Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER LVIII.: A VISIT TO AMERICA. 1882. Æt. 62. - An Autobiography, vol. 2
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CHAPTER LVIII.: A VISIT TO AMERICA. 1882. Æt. 62. - Herbert Spencer, An Autobiography, vol. 2 
An Autobiography by Herbert Spencer. Illustrated in Two Volumes. Vol. 2 (New York: D. Appleton and Company 1904).
Part of: An Autobiography
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A VISIT TO AMERICA.
Paraphrasing a familiar remark, one may say,—Happy are the voyagers whose narratives are dull. Ours answered to this description. It was prosperous, and without noteworthy incident. Of entries in my diary, one made on the 16th, after only four days at sea, shows my constitutional impatience—“Getting very much bored.” On the 19th there is the entry—“Magnificent sunset; the finest in colour I ever saw.” And a wretched night, noted on the 18th, was accompanied by the remark—“Terrific disturbance from fog-whistle.”
This last entry reminds me of an error I had made. It will scarcely be said of me that I usually accept current statements without sufficient criticism; but even I am not infrequently misled by too readily giving credence. It is commonly alleged that a berth amid-ships is the best, because the motion from pitching is there the smallest; and the berth which I took in the “Servia” was in this position. I quite forgot that, as I am a good sailor (I had not a qualm either going or returning), avoidance of much motion was of secondary moment, and that for me a state-room in the bow, where the noises are least, was the most desirable. The result of the mistake was that not only by the shrieks of the fog-whistle, which was just over my head, but by other loud sounds, my ordinarily bad sleep was made more broken than ever.
A climax was put to the mischief on the last night. We arrived too late to reach the wharf, and had to lie off Staten Island. Here the raising of the baggage and cargo, in preparation for landing in the morning, gave me, as my diary says, “a horrible night from noises;” so that, when my friend Youmans came on board at 7 on the morning of the 21st to welcome me, he found me in an unusually dilapidated state.
“I had to remind myself when entering a shop that it was not needful to speak French”, said Lott a day or two after, a propos of the foreign aspect of the houses. It is the older part of New York which yields this impression, due, I suppose, to the prevalence of green Venetian-blind shutters, like those which prevail on the Continent.
Soon, however, when we reached its modern parts, the feeling produced by the aspect of New York was one of surprise at its magnificence. Thinking of it chiefly as a centre of business-activity, and perhaps unduly influenced by much that I had read about its ill-paved streets, I had conceived the place as having small pretensions to architectural beauty; and was consequently unprepared for the multitude of imposing edifices. My diary says—“Am astonished by the grandeur of New York”. We have nothing to compare with Fifth Avenue.
Prof. and Mrs. Youmans had expected me to be their guest, and had made arrangements for my friend Lott also, in fulfilment of an invitation sent him to England. But I was obliged to disappoint them. In my shattered state I dared not undertake the social responsibilities which would have been entailed, even in the absence of visitors. And then the interviewers had to be avoided. These quickly made their appearance, and, though put off for a time by the statement that I was too unwell to see anyone, would have soon returned. The result was that before the day was over, we migrated to the Windsor Hotel; where, my companion having a great faculty for silence when need was, I felt in his company safe against excitement.
Next day was spent in making preparations for our tour; and the morning after saw us on our way to a place of rest, which was so needful to me.
The first part of our journey was by steamer up the Hudson, which scarcely reached my expectations, save about West Point, where it is picturesque. Leaving it at Rondout Ferry, we went thence by railway and vehicle to the Kaarterskill Hotel—the place Youmans had fixed upon for us. Some 3,000 feet above the sea, this is one of those refuges to which the Americans fly in July and August from the heats of their cities. Here five days were passed beneficially.
The entry we made in the hotel-book was—“Mr. Edward Lott and friend”: the intention being to avoid salutations and inquiries. Of course this mode of entry was in itself suspicious; and though the New York papers had given no clue (for they had been successfully mystified respecting my movements), the host and some of the guests, when the time for our departure came, said that from the beginning they had known who the “friend” was; but that, seeing I wished to be quiet, they had respected the incognito. We did not repeat the device, which was obviously useless.
Our rambles during the few days’ stay on the top of this mountain (or big hill, rather, for the Catskills have not that ruggedness which the word mountains suggests) made us acquainted, among other things, with a portion of virgin forest. I was shown how erroneous was my preconception. In common, I daresay, with the preconceptions of most others, mine had been based on experiences of woods at home; and I had failed to imagine an important trait, of which we see nothing in England—the cumbering of the ground on every side with the decaying, moss-covered trunks of past generations of trees, lying prone, or leaning one upon another at various angles, and in all stages of decay.
While sitting on a ledge of rock facing the East, and looking over the wide country stretching away to the horizon beyond the Hudson, it was interesting to think that here we were in a land we had read about all our lives—interesting, and a little difficult, to think of it as some three thousand miles from the island on the other side of the Atlantic whence we had come. Not easy was it either, and indeed impossible in any true sense, to conceive the real position of this island on that vast surface which slowly curves downward beyond the horizon: the impossibility being one which I have vividly felt when gazing sea-ward at the masts of a vessel below the horizon, and trying to conceive the actual surface of the Earth, as slowly bending round till its meridians met eight thousand miles beneath my feet: the attempt producing what may be figuratively called a kind of mental choking, from the endeavour to put into the intellectual structure a conception immensely too large for it.
I may remark, in passing, that it is well occasionally thus to do, what nine hundred and ninety-nine in a thousand never think of doing—to dwell awhile on such imaginations as we can frame of those vast cosmical phenomena amid which “our little lives” are passed—to think, for example, that while the eye has been passing from the beginning of this line to the end of it, the Earth has travelled thirty miles!
On August 29, a drive, a short railway-journey, a ferry passage, and a longer railway-journey, brought us to Albany, where a few hours were spent: mainly in seeing the Capitol. In fulfilment of a pre-arrangement we then went on to Saratoga.
The pre-arrangement was that Prof. Youmans and his wife would meet us there. We found them at the United States Hotel, which my American friend wished me to see as unique—“said to be the biggest hotel in the world—1500 guests,” as my diary notes. The sight was, however, partially thrown away on me. I have a vague recollection of the vast dining-room with its long ranges of tables and multitudinous persons; but the persons themselves left no impression. I am a bad observer of humanity in the concrete: being too much given to wandering off into the abstract. My habit of falling into trains of thought is at variance with the habit of watching people around. I suppose I lack a good deal of knowledge to be hence derived, and lose a good deal of amusement. In these latter years, especially, I find that I contemplate so little the faces of those whom I see at parties or elsewhere, that several meetings are commonly needful to make me remember them. Naturally, then, I did not profit much by the opportunity of criticizing a crowd of American fashionables. Neither their manners nor their costumes, both of which would, I suppose, have called remarks from most people, called any remarks from me. Costumes, indeed, I usually notice so little that, unless they are very good or very bad, I retain not the slightest recollections of them. A simple dress which is elegant without the appearance of effort, and a dress which is tawdry, or discordant in its colours, or bad from overelaboration, I occasionally remark. But unless as presenting one or other of these extremes, the attire of no lady at a dinner party or soirée ever leaves the slightest trace in my memory. Such attention as I give is given to the wearers and not to their clothes.
One person whom I saw, however, and one criticism which I passed on him, I do remember. Walking about the hotel garden was a railway magnate, said to be one of the wealthiest of Americans. He was a coarse-featured man; and, I was told, had manners to match. Before I left England, one who had business-relations with him offered me a letter of introduction; saying that, if I behaved civilly and went to dine with him, he would probably give me a free pass over the railways. But I preferred not to accept the introduction.
Two days sufficed for Saratoga; and on the morning of Sept. 1 we departed northwards by railway to Lake St. George, and by steamer to its upper end: being accompanied so far by Mr. and Mrs. Youmans, who there bade us good-bye and returned home. Lake St. George is the most picturesque thing I saw in the United States. Three of our English lakes placed end to end would be something like it in extent and scenery. A steamer up Lake Champlain delivered us at Burlington in the course of the afternoon; and the afternoon of the next day saw us on our way to Canada. Mr. Iles, the manager of the Windsor Hotel, had some months before written pressing me to stay there when I visited Montreal. He came to a station some distance down the line to meet us, and piloted us thence to our destination. During the few days of our stay, we were treated by him en prince.
The meeting of the British Association had ended before our arrival. On the whole this was fortunate; for, probably, had it been going on, further mischiefs would have been added to those which I had suffered. The sights of Montreal and its surroundings remained the sole attractions. There was the ascent of the hill which gives its name to the place—Mount Royal; there was a drive up the banks of the St. Lawrence to the Lachine rapids; and there were the noteworthy buildings of the city itself.
To many travellers these would, I dare say, have given more pleasure than they gave to me; for I failed to exclude the thought of certain antecedents not in harmony with a feeling of admiration. For a generation or more Canadians have been coming to England for capital to make their great lines of railway; and have put before English investors statements of costs and profits so favourable, that they have obtained the required sums. These statements have proved far more wide of the truth than such statements usually prove—so wide of it that the undertakings have been extremely disastrous to investors: impoverishing great numbers, and ruining not a few (my poor friend Lott becoming, eventually, one of these last, and dying prematurely in consequence). But while, to open up these communications which have been so immensely beneficial to their commerce and industries, the Canadians have, by exaggerated representations, got from the mother-country resources which they were supposed unable to furnish themselves, they have yet been able to build imposing cities full of magnificent mansions, and at Montreal an hotel far exceeding in grandeur anything the mother-country could, at that time, show.
Sunday and Monday having been passed at Montreal, half a day on Tuesday carried us by the Grand Trunk railway to Brockville; where, crossing the St. Lawrence, we got on board a steamer bound for Alexandra Bay—a place built for visitors to “The Thousand Islands.” Here the morrow was spent with much pleasure, partly in a hired boat which took us amid the islands near at hand, and partly in an excursion-steamer which made a run of some forty miles, it was said, through the remoter islands. How the region could have been formed—how the St. Lawrence could have cut these multitudinous channels, dividing tree-covered masses of rock of all sizes,—it is difficult to understand. But it is the romance of the scene which chiefly impresses one. Obviously this trait has prompted inhabitation; for here a small hotel, and there a villa, peeps out amid the trees. It has become the fashion among wealthy Americans to have one of these small water-guarded areas as a summer abode: gratification being doubtless given to a sentiment which is active during boyhood and is not altogether dead in adult life.
Picking us up next day, a steamer for Toronto carried us through another region of “The Thousand Islands,” and presently on to Lake Ontario. “In the afternoon we came unto” a town, in which it could not be said that “it seemed always afternoon”; but in which, contrariwise, the vivacity of morning seemed conspicuous. This was Kingston, where the steamer stopped for a time to take in wood. We rambled about and found, to our astonishment and shame, that though containing only ten or twelve thousand people, Kingston had the telephone in use all over the place. I say “to our shame”, because at that time (1882), the telephone was scarcely used at all in London, and was unknown in our great provincial towns. I have sometimes puzzled myself over the anomaly that while, in some ways, the English are extremely enterprising, they are, in other ways, extremely unenterprising. I remember that in 1868 the hotel I stopped at in Naples had electric bells to all the rooms; though in England no such appliances had come within the range of my observation. While there exist a select few among us who are full of ideas, the great masses of our people appear to be without ideas. Or, to state the case otherwise, it seems as if the English nature (I say English, because I do not assert it of either Scotch or Irish) exhibits a wider range than any other nature between its heights of intelligence and its depths of stupidity.
A night spent on board the steamer while traversing Lake Ontario, was followed by the arrival at Toronto before mid-day; and, after a few hours spent there, another steamer took us across the lake to Niagara. Thence, after a brief railway-journey, we reached the Falls.
“Much what I had expected” is the remark in my diary. That is, the Falls neither came short of my expectations nor much exceeded them. I think, however, that the effect of closer acquaintance was to deepen the impression of grandeur. With the intermission of a day at Buffalo, a week was spent in contemplating the scene and its surroundings from all points of view. We saw everything that was to be seen, including the “Cave of the Winds”; and saw it with the deliberation needful for full appreciation and enjoyment.
I was a good deal at a loss to understand the denuding action by which the falls have cut their way back so far. Often where streams make deep gorges, they do it by the aid of stones and gravel swept down in times of flood, and serving to file the rocks. But at Niagara no hard masses are habitually carried over by the water to act as excavating tools; and though, a mile lower down, the rapids are violent enough to carry along great rocks if they came, yet the intervening space of water has a current so moderate that it could not carry along even boulders. How then is the material cut out, and in what shape transported? There seems no alternative but to conclude that the denuding force is the unaided impact of the water on the rocks at the bottom of the fall. The fall is 160 feet high; and it is calculated that it delivers 100,000,000 tons of water per hour, or more than 27,000 tons per second. As it curls over, this mass of water is probably some 20 feet thick; and though, before reaching the bottom of the water below, perhaps 30 or 40 feet down, its superficial parts must lose a good deal of their velocity, yet its central parts are probably not much retarded. At the bottom, this mass of water is subject to a lateral pressure of, say, fifteen pounds to the square inch; so that though, ordinarily, a stream falling on a hard surface disperses itself laterally, this mass of water is in great measure prevented from thus dispersing itself. Hence the rocks on which it falls have to bear the brunt of, say, 20,000 tons per second moving with a velocity of more than 100 feet per second; and we must infer that the continuous blow is so violent that simple abrasion detaches particles from the surfaces of the rocks and the current carries them away. Though the Clifton Hotel, at which we stayed, is probably a third of a mile from the Great Fall, and though my bedroom was on the opposite side of the building, its windows were in a state of constant jar; and, doubtless, this tremendous impact was the cause.
I have omitted to say that the morning after our arrival Prof. Youmans and his sister, having travelled all night from New York, came to bear us company for a few days. Their presence added much to the enjoyments of our sojourn.
Chicago, at which place Lott had some relatives, was to have been the western limit of our tour; but my state was such that I dared not undertake so long a journey. I urged my friend to proceed thither without me: proposing to stay at Niagara till his return, and representing that the company of Miss Youmans would keep me alive. But I could not persuade him: he insisted on remaining to take care of me.
Our first stopping-place after leaving the Falls on Sept. 16, was Cleveland; respecting which my diary says—“walked about; surprised by the display and bustle” in so new a place. After Cleveland came Pittsburg, boasted of as the smokiest town in the world.
Why Cleveland and why Pittsburg? may naturally be asked. The answer carries me back to our voyages across the Atlantic. On the Servia’s tender at Liverpool, a letter of introduction was handed to me by Mr. Andrew Carnegie, whose iron works at Pittsburg, aided in their prosperity by protection, have made him a millionaire. He pressed me to visit him at Cresson, a place on the Alleghanies, like the Kaarterskill Hotel on the Catskills, used as a summer refuge by over-heated Americans. I eventually yielded to the pressure; and our journey through Cleveland to Pittsburg was in fulfilment of the promise made.
The repulsiveness of Pittsburg led me to break through my resolution always to stop at an hotel; and in the evening we drove with Mr. Carnegie to the house of his brother a few miles out. After we had inspected his works next day, he took us by special carriage, which to my great comfort contained a sleeping compartment, to Cresson. It was now the 19th of September; the summer heats were over; the visitors had gone home; the hotel was closed; and Mr. Carnegie’s annexe was unavailable. He took us to an old-fashioned inn at “Mountain Top.” His departure after a day spent in showing us the neighbourhood, and our departure after a day spent in visiting the little town of Ebensburg, were followed by descent of the Eastern flank of the Alleghanies to Harrisburg. To a day spent in rambling about this not-very-interesting town, succeeded a railway-journey to Washington.
Whether the fact that the President (or rather the Vice-President, for Mr. Garfield was dead) was away at Newport, prompted the decision to go direct to Washington without stopping at Baltimore, I cannot remember; but I remember that his absence was a cause of satisfaction to me. Aversion to ceremonial interviews I have before exemplified as a trait of mine. Partly this is due to dislike of formalities, and partly to a disinclination to converse with strangers. Under ordinary circumstances, thinking is to me more pleasurable than talking; and hence, in the absence of an interlocutor in whom I feel interest, I am not tempted to talk. Some sentiment of friendship or personal regard is requisite to make conversation preferable.
The sights of Washington of course received due attention. We visited the White House, though not its occupant; we went over the Capitol, and paused for a few minutes in its then empty legislative chambers; with Major Powell as our guide we perambulated the Smithsonian Institution and its surroundings; we contemplated the Washington monument, then in course of erection; and we did some justice to the suburbs. One of our days was of course devoted to an excursion up the Potomac to Mount Vernon, famous as Washington’s home and burial place; where some hours were spent in looking over rooms and relics, and wandering about the grounds. I remember we were astonished at seeing a place planted with slips of willow notified as having been brought from Napoleon’s tomb in St. Helena. The incongruity struck us both as passing strange.
Was it at Washington, or was it elsewhere, or was it at all places, that I was struck with the passion of the Americans for iced water? Not only does it come up at every meal, but even in the middle of the night it must be made accessible: the habit being to place in the mouth of a jug a wedge-shaped piece of ice too large to go in, and with its narrow end downwards, so that, thawing all night and dripping into the jug, it insures an ever-ready supply of water just above freezing point. Evidently the origin of this habit is the need for a sensation, which in one form or other is universal. Everyone dislikes food that is insipid, and, when there is no natural taste in it, condiments and sweetening agents are resorted to. Drinks that have flavours, sweet or bitter, are preferred to tasteless drinks; and, if a liquid not otherwise attractive is taken, then it must be not tepid, but decidedly hot or decidedly cold. But why have the Americans especially become such lovers of iced water? Possibly the prevalent disuse of alcoholic drinks, which yield the required sensations, and which one scarcely ever sees at table in the hotels, is the cause. The sensation of taste being ungratified, the sensation of temperature is, as far as possible, substituted for it.
There can, I think, be little doubt that the habit is an injurious one. In the first place, taking an amount of liquid much exceeding that required for carrying on the bodily functions, is pretty certain to be detrimental; and in the second place, frequently taking this at a temperature so much below blood-heat, is also pretty certain to be detrimental by continually checking digestion, which is temporarily arrested by an influx of cold liquid. It is true that upon occasion cold liquid may, by reaction, stimulate the gastric circulation; but perpetually exciting the blood-vessels to reactions inevitably produces in them an abnormal state, resulting in a chronically deficient circulation.
Our arrival at Baltimore in the evening of the 28th was followed next morning by the arrival of Youmans from New York. Whether my state of health would negative the proposed public dinner, had remained an undecided question; and he came over to see what was now my state and my decision. Some improvement had taken place; and though in my diary entries of “bad nights,” “wretched nights,” &c., were frequent, the number of better nights had increased. Hence I thought I might venture; and, returning to New York, he thereafter busied himself in making preparations.
We went to the Mount Vernon Hotel, which was, to my thinking, the best we met with in the United States: moderate in size (small, indeed, according to the American standard) and well appointed. I detest big hotels, with vast crowds of guests: not liking to feel myself a mere unit mechanically manipulated in a great machine. I believe that at the Mount Vernon Hotel, as elsewhere, the waiters, negro and half-caste, were considerably surprised by my disregard of their dictations. Clothed with a little brief authority, they delight in exercising it; and, in the hotels everywhere, habitually fix on this or that table for a guest in a peremptory kind of way. Avoidance of draught, obtainment of light, or other reason, often led me to ignore the choice made for me, where no claims of other guests were in question. Evidently the waiters were unused to this; for Americans commonly make no demurs either to the bedrooms assigned to them by the clerk at the bureau, or to the tables they are motioned to by the head-waiter. The English have the repute among them of being grumblers, and I believe I fully maintained the character.
One of the things I saw in Baltimore was the Johns Hopkins University, which Prof. Sylvester, then engaged there, took us over; but the thing which gave me most pleasure was the Peabody Institute, remarkable for its architectural beauty, especially in the interior. The library struck me as combining use and beauty in a manner perfectly satisfactory. I can recall nothing equal to it. The name of the architect, which I inquired, has unfortunately lapsed from my memory.
Some years before, I had met in England Mr. J. W. Garrett, President of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway. He lived in Baltimore during the winter, and in summer at his residence, Montebello, a few miles out. We drove over; and by pressure I was induced to break through my rule of taking up my abode at an hotel. We spent at Montebello five pleasant and beneficial days: lounging in the garden, driving, and on one occasion being taken down the upper part of Chesapeake Bay by our host in a private steamer. As a relaxation he had taken to breeding horses, and was proud of his stud. He had many men engaged in making a private race-course, on which to test the speed of his colts.
Mr. Garrett exhibited the results, so common in America, of over-work. When I saw him in England I supposed that he was ten years or more my senior; but I found, to my astonishment, that he was my junior. To the satisfaction of his wife, I began to preach to him the gospel of relaxation—a gospel on which, a few weeks later, I enlarged in public at greater length.
Poor man! he did not live long to carry on either work or amusement. Some three years after, Mrs. Garrett, thrown from her carriage, died in a few days, and he, chronically out of health, succumbed to the shock.
The next stage in our journey brought us to Philadelphia. To it, of course, some days were to be devoted. Mr. G. W. Childs, who makes it a point to entertain all notables, would have had us stay with him, but from doing this I excused myself. In various ways, however, he conduced to our convenience. Mr. Cook, the correspondent of The Times at Philadelphia, being our guide, and Mr. Childs’ carriage being at our disposal, we saw what was to be seen at our ease.
There were the extensive engine works of Messrs. Baldwin, where they are said to turn out a complete locomotive engine per day. There was the magnificent park, in a drive through which Prof. Leidy was our companion. There was an excursion up and down the Delaware River, in a steamer which Mr. Roberts, President of the Philadelphia Railway, placed at our disposal. There was the Girard College, extensive and well-appointed, but subjecting its boys to a mechanical, coercive kind of discipline which called forth from me a strong expression of disapproval. I hoped the official who showed us round would communicate it to those in authority.
Some immense municipal buildings were, I remember, among the attractions of the city. I was told by Mr. Childs that there existed a committee of citizens formed for the purpose of putting a check on the extravagance of the local authorities; and I believe that in some other American cities there are like committees. A generation ago it was commonly thought that democracy was, and would be, economical; since nothing could be more obvious than that when the people had power, they would not tolerate the wasteful expenditure of the money which they furnished. But experience is not verifying this a priori conclusion in America, and is not verifying it with us.
One more railway-journey, bringing us to New York, completed the tour we had made during the seven weeks of our absence. On looking at the map and seeing how small was our circuit and how enormous was the area of the States not even approached by us, I felt astonished, and almost alarmed, at the vastness of the society we were in. To be told that the dividing line between East and West, on the two sides of which the populations balance, is fast approaching the Mississippi, amazes one on remembering how short a time it is since the countries to the west of the Mississippi were inhabited only by Indians. Clearly, at the present rate of progress (unless internal dissensions should cause separation, which is quite possible), the United States will very soon be by far the most powerful nation in the world.
Our experiences of travel did not verify the impressions derived from books read in past years. Intrusiveness was a trait of Americans described and exemplified; but we found none of it. I cannot remember one occasion on which we were addressed by fellow-travellers, the only intrusiveness was that of the interviewers, who, in fulfilment of their functions, tried, at various places, to see me. As I had anticipated, my friend Lott served as an admirable buffer, and in all cases pleaded, truly enough, that I was not sufficiently well to be visible. As they could not interview me they sometimes interviewed him; and on one occasion he figured in the report as my “leonine friend”. I can understand his calm, massive face, and large beard, suggesting the epithet; and probably when occasion called for it he might be leonine enough in action; but in my long experience of him he had proved himself a very pacific lion.
Interviewers when baulked are apt to be disagreeable. Feeling bound to make some report, they pick up such details as they can from servants, and are not over particular respecting the trustworthiness of their informants. Indeed, in the accounts they thus gather of sayings and doings, food and habits, anything which admits of having a ludicrous aspect given to it is made the most of.
After my return to New York, I named to Youmans some of the annoying things that had been said: among others a reported opinion of mine about an English author then in America. It was purely fictitious; and I remarked that it would be almost worth while to have an interview for the purpose of contradicting these false statements. “By all means,” said he,—“let me interview you.” I acceded to the suggestion, and next morning was appointed for the purpose. The result was, however, that I practically interviewed myself. Two instances excepted, the questions as well as the answers were my own. Ever ready to make the best of the occasion, Youmans had this seeming-interview set up in type, and distributed impressions to the New York papers, and, in advance, to the Chicago papers. Hence it appeared simultaneously in whole or in part in many of them: so being unlike an ordinary interview, which is the product of the reporter for a single paper. Of course my remarks, after my manner, were mainly critical; and while not failing to recognize the greatness of American achievements, consisted largely of adverse comments on their political life. Nevertheless they were well received: I suppose because they were seen to be the criticisms of a friend anxious for American prosperity, rather than of an enemy prompted by a dislike for their institutions.
New York had now to be seen; for of course the day we spent in it after our arrival enabled us only to glance at some of its main thoroughfares. The Central Park was explored and much admired; there were two excursions to Brooklyn; some of the centres of business were visited; hours on sundry occasions were spent at the Century Club, and some at the Lotus Club; and we went to one or two theatres and admired the acting, which we had not done at Washington or Philadelphia.
But we had still to see something of the New England States; and after nine days in New York we departed northwards.
Our first stopping-place was New Haven, where a morning was devoted to inspecting Yale College, and more especially Prof. Marsh’s collection of remains of marvellous fossil mammals from the far West. Then in the afternoon we pursued our course to Newport, which we had been told before leaving England was one of the places to be visited. The chief reason assigned for visiting it, however—namely, that it was the summer resort of the fashionable world—was no longer in force; for the season was over. This we did not regret. The place has some natural attractions, and, as being composed mainly of scattered villas, is more like Bournemouth than any other of our watering-places. Six pleasant and beneficial days were spent there.
And now of course came Boston, to which we took our way on Oct. 28th, occasionally admiring as we went the fine masses of gorgeous autumn foliage.
The day of our departure for Boston was determined by an invitation to dine with the Saturday Club; which we did a few hours after our arrival. At this weekly dinner there had for many preceding years been gathered the chief notabilities of Boston and its neighbourhood—especially Concord. Until recently Emerson had presided; and now the president was Dr. O. W. Holmes. The “Autocrat of the Breakfast Table” proved himself a very genial head of the dinner table. It was pleasant to meet, in company with others less known, one whose writings had given me so much pleasure, and some copies of whose best known book I had given to friends as a book to be read and re-read.
Of course among Bostonians, one who had done so much as an expositor of the Synthetic Philosophy—Mr. John Fiske—was the first to whom attention was due; and we early went over to the suburb, Cambridge, where he lives. After luncheon with him we called on Prof. Asa Gray, and saw something of the Botanical Garden before our return to Boston and our evening at the Union Club. Exploring and admiring the city occupied us the following morning—ascending the Bunker Hill monument, visiting the Eastern suburbs &c. The day after came a visit to the Museum of Arts, and then an inspection of Harvard, with Fiske as our guide; and subsequently a drive with him through Longworthy and the Western suburbs.
Some two hours next day were spent at Lexington, which Lott was anxious to see as a typical New England village; and then we continued our journey to Concord. Our chief purpose was of course to visit Emerson’s house; and here a pleasant hour was spent in company with his widow, son, and daughter. We were then taken to the cemetery. Not many months had passed since Emerson’s death, and the grave-heap was undistinguished by any monument. “Sleepy Hollow” is so beautiful and poetical a spot as to make one almost wish to die at Concord for the purpose of being buried there.
And now there occurred a disaster. We were in danger of losing the train, and I thoughtlessly ran some distance at full speed. The effort, which I perceived at the moment was too much for me, did great, and I believe permanent, damage. The night which followed was so wretched as to prompt the immediate resolution to leave Boston and its excitements; and, sending to Dr Holmes, with whom I was to dine, an apology for breaking the engagement, we forthwith went back to Newport. This step was taken in the hope that a little quiet would restore me: its promptness being due to the consciousness that the time for the dinner was approaching.
Five days did a little, but only a little, towards mitigating the mischief. The dinner was appointed for the 9th; and on the afternoon of the 8th we were obliged to depart for New York.
The prospect before me was sufficiently alarming. An occasion on which, more perhaps than on any other in my life, I ought to have been in good condition, bodily and mental, came when I was in a condition worse than I had been for six-and-twenty years. “Wretched night; no sleep at all; kept in room all day”, says my diary; and I entertained “great fear I should collapse.” When the hour came for making my appearance at Delmonico’s, where the dinner was given, I got my friends to secrete me in an ante-room until the last moment, so that I might avoid all excitements of introductions and congratulations; and as Mr. Evarts, who presided, handed me on to the daïs, I begged him to limit his conversation with me as much as possible, and to expect very meagre responses.
The event proved that, trying though the tax was, there did not result the disaster I feared; and when Mr. Evarts had duly uttered the compliments of the occasion, I was able to get through my prepared speech without difficulty, though not with much effect; for I have no natural gift of oratory, and what little power of impressive utterance I may have was in abeyance. It goes without saying that I diverged a good deal from the form of response customary on such occasions. While setting out with a due recognition of my indebtedness to American sympathy, my address was mainly devoted to a criticism of American life, as characterized by over-devotion to work. The thesis on which I enlarged was that life is not for learning nor is life for working, but learning and working are for life. And a corollary was that the future has in store a new ideal, differing as much from the present ideal of industrialism as that ideal differs from past ideal of militancy.
Of the proceedings which followed I need only say that they were somewhat trying to sit through. Compliments, even when addressed to one privately, do not give unalloyed pleasure. To be wholly pleasing, they must be indirect or more or less disguised. As may be imagined, then, unqualified eulogies uttered by one speaker after another before an audience to whose inquiring glances I was exposed on all sides, were not quite easy to bear—especially in my then state. However, they had to be borne, and by and by I became tolerably callous. When I have said that everything passed off to the entire satisfaction of my friend Youmans, I have sufficiently indicated the success of the dinner and its sequences. Ready, as usual, to make capital of everything, he prepared a little volume in which were published together the “Interview” and the report of the proceedings of the dinner, joined with letters and undelivered speeches.
Rest and preparations for departure occupied the next day; and then, on the 11th November, after lunching with Youmans—taking our last meal with him as we did our first—we went on board the “Germanic.” Various friends and a sprinkling of strangers were there to see us off. Among these last was one who drew me into conversation concerning a recent election in which the “bosses” had been defeated, and asked my opinion about the result; which, taken unawares, I gave without much thought. It afterwards occurred to me that I had been out-manœuvered; and my suspicion was verified on our arrival at Queenstown, where, among many newspapers delivered to me, I found some which contained a telegraphic statement of the opinion I had expressed. Thus I was, after all, interviewed at the last moment.
Concerning our return-voyage I need say no more than is said in the following passages from a letter written on Nov. 25, after our arrival in England.
“Everything on the “Germanic” was satisfactory—attendance good, cuisine admirable, the state-room reserved for me the best possible, and every attention paid to my wishes. The only danger I ran was that resulting from the kindness of American friends. When I got down to my state-room I found that their hospitalities had not ceased, but were pursuing me out into the Atlantic! There were presents of flowers, fruit, wine, brandy, oysters, in quantities beyond the possibility of consumption. So that joined with the excellent fare of the “Germanic,” there resulted some risk of excess. I was reminded by antithesis of the title of a book published some time ago, Plain Living and High Thinking; for high living and plain thinking would fitly have described my regimen. However, if the ocean would have continued its good behaviour to the last, I should have gained greatly notwithstanding.”
This is preceded by a paragraph which gives some subsequent incidents of the voyage.
“My telegram [from Queenstown] unhappily gave a premature statement of results. At the time that I wrote it, in preparation for the delivery at Queenstown the next morning, the “Germanic” was rolling so much in a gale that I had to hold the inkstand from sliding off the table. The previous night the rolling, though less, had been such as to keep me awake a good part of the night; and the night which now followed being much worse, (Cyclones are numbered 1 to 12 in point of strength, and ours was a No. 9) I got no sleep until we were under the lee of the Irish coast, about three or four in the morning. Then the third night was worse still. We were too late to pass the bar of the Mersey, and, anchoring outside, where I thought I was going to have a quiet night, I got literally no sleep, in consequence first of the riot kept up by some men who were having farewell convivialities in their cabin, and afterwards by the noises which went on nearly all through the night in preparation for landing in the morning—chiefly raising the baggage by machinery just over my head. The mischief was not simply the negative mischief of sleeplessness, but the positive mischief of nervous irritation and wear from the perpetual rattle. And then there came the journey by the express to London. It was an immense relief to get home, and I was so delighted I scarcely realized how much I was knocked up.”
And then follows an account of my prostrate state, which I omit. Suffice it to say that I did not stir out for three days, and that ten days passed before I ventured to call on friends.
Thus ended an expedition which I ought never to have undertaken. Setting out with the ill-founded hope that the journey and change of scene would improve my health, I came back in a worse state than I went: having made another step downwards towards invalid life.