published the later volumes of Walpole’s correspondence to prove that the world was wrong in thinking him heartless; she believing the appearance of heartlessness in him to be ascribable to the influence of his time. She did not succeed in changing the world’s judgment of her friend; and this was partly because the influences of the time did not prevent other men from showing heart. Charles James Fox had a heart; and so had Burke and a good many more. While Johnson and then Darwin were corrupting men’s taste in diction, Cowper was keeping it pure enough to enjoy the three rising poets, alike only in their plainness of speech — Crabbe, Burns, and Wordsworth. Before Miss Burney had exhausted our patience, the practical Maria Edgeworth was growing up. While Godwin would have engaged us wholly with the interior scenery of man’s nature, Scott was fitting up his theatre for his mighty procession of costumes, with men in them to set them moving; and Jane Austen, whose name and works will outlive many that were supposed immortal, was stealthily putting forth her unmatched delineations of domestic life in the middle classes of our aristocratic England. And against the somewhat feeble elegance of Sir William Jones’s learning there was the safeguard of Gibbon’s marvellous combination of strength and richness in his erudition. The vigor of Campbell’s lyrics was a set-off against the prettiness of Moore’s. The subtlety of Coleridge meets its match, and a good deal more, in the development of science; and the morose complainings of Byron are less and less echoed now that the peace has opened the world to gentry whose energies would be self-corroding if they were under blockade at home, through an universal continental war. Byron is read at sea now, on the way to the North Pole, or to California, or to Borneo; and in that way his woes can do no harm. To every thing there is a season; and to every fashion of a season there is an antagonism preparing. Thus all things have their turn; all human faculties have their stimulus, sooner or later, supposing them to be put in the way of the influences of social life.
It was eminently so in the case of the aged lady who is gone from us; and well did her mind respond to the discipline offered by her long and favorable life of ninety years. One would like to know how she herself summed up such an experience as hers, — the spectacle of so many everlasting things dissolved — so many engrossing things forgotten — so many settled things set afloat again, and floated out of sight. Perhaps those true words wandered once more into her mind as her eyes were closing: —
To his Excellency, the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: —
The undersigned respectfully represent that they are informed that Abner Kneeland, of the city of Boston, has been found guilty of the crime of Blasphemy, for having published, in a certain newspaper called the “Boston Investigator,” his disbelief in the existence of God, in the following words:
“Universalists believe in a God, which I do not; but believe that their God, with all his moral attributes, (aside from nature itself) is nothing more than a chimera of their own imagination.”
Your petitioners have learned, by an examination of the record and documents in the case, made by one of their number, that the conviction of said Kneeland proceeded on the ground above stated. For though the indictment originally included two other publications, one of a highly irreverent, and the other of a grossly indecent character; yet it appears by the Report, that, at the trial, the prosecuting officer mainly relied on the sentence above quoted, and that the Judge who tried the case confined his charge wholly to stating the legal construction of its terms, and the law applicable to it.
In these circumstances, the undersigned respectfully pray, that your Excellency will grant to the said Kneeland an unconditional pardon, for the offence of which he has been adjudged guilty. And they ask this, not from any sympathy with the convicted individual, who is personally unknown to most or all of them; nor from any approbation of the doctrines professed by him, which are believed by your petitioners to be as pernicious and degrading as they are false; but
Because the punishment proposed to be inflicted is believed to be at variance with the spirit of our institutions and our age, and with the soundest expositions of those civil and religious rights which are at once founded in our nature, and guarantied by the constitutions of the United States and this Commonwealth;
Because the freedom of speech and the press is the chief instrument of the progress of truth and of social improvements, and is never to be restrained by legislation, except when it invades the rights of others, or instigates to specific crimes;
Because, if opinion is to be subjected to penalties, it is impossible to determine where punishment shall stop; there being few or no opinions, in which an adverse party may not see threatenings of ruin to the state;
Because truths essential to the existence of society must be so palpable as to need no protection from the magistrate;
Because the assumption by government of a right to prescribe or repress opinions has been the ground of the grossest depravations of religion, and of the most grinding despotisms;
Because religion needs no support from penal law, and is grossly dishonored by interpositions for its defence, which imply that it cannot be trusted to its own strength and to the weapons of reason and persuasion in the hands of its friends;
Because, by punishing infidel opinions, we shake one of the strongest foundations of faith, namely, the evidence which arises to religion from the fact, that it stands firm and gathers strength amidst the severest and most unfettered investigations of its claims;
Because error of opinion is never so dangerous as when goaded into fanaticism by persecution, or driven by threatenings to the use of secret arts;
Because it is well known that the most licentious opinions have, by a natural reaction, sprung up in countries where the laws have imposed severest restraint on thought and discussion;
Because the influence of hurtful doctrines is often propagated by the sympathy which legal severities awaken towards their supporters;
Because we are unwilling that a man, whose unhappy course has drawn on him general disapprobation, should, by a sentence of the law, be exalted into a martyr, or become identified with the sacred cause of freedom; and lastly,
Because we regard with filial jealousy the honor of this Commonwealth, and are unwilling that it should be exposed to reproach, as clinging obstinately to illiberal principles, which the most enlightened minds have exploded.
Boston, Massachusetts, 1839.
A MONTH AT SEA.
The following is an account of a real voyage, perfectly true, except in one respect. For obvious reasons the names are all changed. As to every other particular, the scene is presented exactly as it appeared to the eye and the imagination of a landswoman.
Some weeks before the sailing of the packet, I went on board, as she lay alongside the wharf on the East River, New York, to select my state-room. I engaged one for myself and Miss Saunders, who was one of the party with whom I had arranged to cross the ocean. I bore in mind the exhortation I had received from an experienced sailor, to secure a berth on the starboard side of the ladies’ cabin; for the sake, among other reasons, of being out of the way of the scents and sounds of the steward’s pantry. The state-room I secured was on the starboard side. The captain wrote my name and Miss Saunders’s on slips of paper, which he pinned to the curtains of the berths. He then introduced me to the stewardess, Margaret, a bonny, obliging Scotch girl, whose countenance and manner pleased me exceedingly.
The ship, which I shall call the Eurydice, was not so new, so clean, or so convenient, as most on the line; but there were considerations in favour of our going by her which overbalanced these objections. The high character of the captain, and his being a personal friend of some of our party, were the chief inducements to us to go by the Eurydice. She sailed too on the first of August, which was the season at which we wished to cross.
The day before we were to sail, I was informed that Miss Lamine, a passenger, had been to the ship, and had removed Miss Saunders’s ticket from the curtain of the berth, and substituted her own, on the ground of Miss Saunders’s passage having been only conditionally engaged. This was true; but it was no excuse for the lady’s ill-manners. As anything is better than squabbling anywhere, and particularly on board ship, where people cannot get out of each other’s way, I gave up the point, surrendering my berth to Miss Saunders, who was an invalid, and taking up with a state-room on the larboard side, which I had to share with a young orphan girl, Kate, who, being left destitute by the recent death of both her parents, was allowed by the captain’s kindness to work her way over to her friends in Wales, by assisting the stewardess.
My things were packed so as to occasion the least possible trouble to myself and the people on board. Some passengers are not so considerate as they should be about this. The ladies’ cabin is small enough at best; and it should never be crowded with trunks and bandboxes, for people to tumble over in rough weather. Such encumbrances are unsightly, too; and in a situation like that of being on board ship, every care should be taken to avoid offence to eye or mind. The ladies’ cabin should be as neat as any parlour in a private house. A carpet-bag and bandbox, such as the state-room will easily hold, may be made to contain all that is necessary for a month’s voyage; with the addition of a few good books, in which the owner’s name should be written, and which should not be too fine to be willingly lent.
I carried no stores. Everything requisite for good eating and drinking is so abundantly provided on board these packets, that it is useless to burden oneself with anything more. Some of the ladies found comfort in ginger lozenges, and each should have a vinaigrette. I do not remember that anything else was in request. Warm clothing is essential to comfort. While basking in a July sun on shore, it is difficult to believe how bitter the cold will be a few miles out at sea; but no amount of cloaks, furs, and woollen over-shoes can be too great for comfort during the first and last days of a voyage, usually the coldest of the term. There is much comfort in having two cloaks; one to wear, and another to wrap round the feet on cold days, and in a high wind.
The 1st of August was an intensely hot day: I looked with amazement at my boa, fur tippet, warm cloak and gown, and wondered whether it was possible that I should in a few hours be shivering, in spite of them all. About eleven o’clock, the passengers assembled on board a steam-boat which was to convey them to their ship. Some, of whom I was one, were attended by friends who meant to accompany them as far as Sandy Hook, the southern point of New York bay. It was a dismal morning, sad with the sorrows of parting. We tried to amuse ourselves after we had stepped on board by showing the ship to the children who were to return. I was rather dismayed to see the range of water-casks on deck, looking like a very ugly encumbrance. In the more modern packets they are out of sight.
We were towed out of the harbour by a steamer; and the motion was so smooth, the shores so bright, and the luncheon in the cabin so good, that the children evidently thought a voyage must be an extremely pleasant affair. They little knew how heavy were the hearts of their parents and friends round the table, with the parting glass at their lips, and parting emotions struggling in their hearts.
A certain square box of mine contained some papers of value; and this circumstance was mentioned to the captain by a mutual friend, without my knowledge. The captain said the box should not go down into the hold with the rest, but should stand under the table in the gentlemen’s cabin, where it would be in nobody’s way, and would be kept dry. It will be seen what grew out of this small circumstance.
The characters of the passengers will appear in the course of the narrative. At present they may be thus indicated. My own party consisted of Professor Ely and his lady; Miss Saunders; Mr. Tracy, a youth just from college, and going to travel in Europe with the professor and his lady; and Lieutenant Browning, of the American navy. With Miss Lamine was an old Dutch lady, Mrs. Happen. A very stout widow lady, with her two daughters, Irish, and strangers to us all, and Miss Taylor, the captain’s invalid sister, made up the number of ladies. An elderly Scotch gentleman, Mr. Bruce, appeared after two days, having been laid up in his berth with a bruised leg. Some young men from New Orleans and Mobile; Dr. Sharp, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Larkin, and Mr. Mann, were the only others that I now remember.
By four o’clock we were off Sandy Hook, and it was necessary for our New York friends to return. I promised to send them a minute journal of the events of our voyage. With a few suppressions and amplifications, the following is what I sent them: —
August 3. — Already I feel or believe myself able to write; if you can but manage to read an unsteady scrawl on damp paper. Fortified by chicken broth, red with cayenne pepper, I begin my journal: —
Before we had quite lost sight of your steamer the pilot began to be in a hurry off. “Haul away, boys, and no humbugging!” cried he. Soon after, he told the captain to “sail due east, and keep the white buoy on his weather bow,” and departed — too soon — before we were over the bar; and the captain was too anxious to go down to dinner. Mrs. Ely was too much of something else, and so sat still in the round-house (the sort of summer-house on deck, built round the head of the stairs leading down into the cabin.) Miss Saunders went down with me, still declaring that no Saunders was ever yet sea-sick since the world began. Presently, however, she said at table, “Shall I pass you?” and glad enough she was to get into the air. The motion of the ship now became unpleasant, and I was not sorry when the ladies left their dessert to repair to the deck.
I found that Mrs. Ely did not present a model of colouring for a portrait-painter; her eyes and lips being yellow, and her cheeks ash-colour. I tried to read the Boston newspapers I had received in the morning, but was too heavy at heart, and found them strangely uninteresting. Just before I went down for the night, at seven o’clock, I was cheered by a single charm in Miss Saunders — a precious look and gesture of fun in the midst of distress. O the worth of good-humour at sea! What a contrast was here to Miss Lamine, who made a noise all evening and night, such as was never heard in these upper regions before, I should think. She was evidently anxious that every one on board should know the extent of her sufferings. The captain told me in the morning that he had been explaining to his sister that “noise does no good, and is not fair.”
When in the morning with much toil I got myself on deck (the only lady,) the captain congratulated me on our rough sea and rapid progress: “very good for the sea-sick.” These favourable circumstances, however, sent me down before noon, to re-appear no more till evening. The captain is as kind as a brother, and as handy as a lady’s maid. In the midst of our distresses, Margaret’s innocent face and kind voice are a comfort to see and hear. To set against these solaces, the flies are almost intolerable, notwithstanding my state-room (which it was thought would not be wanted) being luxuriously hung with cobwebs. These flies must be of American extraction, to judge by the pertinacity of their disposition. Only two or three showed the breeding of English flies in keeping away after a certain number of rebuffs. What can be the reason of the difference between your flies and ours in pertinacity? If Margaret was driven at last to throw her apron over her face, what must have been the annoyance to us invalids? I lay on the sofa. I wish you had seen the august captain approach, pepper-box in hand, and followed by a cup of hot chicken-broth. I felt seasoned for half a century, and took to the ‘Life of Mackintosh,’ of which I read half a volume before laying the book down. Then I thought of three particularly pleasant things, which you said to me on Sunday and Monday. Can you remember or imagine what they were? I will only say that they were nothing personal. Then I toiled up on deck to see the sun set; admired him the minute before; and then forgot all about him till he had disappeared. Lieutenant Browning offered me the astronomical comfort of assuring me that I had really seen the last of the sun, and that it was only the refraction that I had missed. This was about as effectual as consolation usually is.
Thinking that the captain looked grave about his poor flock of ladies, and knowing that nothing is more dispiriting to the captain than the absence of passengers from the table, I plunged down into the cabin to tea, and staid an hour, beguiled by some pleasant conversation.
Some remarkable events have happened to-day. Mrs. Happen’s cat has caught a mouse. This opens a prospect of some unlooked-for provisions, in case of our voyage being three months long, and our stock failing. Professor Ely has donned his sea-dress, popping his head up the stairs in a cap, which must have been a grenadier’s. We dubbed him Captain Ely. Dr. Sharp is disconsolate for want of “two small buttons” for the straps of his pantaloons. He implored the steward to furnish him with some, — in vain. The under-steward, — in vain also. The captain. The captain was brought down into the cabin, to hear this petition; and offered that “two small buttons” should be cut off his own pantaloons for Dr. Sharp’s use; — which Dr. Sharp accepted! Miss Saunders saw a Portuguese-man-of-war before I did, which makes me jealous. Do you know why this little fish is thus called? I have endeavoured in vain to learn. Some wag says that it is because, as soon as a gale rises, it fills and goes down; but this must be said out of some special grudge against the Portuguese navy. I have seen these beautiful little mariners of the deep of various hues and sizes, some as large as my fist, some as small as my grandmother’s teacups. I have seen them of a rich violet, of a pale lilac, and of a dingy pink; their hue evidently not depending wholly on the sunshine or shade in which they may be gliding. Before I became acquainted with them, I fancied that they floated only in sunshine, and on a calm sea; but I have seen them in almost all weathers. They are most beautiful when shining on the surface of a deep blue sea; but they allow themselves to be tossed about on the crests of troubled waves, and turned over and over in rough weather, before “they fill and go down.” I never handled one. The sailors are unwilling to catch them; and when they do, are careful to fetch them up in bowls or nets, and to avoid touching the fish; as, on being touched, it discharges a fluid which raises a large blister on the skin, and is very painful. The part of the fish which answers to the shell of the nautilus is soft, — a mere membrane; but its form is that of a nautilus shell, and it floats like a tiny but substantial boat, the fibrous parts of the little fish depending and moving as it changes its direction. Except the dolphin, I think the Portuguese-man-of-war the prettiest of the inhabitants of the deep which come to the surface to delight the eye of the passenger.
I saw to-day two Mother Carey’s chickens. We shall have them now sporting about our ship all the way. I wish we could change our swarms of flies into these pretty creatures.
Mrs. Happen’s quick eye saw my box under the table in the gentlemen’s cabin. She says “If some people’s boxes are taken care of, so shall other people’s be;” and she has actually ordered the steward to bring up her trunks from between decks, and put them in the same place. Her jealousy being once roused, there will be no more peace in her mind all the voyage. She quarrelled with the captain at the dinner-table, for letting the lamp in the ladies’ cabin blow out at two in the morning. He answered by sending us the binnacle lamp, which cannot blow out. He is much too good to her. She is on bad terms with several of the passengers already.
The captain has been making war against the flies, sweeping thousands of them out of the skylight to the birds; so that they will be changed into Mother Carey’s chickens in a different way from what I meant. He brought me down a chick of Mother Carey’s brood. Pretty creature! with its long legs and yellow web-feet, and curious hooked beak! It stumbled and fluttered about the deck, and then we let it get away. I never could conceive before how these birds walked on the water, which I saw they certainly did. They never leave us, flitting about, apparently without rest, from the time we are out of sight of land, till we come near it again. They are in flocks of from two or three to thirty or forty. They feed on the refuse food thrown from the ship.
The captain lashed up a stool on the rail, to serve for the back of a chair. Here I sat in the breeze, enjoying some feelings of health again, and proceeding rapidly with “Mackintosh’s Life,” which is very interesting.
Mrs. Ely is on deck to-day, dizzy but better. The other ladies are still disconsolate, and show no disposition to be sociable.
4th. — A heavenly day: the perfection of sailing. It is unreasonable to expect more than one such a day in a month’s voyage. The wind was fair, mild, and balmy; the sea radiant in all directions. The captain gave orders to “square the yards” (a delightful sound always), and we cut steadily through the waves all day, — perceiving only in the cabin that we were on the sighing bosom of the deep. Our sails being all set, the captain and crew seemed quite at leisure. I saw no less than six Portuguese-men-of-war, wetting their lilac sails in the purple sea. I could not leave such a sight, even for the amusement of hauling over the letter-bags. Mr. Ely put on his spectacles; Mrs. Ely drew a chair; others lay along on deck to examine the superscriptions of the letters from Irish emigrants to their friends. It is wonderful how some of these epistles reach their destination; the following, for instance, begun at the top left-hand corner, and elaborately prolonged to the bottom right one: — “Mrs. A. B. ile of man douglas wits sped England.” The letter-bags are opened for the purpose of sorting out those which are for delivery in port from the rest. A fine day is always chosen, generally towards the end of the voyage, when amusements become scarce, and the passengers are growing weary. It is pleasant to sit on the rail, and see the passengers gathered round the heap of letters, and to hear the shouts of merriment when any exceedingly original superscription comes under notice. Though the ladies seem by this time all well, some of them show no disposition to render themselves agreeable; and the captain was thus tempted to an early development of all his resources of amusement.
Mrs. Happen presently came up, and indulged in a passion of tears. Her cat is missing, and she is sure some cruel person has thrown it overboard, because somebody wrung her Poll-parrot’s neck on her first voyage. We suggested that it was more probable that pussy, feeling frightened, had hidden herself, and would re-appear. But the weeping lady was sure that all was over with pussy. At dinner, her eyes were much swollen, but she was disposed for some turkey, and sent her plate to Mr. Ely for some, begging that it might be without bone. He sent her a plump wing, which she returned with an order to him to take the bones out. In the evening there was a bustle on deck: all the stewards were running with hot water and cold, and the ladies with “eau-de-Cologne.” Mrs. Happen was hysterical, — fainting, from the news having been too suddenly imparted to her that her cat had re-appeared in the cabin. Mrs. Happen’s negromaid, Sally, has orders to keep her mistress’s state-room so shut up (in August) as that pussy may not hide herself again.
The two Miss O’Briens appeared today on deck, speaking to nobody, sitting on the same seats, with their feet on the same letter-bag, reading two volumes of the same book, and dressed alike, even to the yellow spectacles, which are so far unbecoming as that they make good grey eyes look grass-green. Their mother has not yet appeared at table, and keeps her pillows about her; but I twice saw her during dinner steal to the steward’s pantry, and come forth with a replenished plate, in addition to the lobster-salad we sent her. There is fear that she will not shrink materially, though she assures Mrs. Ely that “a spare diet is the only thing at sea.” In this opinion I do not agree with her. I have reason to think a full and generous diet necessary to health at sea, — and particularly during the season of sickness. The reason, I believe, why some do not think so, is that they feel ill and miserable after eating; but they should remember how ill and miserable they felt before eating; and how much more so they might have been without eating. Disagreeable as is the effort to eat during sea-sickness, I am persuaded that, where it can be made, it obviates much suffering.
We began to be uneasy about knowing nothing of the steerage passengers. To be in the same bottom, on the wide ocean, and to be strangers, cannot be right. If some of the ladies prefer alienation, so be it: but we mean to give the rest of the people the means of acquaintanceship with us, if we can do it without intrusion. What can these worthy folks, amidst their real privations, think of the story of Mrs. Happen’s troubles, if the tale should reach their end of the ship?
The stars came out softly in our wide sky; and the sun set amidst indications of continued fair winds. Mr. Browning shows me our place on the chart every noon. We are about 400 miles from New York; — going further from you, the more we exult in our fair breeze. We meant to have had a rubber to-night, but found the cabin too warm. Every body is on deck, except some gentlemen who are at cards. I am going to see how the dim ocean looks under the stars.
I found less dimness than light upon deck. The captain never knew so sultry a night in this latitude. The sea was luminous; the exquisite light spreading in a flood from every breaking wave. There were explosions of lightning from the cloudy west. We dashed through the sea, and made great progress during the night, having accomplished one-fifth of our voyage by morning.
What a loss has there been of this glorious day to such as were stormy within while all was bright around!
August 5th. — A day as disagreeable as yesterday was the contrary. Damp, stifling, with much rain, and rolling, which threw us back upon our patience. Miss Saunders is gentle and merry. Every body begins to praise her. The ship is very inferior to the one I came out in; — in stewards, and in all manner of arrangements; but I can scarcely regret this, as it is the means of displaying the captain’s virtues. We are in constant admiration of his patience, ingenuity, and consideration of everybody. Mrs. Happen’s insults only make him more generous.
Before breakfast, for two dreary hours, Mrs. Ely beguiled us with capital sketches of character; — oddities. She does this very well: a little coarsely, perhaps, and not absolutely simply; but with much power. I read the first half of her book in the proofs.
Mr. Simpson began talking to me to-day about some mutual acquaintance. He can tell me every thing about Mexico, where he has been living. He has a true understanding of the Texan cause. He says the Mexicans hate all foreigners, and call them all English. It is too bad to mix us up with the Texans; though, as I am sorry to say, there have been English in the Texan ranks.
An hour before dinner, the clouds parted, and the wind became fresher and drier. I fell asleep on the rail, while looking for seasights, and woke refreshed.
In the afternoon, Miss Saunders and I had a long talk on the rail on the difference between religion, spontaneous and artificial: natural and arbitrary; professionally and unconsciously administered; with examples: all this arising out of some lines she brought me about gradual and sudden death. I amazed her by telling her of the incessant conflict in —’s mind, between her free and joyous nature, and the separate, arbitrary religion which she has had imposed upon her; but which will not for ever prevent her discovering that religion has a natural affinity with whatever is free, pure, lofty and exhilarating. She is one who would certainly break loose, or grow hypocritical in time, if she could not get liberty for her devotional spirit.
Then followed, our own party having assembled, not a few tales of travel, I furnishing an account of my Michigan trip. In the evening, the Elys, Mr. Tracy and I played a rubber. They are slow and young players, but pleasant partners and adversaries. Tracy will play well. — On deck, to see that there was nothing to be seen this moonless night. So uncomfortable with the damp heat of the day as to be unwilling to go down; but it is against my conscience to keep the girls up; and they will not go to rest till we do. I slept pretty well after all.
6th. — I really cannot write down all Mrs. Happen’s freaks. The captain is now busy with hammer and nails, trying to please her. She is jealous of a bandbox of Kate’s, standing in the entire stateroom, which her negro maid is allowed to have. She cannot possibly spare the curtains from the berth in her state-room, that she does not sleep in; and so forth.
I like Mr. Browning. He has been telling me some anecdotes of greatness, all full of the richest moral beauty. When he was at Marseilles, he went about hunting for the house where Guyon died. Nobody knew anything about Guyon!
At breakfast, five or six of us had a long talk about dressing-boxes, of all things. This led to the display of our respective ones, which was very amusing. Mrs. Ely’s was the most nice and complete; and Lieutenant Browning’s perhaps the most commodious, — being nothing else than a stocking! He thinks us worthy to hear the whole truth about our voyage; and so tells us that to-day we are going slowly, four points out of our course; that we got too far south at the outset; that we shall not cross “the Banks,” and shall therefore see neither icebergs nor cod-boats; that we have got into a region of calms and light winds, and shall probably have a long voyage. My heart sank for a moment, — I had so long counted the days which had home at the end of them; but I esteem it a sin to let one’s countenance fall on board ship; and we all joked upon the matter.
Found on deck Mr. Bruce, who has been in his berth nursing a wounded leg, ever since we came on board. He is Scotch, acquainted with divers literary folk in London; droll, and pretty sensible: — an acquisition, particularly to the captain, as he has promised to turn his novelty to good account with Mrs. Happen, who has quarrelled with every body else. He is going to lay himself out to amuse her. He has written some things for “Hood’s Comic Annual.” He will get some fine new material here.
Dr. Sharp asks the captain to-day if rain is quite fresh at sea.
Mrs. Happen owns she had a prejudice against Mr. Tracy from the moment she saw him. — She supposes Mrs. Ely and I enjoy the voyage from knowing that we shall never be in such society again. — She begs Mr Browning to inform her rightly about our course; for she never saw such mates in her life. Miss Lamine is very nearly as bad. She complains of everything, and has nicknamed every body. The captain told her not to feel uneasy at being of the same party with Mrs. Happen, as no one supposed Miss Lamine to have anything to do with the old lady’s behaviour. Miss Lamine went directly, and told Mrs. Happen every word that the captain had said.
Scene. — Ladies’ Cabin.
“Where’s the cat now?”
“In Missus’s state-room.”
“She’ll get away, as sure as she’s alive.”
(A groan from Sally.)
“Why don’t you tie her up?”
“I vow I will, if I can get a bit o’ cord.”
“Only, perhaps, your mistress will tie you up, if the cat happens not to like it.”
“Perhaps she will: only then she must get a pretty strong cord; that I can tell her.”
Scene. — Deck.
“I’ll tell you what, sir — we ’ve got this head-wind, all because you will keep catching Mother Carey’s chickens. If you go on catching them, we shall have a gale ahead.”
“In that case, I should advise your throwing the cat overboard.”
“Then we shall have a gale within ship that will last us all the way to Liverpool.”
11th. — Found it calm: chickens “tripping a ballet,” as Mrs. Ely says; and Lieutenant Browning predicting a fair wind, — which has this moment arrived. — The weather has been deplorable, and we have been rolled about, in the midst of one of those pelting rains which make every body busy in keeping dry without being stifled. Mr. Ely was wholly and happily absorbed in Southey’s “Cowper.” The rest of us talked and laughed in the round-house till poor Mrs. O’Brien (who begins to show herself a second Mrs. Happen) abruptly left the company, and burst into the cabin, exclaiming that we were all the lowest and most ignorant society she ever was in. For my part, I thought some of the conversation, particularly the captain’s, Mr. Browning’s, and Miss Saunders’s, very clever and entertaining. After a while, the weather conquered most of us. In vain the captain sent round his champagne, and his jokes, and kind sayings. Poor man! when the stars showed themselves, and the long tempest seemed over, and he was going to bed, after two days and a night of toil, the weather changed, and he could not leave the deck for hours. What a life it is!
Mr. Browning put on his sea-coat and went out into the storm, and came back, the rain streaming from his hat and chin, to praise the ship. He knew few that would stand such a wind under so much sail. I was glad to hear this, for certainly her inside is not to be praised. How strange it is to see music and lyres stuck up all over her, old and dirty as she is! and to see black coal buckets, with “Eurydice” painted on them! Miss Lamine lays down the law that “each passenger ought to have a whole state-room, twice the size of ours; but the people try to make money instead of accommodating the passengers.” The question is, whether she would like to pay accordingly. She never uses her berth, after all, but sleeps on the sofa.
Mrs. Happen could not perceive that there was any particular motion to-day. On the instant over went her rocking-chair on one side, throwing her into Miss O’Brien’s lap.
12th. — We do long for a little cheery weather. The captain is somewhat serious about it. He never knew so much damp, changeable weather at this season. We are past the Banks without having seen anything. Only one porpoise has shown himself. Only one ship has been hailed, and she did not answer; all which sounds very dull. I have been reading Southey’s “Cowper,” which has not mended the matter much. It is as interesting as possible, but most dismal.
I feel very small in the presence of the sailors. How they must look down upon us, fleeing in from every drop of rain; getting under the awning as soon as the sun shines, and going to bed comfortably every night, whatever the weather may be! I feel myself truly contemptible.
The captain and I had a full hour’s talk in the evening, when he was tired, after forty-eight hours of toil. He told me a great deal about his wife and children, and all about the loss of his brother last winter. The death of this brother has made a deep impression upon him. He asked me much about the degree of faith which it is possible to have in a future life, and gave me his own conceptions of it. I was heartily sorry when the tea-bell rang. The simplicity of this man, with all his other qualities, is beautiful. So serious, so funny (he has now been peeping down upon us through the skylight, with his round face in a lady’s long deck-bonnet;) so brave and cheerful, so amiable with his cross passengers, and his inefficient crew! Mrs. Ely says he is just as gentle with his crew in the midst of a stormy night, as with Mrs. Happen at table. Her room is where she can hear all that passes on deck. One miserable day, he looked himself to the making of the pea-soup, ordering the ham-bone in; then he mended the lock on Mrs. Ely’s room-door; then he came and talked of this life and other with me.
Mr. Browning is not in very good spirits. He says he has had more experience of bad company than ever before; and he now associates only with us. Poor Mrs. Happen sits all alone on deck. People speak kindly to her, but she makes no sort of answer. I am glad to see she reads a good deal.
The box of books, sent on board for the steerage by a benevolent gentleman, was brought up a few days ago, and immediately emptied. It is a fine resource for the idle men, and I like to see them perched on casks and chests absorbed in their books. We cannot succeed in making acquaintance with these people. Perhaps they have found out that our end of the ship is squally.
Yesterday the captain shouted, for the first time, “Splice the mainbrace” (Give out grog.) Mrs. Ely and I had previously done it in a small private way, without having so earned the comfort. The captain is now heard giving orders to kill the finest pig tonight. I think I shall ask him to shave and soap its tail first, and set the passengers to catch it. It might unite them in a common object, and restore good-humour. The cow was not milked on our two roughest days, at which the complainers profess to be very angry, and threaten to report the captain for it. If I were he, I would set them to try what milking cows in a rolling sea is like. Miss Saunders’s geranium pines, and will be as yellow as the mast before we land.
The captain told me this evening, what he does not wish the other ladies to know till we are within sight of port, lest they should be alarmed, that the mate behaved so ill as to be necessarily sent back with the pilot. The second mate was made first, and the carpenter second mate; and neither of them knows much of his business; so the captain has hard work to do. He says, “There is Lieutenant Browning to command, if anything should happen to me.”
Mr. Bruce gave me a dreadful account today of his sufferings from tic-douloureux, and of his cure, which he ascribes to his having taken nightly a pill consisting of three grains of mercury and one of stramonium. He is well now and very kind and agreeable.
15th. — Better news. For some hours we had a fair wind and delicious weather. We have been becalmed for days, between two winds, catching all the bad consequences of each, and none of the good. But these are the times for feeling that one stands between two worlds; looking forward and back upon the divisions of human society, and able to survey them without prejudice, and to philosophize upon them without interruption. These are the times for feeling as if one could do something for one’s race by toiling for it, and by keeping aloof from the storms of its passions and its selfish interests; humbly, not proudly, aloof. Such thoughts arise in the isolation of a voyage, as if they came up from the caverns of the deep. On the centre of the ocean one is as in another state of existence, with all one’s humanity about one.
Everybody’s ailments are gone, and all but the two unhappy old ladies look cheery this morning. I saw a whale yesterday. Mr. Bruce pronounced it “no orator, because it did not spout well;” but I was quite satisfied with its performances, — heaving its black carcase, and wallowing and plunging in the dirty-looking boiling sea. How different was everything the next morning. The sapphire sea, with its fleet of Portuguese-men-of-war; a single land-bird flitting and fluttering, from Newfoundland no doubt. Pity it had not faith to come on board, for I fear it will never get back.
I saw three flying fish — very pretty — leaping from the crest of one wave into another: but nothing was to me so beautiful as the transparent ripple, seen above the surface when the sun got low. After reading —’s capital sermon, I read no more, but sat with Miss Saunders on the rail all day, having much talk, with long intervals of silence. Mrs. Ely wrote all the morning; but I could not bear to lose a breath of balmy air, or a hue of the sweet sea. In the afternoon, we repeated poetry and sang, and promised each other scientific lectures on deck daily this next week. Do not laugh at us. You would have promised anything whatever on such an afternoon.
In the evening, five of us had a long conversation on European politics and American democracy, till the captain came to take me, first to the bows, to see the full sails swelling against the star-lit sky, and then to the stern, to see how bright a train of light we left behind us, as we dashed through at the rate of ten knots an hour. Professor Ely gave us a little history of the improvements in astronomy and navigation, the elements of these sciences being furnished by observation in the bright regions of the East to the foggy and scientific West. When these improvements are carried back to the starlit East, what may not the science become?
The captain brought me today a book, about the size of the palm of my hand, that I might look at a short poem, — rather pretty. He was very mysterious: the book was not published; was written by some one on board. We all guessed Mr. Bruce. But no; everybody had been told in a whisper, before two hours were over, that it was by Mr. Kitton, the artist and poet. Mr. Kitton was a poor sick gentleman, who had been in his berth ever since we sailed, and who now began to creep out into the sunshine. Dr. Sharp attended him professionally, and he had a friend to nurse him. We saw nothing of him except when he sat on deck in the middle of the day. He looked wretchedly, but I believe his complaints were not alarming.
Mrs. Happen treated the captain cruelly to-day. He looks grave, though he owns he ought not to mind her. The ship we saw on Thursday kept dallying about us for three days, and would not speak when hailed. I wish Mrs. Happen could have been put on board of her; they would suit exactly.
There is one thing interesting about the Miss O’Briens. They are very attentive and affectionate to their mother; which, considering how she sometimes treats them, speaks well for their tempers. She may well pronounce them “very steady girls.” But their conversation is of that kind which, however often one may hear it, one can scarcely credit on recollection. I set down one specimen, as a fair example. Dr. Sharp was called yesterday to one of the crew who was ill. As he returned, looking rather thoughtful, Mr. Mann observed to the O’Brien family that the doctor was quite a man of consequence to-day. Thereupon ensued, —
First Miss O.
“La! Doctor, how consequential you look!”
Second Miss O.
“Well! Doctor, how consequential you look!”
“Why, the Doctor does look consequential indeed!”
First Miss O.
(to Mr. Mann.) “La! Sir, how consequential the Doctor does look!”
Second Miss O.
“Now does n’t the Doctor look quite consequential?” — And so on, for above ten minutes.
The captain has just been unpacking a hundred towels; a goodly sight for those who rehearse drowning every morning (in salt water,) as I do. I am certain that no practice is so beneficial to health at sea as plenty of bathing, with friction afterwards. A large foot-bath, or small tub, may easily be procured; and the steward will draw up a bucket or two of sea-water every morning. A sea-faring friend told me this before I sailed; and I have often been thankful for the advice.
Our cargo is partly turpentine. The vessel leaks and so do the turpentine casks; and what comes up by the pumps is so nauseous as to cause much complaint among the passengers. There was no time at New York to get the copper bottom mended; and the crew are hard worked with the pumping. The captain says if the leak increases, he shall employ the steerage passengers at the pumps. Mr. Browning shows me the chart. We are rather more than half way. He considers it two-thirds, as the best is all to come. “All down hill now,” he says.
August 17th. — Going on most prosperously. We have never slackened on our course since I made my last entry. Kind-hearted Margaret came to my bed-side early this morning, to tell me that at four o’clock we were going twelve knots, right on our course. If we hold on till noon, we are pretty sure of being carried straight in by this blessed wind. All are well, and in better temper, unless it be Mrs. Happen. Yesterday, while all was bright and gleesome, she was “low.” She did not know that we should ever arrive! Betting is the order of the day with the idle young men. As the weather is not wet, and they cannot therefore bet upon the raindrops running down the cabin windows, they are obliged to find or make other subjects for bets. Yesterday at dinner they betted about whether they could roll up bits of bread so tight as not to break when thrown down on deck! Also whether they could swallow a pill of bread so rolled up, the size of the end of the thumb. They were so impatient they could not wait till the cloth was removed, but missed their dessert for the sake of this thumbed bread. They bet at cards, and one of them declared he had lost sixteen dollars, — £4. After having talked very loud over their cards, till just midnight, last night Dr. Sharp got his flute, and played execrably, till requested to be quiet till morning. It did not occur to him that he was disturbing anybody.
The captain is very grave, while all looks so prosperous. His sister says, with tears, that “it is a hard voyage to him;” but we tell her it will not matter a month hence, when his unamiable passengers will have dispersed to the four winds. He discovered yesterday that the stewards have been leaving the ice-house door open, so that the ice is nearly all gone; and he fears he shall lose some of his best joints of beef. Upon this he good-humouredly said, “Sea-captains are not intended to be good-tempered. It should not be looked for. At the top of a heap of little vexations, comes a gale; and then they should not be expected not to shout pretty sharply to their crews.” We do not believe he ever does. He showed good manners yesterday to a ship that we hailed. In the early morning, when the fog drew up, there was an ethereal vision of a ship on our horizon. We overtook her just at noon. (We overtake every thing.) She looked so beautiful all the morning, that we did nothing but watch her. As we approached we went to leeward, the captain explaining, in answer to our questions, that it is worth losing a little time to be civil. She was the St. Vincent of Bristol, thirty-three days from Jamaica. I pitied the poor ladies on board, of whom we saw many on deck. The captains each asked the other to report him, in case of arriving first Our young men laughed at the idea of our being reported by a ship thirty-three days from Jamaica; but our captain looked grave, and said it looked presumptuous to make sure of our having no accident; and uncivil to assure the St. Vincent that she could not, by possibility, be of any service to us. She could have spared us some limes; but it would have used up too much time to send a boat for them; so we dashed on, and she was out of sight westward before the afternoon. I never saw a greater press of sail than she carried; but her bows were like a breakwater, so square and clumsy.
In the afternoon I read “Much Ado about Nothing,” and watched a shoal of porpoises. They are welcome visitors in any weather; but they seem extremely lively in a rough sea, chasing one another, and shooting through the midst of a rising billow. They are sometimes caught and killed, to be eaten more as a curiosity than a delicacy. I am told that the meat resembles coarse and tough beef. The mate wounded one to-day; and its companions crowded on it to eat it up. Some Jaques on board asked me if this was not the way of the world; to which I indignantly answered, No!
18th. — Still dashing on. Mr. Browning expects that we shall get in on Tuesday of next week: the captain says Thursday or Friday. I listen to neither, knowing how little such calculations are to be depended upon.
21st, Sunday. — We have been rolling about so that it has been impossible to write. We have had a fine run for eight days now. Yesterday’s observation gave 220 miles for the twenty-four hours. The captain says we are pretty sure of running straight up to Liverpool. By to-morrow morning, we may see land. I dreamed last night that I saw it first; — a lovely Irish hill. It is almost too cold now to be on deck, with any amount of cloakage: a sign of being near land. The joke since we passed half-way, has been to annoy me by ascribing all evils whatever to the foggy English climate. Mr. Browning began; the captain carries it on; and the ingenuity with which they keep it up is surprising. Something of the sort drops from the captain’s lips, like a grave passing observation, many times a day. I shall have no respite now; for every one will be too cold till we land.
We had a prodigious run last night. While we were at our rubber, the news spread (as news does on board ship) that the captain was on deck, taking in sail, ordering in the dead-lights (the shutters which block up the cabin-windows in the stern,) and “expecting a blow.” Under the idea that it was raining, I was, for once, about to retire to my room without running up on deck; but the captain came for me, thinking I should like to see what was doing: and indeed he was right. Though he had taken in the studding-sails, mainsail, and royals, we were flying through at the rate of twelve knots. The clouds were blown down the eastern sky, — and the stars so bright, they looked as if they were coming down. But below us, what a sight! The dazzling spray was dashed half a mile off, in a level surface which looked like a white marble floor, gemmed with stars. The captain says, people talk of the monotony of the sea; but the land is to him monotonous in comparison with the variety in which he revels in his night-watches. It is evidently a perpetual excitement and delight to him. But, truly, the contrast between the deck and the cabin is wonderful. When I came down at midnight, I thought it possible that some of the ladies might be alarmed; and I therefore told Margaret, in a voice loud enough to be heard by any who might be trembling in their berths, that the captain said it would be a fine night, and that the stars were already bright. Half an hour after, when I was asleep, Miss Saunders came down, and the following took place: —
A trembling voice from somewhere cried, “Miss Saunders! Miss Saunders!”
Miss Saunders peers into all the ladies’ rooms, and finds it is Miss O’Brien who calls.
“Miss Saunders, is the storm very bad? — is there much danger?”
“There is no storm, ma’am: only a brisk, fair wind. I heard nothing of any danger.”
When Miss Saunders is falling asleep, she is roused by another call. She puts on a cloak, and goes to Miss O’Brien’s room.
“O, Miss Saunders! have n’t we shipped a sea?”
looks round the cabin. “No, ma’am: I do not see any sea.”
Before she is quite asleep, she hears Miss Lamine’s voice from the sofa, to which the captain has kindly lashed chairs, to prevent her falling off; as she persists in sleeping there, though retaining her berth.
“O, Mrs. Happen! Mrs. Happen!”
“Well! what do you want?”
“We are sinking, ma’am. I feel the ship sinking!”
Miss Saunders wakes up to assure the ladies that the ship is on the surface. Mrs. Happen grumbles at her first sleep being broken. She slept no more; and of course is out of humour with the whole universe to-day. Nothing is on her lips but that Miss Lamine broke her first and only sleep.
I have had a talk, prodigious for its breadth, length, depth, and earnestness, with Mr. Browning, about the duty of republicans exercising the suffrage; brought on by his saying that he had never voted but once in his life. I believe we said an octavo volume between us, — I hope to some purpose. He is a good man, with a warm simple heart, a full sense of what he owes to his excellent wife, and a head which only wants to be put a little in order. He is full of knowledge, and fond of thinking.
Mrs. O’Brien has, we suppose, kept her temper in check as long as she can; for now it is coming out worse than Mrs. Happen’s, if that be possible. At dinner, the other day, she began to scold her daughters, in the presence of passengers and servants: but the captain warded it off by saying that he would not have the young ladies found fault with, for that I had been telling him that I thought them very attentive and affectionate daughters. She looked gratified and complacent; but not for long. In the evening, she complained to Mrs. Ely, who was on the sofa, very unwell, of her own sensibilities; and confessed she felt very hysterical. The confession from her lips is always a signal for the cabin being cleared; every one dreading a scene. It was so now; and there were no hysterics. This morning, however, the sensibilities thus repressed have broken out; and a most unsanctified scene has disgraced our Sunday. The lady was cold in the night. Margaret was sorry: would have been happy to supply her with as many blankets as she pleased, if she had but asked for them. The lady would perish rather than ask Margaret for anything. She would have no breakfast. Margaret entreated: the daughters implored, with many tears. The lady compelled them to go to the breakfast-table with their swollen eyes; but no breakfast would she have. Margaret, in the kindness of her heart, prepared a delicate breakfast, — strong tea, hot buttered roll and sliced tongue. The woman actually threw the breakfast at the girl’s head! Margaret was fluttered, and said she did not know whether to laugh or cry. I advised her to do neither, if she could help it. At breakfast, the captain, knowing nothing of this scene, called — “Margaret, why don’t you carry Mrs. O’Brien some breakfast?” “I did, sir,” replied the girl in a whisper; “and she hove the bread at me.” “O ho!” said the captain. Presently, he strode down the room, and into the ladies’ cabin, both doors of which he shut. He soon came forth, looking his gravest. The lady was very “hysterical” all day. Every heart ached for her weeping daughters.
We have been asking Mr. Browning to propose the captain’s health, with an expression of thanks and friendship on the part of the passengers, the day before we land. This is the usual practice, we believe, when the captain has done his duty. Mr. Browning heartily consents, saying that it is only the captain’s temper which has kept any order at all. We hope that Mrs. Happen may be so overawed as not to dare to move an amendment.
Afternoon. — Mr. Browning says he fears we must give the matter up. The young men have been abusing the captain so grossly over their wine, — particularly for not having the cow milked these two days, and for letting Mr. Tracy have a room to himself, that something disagreeable would certainly arise out of any attempt to gratify our good friend. Our acknowledgments must be made individually. Mr. Bruce drew up a very good letter of thanks; but any formal proceeding from which one-third of the passengers would probably choose to exclude themselves, would give the captain as much pain in one way as pleasure in another.
We took our seats at the bottom of the table at the outset, to avoid any contention about precedence. It is well we did; for the captain’s immediate presence is required to keep the conversation from being really offensive: it ’s being very silly, even the captain cannot prevent. Here is a specimen or two.
“Mr. A. has so many bales of cotton for sale this year.”
“I am sure I have not got that number of bales of cotton.”
“No; because you are a bale of cotton yourself.” (Roars of laughter.)
“Somebody always says to me at tea-time, ‘Sir, will you have black tea or green tea?’ I expect somebody will say to me some day, ‘Sir, will you have red tea or yellow tea?’ ” (Roars of laughter.)
Since I came on board, I seem to have gained a new sense of the value of knowledge, of an active, reasonable mind, as well as of a disciplined and benevolent temper. Notwithstanding the occasional mirth of these people, and their ostentatious party merriment, I think I never saw persons so unhappy. No suffering from poverty or sickness ever struck me so mournfully as the misery of these ship-mates, from vacuity of mind; from selfishness, with all its little affectations; from jealousy, with its intolerable torments. How they get on in their homes I have no means of knowing; but the contrast at sea between them and such of their fellow-passengers as are peaceable, active, employed, and mutually accommodating is one of the most striking and instructive spectacles I ever witnessed. The mischief has not stopped with their immediate suffering from ennui and ill-humour: some have been led to plot crime, which it is no merit of their own that they do not execute. I cannot enter here upon this part of their disgusting history: suffice it that the captain’s vigilance and authority are too strong for them.
The wind blew us on gloriously all day; and there was every expectation at bed-time that we might see land at daybreak. In the evening, we sketched out European tours, by the map, for such of our party as were going to travel; and we were all in fine spirits. The young men at the upper end of the table had an argument as to whether Sunday was over, so that they might go to cards. They appealed to Miss Lamine whether Sunday was not over when the sun set. She decided in the negative; so Dr. Sharp began doling forth a Report of a Charity, in the most melancholy voice imaginable; and the whole coterie moved off very early to bed.
22nd. — The young men are making up for last evening’s abstinence. They are busy at cards, almost before breakfast is cleared away. What can they suppose religion is?
I have seen some Irish earth. On sounding, we find sixty fathoms; and some sand came up on the lead. Mr. Browning thinks it not so clean and neat as American sand. A calm fell at five o’clock; and we are moving very slowly. There is fog at a distance; but we have seen a faint, brief line of coast. I do hope the sun will come out, and the wind freshen at noon. Meantime, the sea has lost its deep blue beauty, and we have not arrived at the beauty of the land; so I think it an excellent time for writing.
You should see how faded and even rotten our dresses look, from head to foot. To-morrow or Wednesday we hope to have the pleasure of dressing so as not to be ashamed of ourselves and one another. But it is a piece of extravagance, which none but silly people are guilty of, to dress well at sea, where the incessant damp and salt ruin all fabrics and all colors. Silks fade; and cottons cannot be washed; stuffs shrink and curl. Dark prints perhaps look neat the longest. Mrs. Ely’s drawn bonnet, of gingham, looks the handsomest article of dress now on board; unless it be Miss Taylor’s neat black-print gown.
23rd. — The rest of yesterday was very interesting. On going up, before noon, I found Ringan Head visible at forty-five miles off; and three other points of high land. At one, a favourable breeze sprang up, and lasted till evening, when it died away. We drew nearer and nearer to land, till we were within twelve miles. This was off the Point of Kinsale, where we were when the calm fell. The captain called me up after dinner, to show me where the Albion was lost; the packet commanded by Captain Williams, which was lost, with all the crew and passengers but two or three, I think, some ten or twelve years ago. I could see the spot distinctly; a bay between two high points of land. The captain ran into this bay in thick weather, and was unable to get out again. If the Albion had struck a few rods further on, she would have gone on a sloping sand-beach, and the passengers might have got out, almost without wetting their feet. As it was, she struck against a perpendicular wall of rock.
The captain stayed talking with me all the afternoon, and we watched for the kindling of the light on the high Point of Kinsale, 400 feet above the sea. It looked so beautiful and so friendly that we could attend to nothing else. The last light I saw was the Fort Gratiot light, on the wild evening when I left lake Huron in a thunder-storm. How familiar did the Kinsale light look in comparison! The captain’s heart was quite opened by it. “I shall stand here,” he had declared, “till I see that light. It is of no consequence to me; I know where I am, and how to steer, but it is pleasant to me to see those lights. They ought to have kindled it by this time. I wonder we don’t see it. There! there it is! You can’t see it well yet. It will be deep red presently. So many pleasant thoughts belong to such a light — so many lives saved — so many feelings made comfortable!” I felt it like the first welcome home. The dim outline of land in the morning was pleasant but mute: here were human hands at work for us. It was, to all intents and purposes, a signal; and I could not turn my eyes from it.
We saw, this afternoon, a fishing-boat with its dark brown sails. Through the glass, I discerned two men in her, and cried out that I had seen two Irishmen. Everybody laughed at me. To be sure, we have more than that on board; and you may meet 100 per hour in New York; but that is not like seeing them in their own boat, fishing in their own sea. Sail hovered about us all day. Mrs. O’Brien is busy in the cabin among her bandboxes, quilling and trimming. I shall not take out any of my land-clothes yet, to get mildewed, when we may still be some time in reaching port. I am afraid of growing restless if I prepare for shore too soon. One would shun the heart-sickness of hope deferred when one can. Pouring rain to-night; so we sit down to our rubber as if we had not seen the land. This is chiefly (as it has been throughout) for Mr. Ely’s sake. He is very poorly, and reads quite enough by daylight. He seems to enjoy his rubber in the evening.
This morning the weather is not favourable. The wind has been round to every point of the compass during the night, and is now blowing from the north-east, “right a-head.” I do not feel very impatient at present. Miss Saunders is rather glad of the delay. She dreads landing among strangers, though she knows they are already friends.
Mrs. Ely has been very bold this morning with Mrs. O’Brien (as the lady had no buttered roll by her) about the fees to the stewardess. The stewardess depends solely upon the fees paid by the lady passengers; and the service is so important, and so extremely fatiguing, that it ought to be well paid. The stewardess has to attend upon the ladies, night and day, in their sea-sickness; to keep their state-rooms; to wait at meals in the large cabin; to be up before all the ladies, and go to rest after them. Among such a company of ladies, there are usually some who rise early, and always some who go to rest very late; and commonly a few who cannot be easily pleased, and who keep their attendant on the foot at all hours, without any consideration. When all this is considered, and it is remembered how helpless and uncomfortable the ladies would be without such a servant, it is clear that the stewardess should be handsomely paid. The captain interested us particularly for Margaret, by telling us that she was extremely poor, as she sent every shilling she could spare from her absolute wants to her old father and mother in Scotland. Judging by what we knew to have been done in similar cases, we agreed that Margaret should have a sovereign from each of us. Miss Lamine, and Miss Taylor, and the ladies of our party paid this; but Mrs. O’Brien declared she would pay nothing, as Margaret had shown her no attention at all! It will be too bad if, in addition to the many crying fits this woman has occasioned to the poor girl, and all the toil she and her daughters have imposed upon her, night and day, she defrauds her of the money she has fairly earned. Mrs. O’Brien became so “hysterical” that Mrs. Ely had to desist for this time; but she does not mean to let the matter stop here. As for Mrs. Happen, she not only refused to give anything, but, in her passion at being asked, sent the plate down the whole length of the table. There is something really terrifying in such tempers. Mrs. Ely changed colour as if she had been in the wrong, instead of the right. Mr. Browning says there are occasions on which people show their real selves, — in the treatment of their servants. I own that I was as much surprised as I was indignant, to find that people of good property, as these ladies both are, could stoop to accept the hard service of a very poor girl, with the knowledge all the time that they meant to defraud her of her wages. They might at least have given her warning, that she might know that she was conferring charity upon them in serving them. I trust they will think better of the matter, and repair their injustice to her at last.
We are now between Cork and Milford Haven, out of sight of land.
25th. — Now, did you not expect that the next entry would be of our arrival? Far from it. There is much to be said first. I was obliged to quit my writing, last time, by the rolling of the ship; and for the rest of the day, we were treated with a gale, far more stormy than any we had during the voyage. It blew tremendously from the north-east. With the tide in our favour, and every sail snug, we were driven in the direction of the Devonshire coast; and thankful we were that we had plenty of sea-room. Mrs. Ely and others were as sick as ever; and at dinner there was the well-remembered scene of every thing solid slipping about the dishes, and every thing liquid being spilled: though the frames were on, — the wooden frames, made to fit the tables, with holes for the bottles and glasses. It was a truly uncomfortable day, though there was nothing to occasion fear in any but the most timid persons.
Yesterday morning we had the alternative of being sick below, or half-sick and half-frozen on deck. We preferred the latter, and were ere long repaid. We were going over the ground lost the day before, standing in for the Irish coast. There were large flocks of Neptune’s sheep (waves breaking into foam;) and the sky was so clear, that Mr. Browning, with his malicious eye-glass, could not discern a streak of English fog all day.
About noon, the outline of the Dungarvon Mountains appeared, and the bay of Tramore, with three white towers at one extremity, and one at the other, and the town of Tramore, at the bottom of the bay. We saw, too, the high lighthouse at the extremity of Waterford Bay, and a steam-boat in the entrance. Seven other sail were about us, and we felt in the midst of society once more. Before we tacked we came near enough to see the recesses in the sharp-cut rocks or cliffs on the shore, and the green downs sloping up from their summits. With the glass I could distinguish the windows of three large houses in Tramore. The outline of the mountains behind was very fine, and the lights and shadows on them delicious to behold. We tacked all day, and amused ourselves with watching the points of the shore, advancing and receding; with speaking the ship “Georgia of Boston,” bound to New York, which we hope will report us to you; and with admiring the clear setting sun, and the rising moon, almost at the full. She never looked finer since she was first set spinning.
There was some sad nonsense among us, even on this important and pleasurable day. Mrs. O’Brien looked cold, as she sat on the rail, in the breeze, and Mr. Simpson caused his warm broad-cloth cloak to be brought for her. Mrs. Happen, who was sitting on deck, sheltered and in the sun, growled out, “You never offered me your cloak.” Immediately after dinner, when the gentlemen were at their wine, she sent Sally down for Mr. Simpson’s cloak, and wore it all the afternoon.
The captain promised us the quietest night we had had since we left New York; and I accordingly went to sleep, nothing doubting, though the last thing I was aware of was that there was a prodigious tramping upon deck, which I concluded was from the crew shifting the sails. I slept till daylight, and thus missed a scene, partly dreadful, partly ridiculous. This tramping excited the attention of the ladies; and Mrs. Ely next heard a cry of distress from the deck, and then another, a sort of scream. The gentlemen rushed from their rooms, and up on deck; the ladies screamed, and said it was fire, the ship sinking, running foul of another ship, and much besides. Miss Taylor (still very delicate) heard every voice calling “Captain! Captain!” and naturally supposing that something had happened to her brother, fainted away in her berth, where she was found some time after still insensible. One gentleman brought out his pistol, and Mrs. Happen entreated that she might not be shot. Mrs. Ely and Miss Saunders remained in their rooms, and were presently told that there was no danger, that it was all over. The captain put forth his authority, and ordered every body to bed. How much the passengers really knew of the cause of this bustle I cannot say; but the affair was this. The captain had a bad crew. Yesterday, at the instigation of a mischievous fellow among them, there was a sort of mutiny about their beef; a silly complaint, particularly foolish when preferred almost within sight of port. Mr. Browning knew that the captain meant to shut up the ringleader in the ice-house (now as warm as any part of the ship) at midnight, when the passengers should be asleep. The man resisted, making so much noise over the passengers’ heads, that the captain sent him into confinement in the forepart of the ship: but it was too late for secrecy. The captain is much annoyed at the confusion created; and I do not think he is aware that any of us know the cause.
All is quiet enough this morning. It is bright and cold. We are off Tusca lighthouse, the extreme south-east point of Ireland; and the little wind there is is fair. This mutiny is a good hint. If we grow dull, I shall propose a mutiny about the handles of the milk pitchers, which were broken off in the gale; the pitchers being thus rendered inconvenient to hold.
At this moment, Mr. Tracy brings news that the captain expects to be off Holyhead this evening; so I jump up, and run to unpack and arrange for landing, that I may have the last few hours free. O, with what pleasure I took out gown, shawl, bonnet and gloves for to-morrow! packing up books; putting away everything sea-spoiled, and being completely at liberty by dinner-time!
In the afternoon, the captain found a dry seat on the binnacle for Miss Saunders and me; and then went and stood by himself, too much excited for conversation. Mr. Browning told us we could not understand the emotions of the captain of a ship on concluding his voyage. We talked of our homes on either side of the water; and looked out through the fog and rain, dimly discerning a ship which we supposed to be the packet of the 24th. — After tea we played, for Mr. Ely’s sake, our final rubber: but we could not attend to our cards, and were glad to throw them away. At half-past ten o’clock, we ran up to see the Holyhead light. As we passed in the dark, there could be no telegraphic communication to Liverpool of our approach, and we must give up the hope of seeing our friends on the pier.
26th. — At six, Miss Saunders came to my room, dressed, and talked for an hour, the cabin being in great confusion with the preparations of the ladies. We sent Margaret to learn where we were. About thirty miles from Liverpool; but the tide would not allow us to get to port before eleven. Every body was assembled early on deck, dressed for landing; and each, as he appeared, more spruce than the last. The cook could not be prevailed upon to let us have a slovenly breakfast early, that we might be wholly at leisure at the last. By a little after nine, however, the steams of breakfast ascended; and before that time I saw, through the glass, the church steeples of Liverpool. The Welsh mountains looked lovely through the thin haze, which Mr. Browning chose to call a fog.
Mr. Bruce gratified me by a piece of truly kind consideration. He said that, from the absence of notice of our approach from Holyhead, my friends would not probably be awaiting me. He was alone, with time to spare. If I would give him a line to my friends, he would be the first to step ashore, and would bring them to me. I promised to accept his good offices, if, after reasonable waiting, no familiar faces appeared on the pier.
Soon after breakfast we saw the floating lights and the castle at the mouth of the Mersey; then New Brighton, with its white houses, trim gardens and plantations; and then some golden harvest-fields. The post-office boat was soon seen coming towards us — a sign we were expected. Then came the custom-house boat, to deposit an officer on board. We pointed out to Miss Saunders the gable of a house covered with ivy; — a plant which she had read of, since she could read at all, but never seen, as it does not grow in America. She was surprised at the narrowness of the Mersey; Mr. Bruce apologized for it; — a bad habit which he had learned in America, we told him.
As we hove alongside the pier groups began to assemble; chiefly work-people from about the docks. All had their hands in their pockets; and Miss Saunders asked me, laughing, whether she was to conclude that all Englishmen carried their hands there. In a few minutes breathless gentlemen came running down the Parade. Among them I found the face I was looking for. A watchman had given notice, from the top of the Exchange, that the Eurydice was coming up the river, and in an incredibly short time the news spread over the town. With eager kindness the captain fixed the plank, and handed me on shore.
I am sure this gentleman must by this time have more of your esteem and regard than ever. We, his passengers, feel that we are more deeply indebted to him than he knows of; not only for his professional qualities and hospitality, but for a lesson on the value of good temper, and the dignity of greatness of mind.
As for the rest, they kept up their characters to the end. Miss Lamine’s last act on board was ordering the steward to throw overboard Miss Saunders’s geranium, brought from Dr. Channing’s garden in Rhode Island, and kept alive through the voyage by great care. Wherever these ladies may have gone (and we have heard nothing of them since,) they carry with them our sincerest pity. Others of the company of shipmates have since repeatedly met, and enjoyed, as shipmates do, the retrospect of the brighter days of their Month at Sea.
CORRESPONDENCE ABOUT A PENSION.
Putney Park, Sunday, 27th December, 1840.
Dear Miss Martineau, —
I have often regretted that Lord Grey’s intention had been so strenuously resisted by you, and that he had not remained in power long enough to afford time for you to reconsider your first impulse.
I write now to say that although I have only spoken to one person on the subject, we were both strongly of opinion that it ought to be a gratification to Lord Melbourne to do what Lord Grey would have done; and I only wish to know that, if such a step were taken, it would not be resisted by you.
I do not wish to give you the trouble of writing to me on this subject. Your silence will be quite sufficient; and I trust you know me well enough to confide in the discretion of
Dear Miss Martineau,