First Impressions of the English (7)

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CHAPTER XVIII.


The Penny-a-mile Train and its Passengers—Aunt Jonathan—London by night—St.Paul's; the City as seen from the Dome—The Lord Mayor's coach—Westminster Abbey—The Gothic architecture a less exquisite production of the human mind than the Grecian—Poets' Corner—The Mission of the Poets—The tombs of the kings—The monument of James Watt—A humble coffee-house and its frequenters—The woes of genius in London—Old 110 Thames Street—The Tower—The Thames Tunnel—Longings of the true Londoner for rural life and the country; their influence on literature—The British Museum; its splendid collection of fossil remains—Human skeleton of Guadaloupe—The Egyptian Room—Domesticities of the ancient Egyptians—Cycle of reproduction—The Mummies.



I MUST again take the liberty, as on a former occasion, of antedating a portion of my tour: I did not proceed direct to London from Olney; but as I have nothing interesting to record of my journeyings in the interval, I shall pursue the thread of my narrative as if I had.

    For the sake of variety, I had taken the penny-a-mile train; and derived some amusement from the droll humours of my travelling companions—a humbler, coarser, freer, and withal merrier section of the people, than the second-class travellers, whose acquaintance, in at least my railway peregrinations, I had chiefly cultivated hitherto.  We had not the happiness of producing any very good jokes among us; but there were many laudable attempts; and though the wit was only tolerable, the laughter was hearty.  There was an old American lady of the company, fresh from Yankee-land, who was grievously teased for the general benefit; but Aunt Jonathan, though only indifferently furnished with teeth, had an effective tongue; and Mister Bull, in most of the bouts, came off but second best.  The American, too, though the play proved now and then some what of a horse character, was evidently conscious that her country lost no honour by her, and seemed rather gratified than otherwise.  There were from five-and-twenty to thirty passengers in the van; among the rest, a goodly proportion of town-bred females, who mingled in the fun at least as freely as was becoming, and were smart, when they could, on the American; and immediately beside the old lady there sat a silent, ruddy, country girl, who seemed travelling to London to take service in some family.  The old lady had just received a hit from a smart female, to whom she deigned no reply; but turning round to the country girl, she patted her on the shoulder, and tendered her a profusion of thanks for some nameless obligation which, she said, she owed to her.  "La! to me, Ma'am?" said the girl.  "Yes, to you, my pretty dear," said the American; "it it is quite cheering to find one modest Englishwoman among so few."  The men laughed outrageously; the females did not like the joke half so well, and bridled up.  And thus the war went on.  The weather had been unpromising—the night fell exceedingly dark and foul—there were long wearisome stoppages at almost every station—and it was within an hour of midnight, and a full hour and a half beyond the specified time of arrival, ere we entered the great city.  I took my, place in an omnibus, beside a half-open window, and away the vehicle trundled for the Strand.

    The night was extremely dreary; the rain fell in torrents; and the lamps, flickering and flaring in the wind, threw dismal gleams over the half-flooded streets and the wet pavement, revealing the pyramidal rain-drops as they danced by myriads in the pools, or splashed against the smooth slippery flagstones.  The better shops were all shut, and there were but few lights in the windows: sober, reputable London seemed to have gone to its bed in the hope of better weather in the morning; but here and there, as we hurried past the opening of some lane or alley, I could mark a dazzling glare of light streaming out into the rain from some low cellar, and see forlorn figures of ill-dressed men and draggled women flitting about in a style which indicated that London, not sober and not reputable, was still engaged in drinking hard drams.  Some of the objects we passed presented in the uncertain light a ghostly-like wildness, which impressed me all the more, that I could but guess at their real character.  And the guesses, in some instances, were sufficiently wide of the mark.  I passed in New Road a singularly picturesque community of statues, which, in the uncertain light, seemed a parliament of spectres, held in the rain and the wind, to discuss the merits of the "Interment in Towns" Commission, somewhat in the style the two ghosts discussed, in poor Ferguson's days, in the Greyfriars' churchyard, the proposed investment of the Scotch Hospital funds in the Three per Cents.  But I found in the morning that the picturesque parliament of ghosts were merely the chance-grouped figures of a stone-cutter's yard.  The next most striking object I saw were the long ranges of pillars in Regent Street.  They bore about them an air that I in vain looked for by day, of doleful, tomb-like grandeur, as the columns came in sight, one after one, in the thickening fog, and the lamps threw their paly gleams along the endless architrave.  Then came Charing Cross, with its white jetting fountains, sadly disturbed in their play by the wind, and its gloomy shade-like equestrians.  And then I reached a quiet lodging-house in Hungerford Street, and tumbled, a little after midnight, into a comfortable bed.  The morning arose as gloomily as the evening had closed; and the first sounds I heard, as I awoke, were the sharp patter of rain-drops on the panes, and the dash of water from the spouts on the pavement below.

    Towards noon, however, the rain ceased, and I sallied out to see London.  I passed great and celebrated places—Warren's great blacking establishment, and the great house of the outfitting Jew and his son, so celebrated in "Punch," and then the great "Punch's" own office, with great "Punch" himself, pregnant with joke, and larger than the life, standing sentinel over the door.  And after just a little uncertain wandering, the uncertainty of which mattered nothing, as I could not possibly go wrong, wander where I might, I came full upon St. Paul's, and entered the edifice.  It is comfortable to have only twopence to pay for leave to walk over the area of so noble a pile, and to have to pay the twopence, too, to such grave clerical-looking men as the officials at the receipt of custom.  It reminds one of the blessings of a religious establishment in a place where otherwise they might possibly be overlooked: no private company could afford to build such a pile as St. Paul's, and then show it for twopences.  A payment of eighteenpence more opened my way to the summit of the dome, and I saw, laid fairly at my feet, all of London that the smoke and the weather permitted, in its existing state of dishabille, to come into sight.  But though a finer morning might have presented me with a more extensive and more richly-coloured prospect, it would scarce have given me one equally striking.  I stood over the middle of a vast seething caldron, and looked down through the blue reek on the dim indistinct forms that seemed parboiling within.  The denser clouds were rolling away, but their huge volumes still lay folded all around on the outskirts of the prospect.  I could see a long reach of the river, with its gigantic bridges striding across; but both ends of the tide, like those of the stream seen by Mirza, were enveloped in darkness; and the bridges, grey and unsolid-looking themselves, as if cut out of sheets of compressed vapour, seemed leading to a spectral city.  Immediately in the foreground there lay a perplexed labyrinth of streets and lanes, and untraceable ranges of buildings, that seemed the huddled-up fragments of a fractured puzzle—difficult enough of resolution when entire, and rendered altogether unresolvable by the chance that had broken it.  As the scene receded, only the larger and more prominent objects came into view—here a spire, and there a monument, and yonder a square Gothic tower; and as it still further receded, I could see but the dim fragment of things—bits of churches inwrought into the cloud, and the insulated pediments and columned fronts of public buildings, sketched off in diluted grey.  I was reminded of Sir Walter Scott's recipe for painting a battle: a great cloud to be got up as the first part of the process; and as the second, here and there an arm or a leg stuck in, and here and there a head or a body.  And such was London, the greatest city of the world, as I looked upon it this morning, for the first time, from the golden gallery of St. Paul's.

    The hour of noon struck on the great bell far below my feet; the pigmies in the thoroughfare of St. Paul's Yard, still further below, were evidently increasing in number and gathering into groups; I could see faces that seemed no bigger than fists thickening in the windows, and dim little figures starting up on the leads of houses; and, then, issuing into the Yard from one of the streets, there came a long line of gay coaches, with the identical coach in the midst, all gorgeous and grand, that I remembered to have seen done in Dutch gold, full five-and-thirty years before, on the covers of a splendid sixpenny edition of "Whittington and his Cat."  Hurrah for Whittington, Lord Mayor of London!  Without having once bargained for such a thing—all unaware of what was awaiting me—I had ascended St. Paul's to see, as it proved, the Lord Mayor's procession.  To be sure, I was placed rather high for witnessing with the right feeling the gauds and the grandeurs.  All human greatness requires to be set in a peculiar light, and does not come out to advantage when seen from either too near or too distant a point of view; and here the sorely diminished pageant at my feet served rather provokingly to remind one of Addison's ant-hill scene of the Mayor emmet, with the bit of white rod in its mouth, followed by the long line of Addermanic and Common Council emmets, all ready to possess themselves of the bit of white rod in their own behalf, should it chance to drop.  Still, however, there are few things made of leather and prunello really grander than the Lord Mayor's procession.  Slowly the pageant passed on and away; the groups dispersed in the streets, the faces evanished from the windows, the figures disappeared from the house-tops, the entire apparition and its accompaniments melted into thin air, like the vision seen in the midst of the hollow valley of Bagdad; and I saw but the dim city parboiling amid the clouds, and the long leaden-coloured reach of the river bounding half the world of London, as the monstrous ocean snake of the Edda more than half encircles the globe.

    My next walk led to Westminster Abbey and the New Houses of Parliament, through St. James's Park.  The unpromising character of the day had kept loungers at home; and the dank trees dripped on the wet grass, and loomed large through the grey fog, in a scene of scarce less solitude, though the roar of the city was all around, than the trees of Shenstone at the Leasowes.  I walked leisurely once and again along the Abbey, as I had done at St. Paul's, to mark the general aspect and effect, and fix in my mind the proportions and true contour of the building.  And the conclusion forced upon me was just that at which, times without number, I had invariably arrived before.  The Gothic architecture, with all its solemn grandeur and beauty, is a greatly lower and less exquisite production of the human intellect than the architecture of Greece.  The saintly legends of the middle ages are scarce less decidedly inferior to those fictions of the classic mythology which the greater Greek and Roman writers have sublimed into poetry.  I have often felt that the prevailing bias in favour of everything mediæval, so characteristic of the present time, from the theology and legislation of the middle ages, to their style of staining glass and illuminating manuscripts, cannot be other than a temporary eccentricity—a more cross freshet, chance-raised by some meteoric accident—not one of the great permanent ocean-currents of tendency; but never did the conviction press upon me more strongly than when enabled on this occasion to contrast the new architecture of St. Paul's with the old architecture of Westminster.  New! Old! Modern! Ancient!  The merits of the controversy lie summed up in these words.  The new architecture is the truly ancient architecture, while the old is comparatively modern; but the immortals are always young, whereas the mortals, though their term of life may be as extended as that of Methuselah, grow old apace.  The Grecian architecture will be always the new architecture; and, let fashion play whatever vagaries it pleases, the Gothic will be always old.  There is a wonderful amount of genius in the contour and filling up of St. Paul's.  In passing up and down the river, which I did frequently during my short stay in London, my eye never wearied of resting on it.  Like all great works that have had the beautiful inwrought into their essence by the persevering touches of a master, the more I dwelt on it, the more exquisite it seemed to become.  York Minster, the finest of English Gothic buildings, is perhaps equally impressive on a first survey; but it exhibits no such soul of beauty as one dwells upon it—it lacks the halo that forms around the dome of St. Paul's.  I was not particularly struck by the New Houses of Parliament.  They seem prettily got up to order, on a rich pattern, that must have cost the country a vast deal per yard; and have a great many little bits of animation in them, which remind one of the communities of lives that dwell in compound corals, or of the divisible life, everywhere diffused and nowhere concentrated, that resides in poplars and willows; but they want the one animating soul characteristic of the superior natures.  Unlike the master-erection of Wren, they will not breathe out beauty into the minds of the future, as pieces of musk continue to exhale their odour for centuries.

    I walked through Poets' Corner, and saw many a familiar name on the walls; among others, the name of Dryden, familiar because he himself had made it so; and the name of Shadwell, familiar because he had quarrelled with Dryden.  There also I found the sepulchral slab of old cross John Dennis, famous for but his warfare with Pope and Addison; and there, too, the statue of Addison at full length, not far from the peri-wigged effigy of the bluff English admiral that had furnished him with so good a joke.  There, besides, may be seen the marble of the ancient descriptive poet Drayton; and there the bust of poor eccentric Goldie, with his careless Irish face, who thought Drayton had no claim to such an honour, but whose own claim has been challenged by no one.  I had no strong emotions to exhibit when pacing along the pavement in this celebrated place, nor would I have exhibited them if I had; and yet I did feel that I had derived much pleasure in my time from the men whose names conferred honour on the wall.  There was poor Goldsmith; he had been my companion for thirty years; I had been first introduced to him through the medium of a common school collection, when a little boy in the humblest English class of a parish school; and I had kept up the acquaintance ever since.  There, too, was Addison, whom I had known so long, and, in his true poems, his prose ones, had loved so much; and there were Gay, and Prior, and Cowley, and Thomson, and Chaucer, and Spenser, and Milton; and there, too, on a slab on the floor, with the freshness of recent interment still palpable about it, as if to indicate the race at least not long extinct, was the name of Thomas Campbell.  I had got fairly among my patrons and benefactors.  How often, shut out for months and years together from all literary converse with the living, had they been almost my only companion—my unseen associates, who, in the rude work-shed, lightened my labours by the music of their numbers, and who, in my evening walks, that would have been so solitary gave for them, expanded my intellect by the solid bulk of their thinking, and gave me eyes, by their exquisite descriptions, to look at nature!  How thoroughly, too, had they served to break down in my mind at least the narrower and more illiberal partialities of country, leaving untouched, however, all that was worthy of being cherished in my attachment to poor old Scotland!  I learned to deem the English poet not less my countryman than the Scot, if I but felt the true human heart beating in his bosom; and the intense prejudices which I had imbibed, when almost a child, from the fiery narratives of Blind Harry and of Barbour, melted away, like snow-wreaths from before the sun, under the genial influences of the glowing poesy of England.  It is not the harp of Orpheus that will effectually tame the wild beast which lies ambushing in human nature, and is ever and anon breaking forth on the nations in cruel, desolating war.  The work of giving peace to the earth awaits those divine harmonies which breathe from the Lyre of Inspiration, when swept by the Spirit of God.  And yet the harp of Orpheus does exert an auxiliary power.  It is of the nature of its songs—so rich in the human sympathies, so charged with the thoughts, the imaginings, the hopes, the wishes, which it is the constitution of humanity to conceive and entertain—it is of their nature to make us feel that the nations are all of one blood—that man is our brother, and the world our country.

    The sepulchres of the old English monarchs, with all their obsolete grandeur, impressed me more feebly, though a few rather minute circumstances have, I perceive, left their stamp.  Among the royal cemeteries we find the tombs of Mary of Scotland, and her great rival Elizabeth, with their respective effigies lying a-top, cut in marble.  And though the sculptures exhibit little of the genius of the modern statuary, the great care of their finish, joined to their unideal, unflattering individuality, afford an evidence of their truth which productions of higher talent could scarce possess.  How comes it, then, I would fain ask the phrenologist, that by far the finer head of the two should be found on the shoulders of the weaker woman?  The forehead of Mary—poor Mary, who had a trick of falling in love with "pretty men," but no power of governing them—is of very noble development—broad, erect, powerful; while that of Elizabeth—of queenly, sagacious Elizabeth—who could fall in love with men and govern them too, and who was unquestionably a great monarch, irrespective of sex—is a poor, narrow, pinched-up thing, that rises tolerably erect for one-half its height, and then slopes abruptly away.  The next thing that caught my eye were two slabs of Egyptian porphyry—a well-marked stone, with the rich purple ground spotted white and pink inlaid as panels in the tomb of Edward the First.  Whence, in the days of Edward, could the English stone-cutter have procured Egyptian porphyry?  I was enabled to form at least a guess on the subject, from possessing a small piece of exactly the same stone, which had been picked up amid heaps of rubbish in the deep rocky ravine of Siloam, and which, as it does not occur in situ in Judea, was supposed to have formed at one time a portion of the Temple.  Is it not probable that these slabs, which, so far as is yet known, Europe could not have furnished, were brought by Edward, the last of the crusading princes of England, from the Holy Land, to confer sanctity on his place of burial—mayhap originally—though Edward himself never got so far—from that identical ravine of Siloam which supplied my specimen?  It was not uncommon for the crusader to take from Palestine the earth in which his body was to be deposited; and if Edward succeeded in procuring a genuine bit of the true Temple, and an exceedingly pretty bit to boot, it seems in meet accordance with the character of the age that it should have been borne home with him in triumph, to serve a similar purpose.  I was a good deal struck, in one of the old chapels—a little gloomy place, filled with antique regalities sorely faded, and middle-age glories waxed dim—by stumbling, very unexpectedly, on a noble statue of James Watt.  The profoundly contemplative countenance—so happily described by Arago as a very personification of abstract thought—contrasted strongly with the chivalric baubles and meaningless countenances on the surrounding tombs.  The new and the old governing forces—the waxing and the waning powers—seemed appropriately typified in that little twilight chapel.  My next free day—for of the four days I remained in London, I devoted each alternate one to the British Museum—I spent in wandering everywhere, and looking at everything—in going up and down the river in steam-boats, and down and athwart the streets on omnibuses.  I took my meals in all sorts of odd-looking places.  I breakfasted one morning in an exceedingly poor-looking coffee-house, into which I saw several people dressed in dirty moleskin enter, just that I might see how the people who dress in dirty moleskin live in London.  Some of them made, I found, exceedingly little serve as a meal  One thin-faced, middle-aged man brought in a salt herring with him, which he gave to the waiter to get roasted; and the roasted salt herring, with a penny's worth of bread and a penny's worth of coffee, formed his breakfast.  Another considerably younger and stouter man, apparently not more a favourite of fortune, brought in with him an exceedingly small bit of meat, rather of the bloodiest, stuck on a wooden pin, which he also got roasted by the waiter, and which he supplemented with a penny's worth of coffee, and but a halfpenny's worth of bread.  I too, that I might experience for one forenoon the sensations of the London poor, had my penny's worth of coffee, and as I had neither meat nor herring, my three-halfpenny worth of bread; but both together formed a breakfast rather of the lightest, and so I dined early.  There is a passage which I had read in Goldsmith's "History of the Earth and Animated Nature" many years before, which came painfully into my mind on this occasion.  The poor poet had sad experience in his time of the destitution of London; and when he came to discourse as a naturalist on some of the sterner wants of the species, the knowledge which he brought to bear on the subject was of a deeply tragic cast.  "The lower race of animals," he says, "when satisfied, for the instant moment are perfectly happy; but it is otherwise with man.  His mind anticipates distress, and feels the pangs of want even before they arrest him.  Thus the mind being continually harassed by the situation, it at length influences the constitution, and unfits it for all its functions.  Some cruel disorder, but nowise like hunger, seizes the unhappy sufferer; so that almost all those men who have thus long lived by chance, and whose every-day may be considered as an happy escape from famine, are known at last to die in reality of a disorder caused by hunger, but which, in the common language, is often called a broken heart.  Some of these I have known myself when very little able to relieve them; and I have been told by a very active and worthy magistrate, that the number of such as die in London for want is much greater than one would imagine—I think he talked of two thousand in a year."

    Rather a curious passage this to occur in a work of Natural History.  It haunted me awhile this morning: the weather, though no longer wet, was exceedingly gloomy; and I felt depressed as I walked along the muddy streets, and realized, with small effort, the condition of the many thousands who, without friends or home, money or employment, have had to endure the mingled pangs of want and anxiety in London.  I remembered, in crossing Westminster Bridge to take boat on the Surrey side, that the poet Crabbe walked on it all night, when, friendless, in distress, and his last shilling expended, he had dropped, at the door of Edmund Burke, the touching letter on which his last surviving hope depended.  The Thames was turbid with the rains—the tide was out—and melancholy banks of mud, here and there over-topped by thickets of grievously befouled sedges, lay along its sides.  One straggling thicket, just opposite the gloomy Temple Gardens—so solitary in the middle of a great city—had caught a tattered jacket; and the empty sleeve, stretched against the taller sedges, seemed a human arm raised above the unsolid base.  The scene appeared infinitely better suited than that drawn by the bard of Rhysdale, to remind one


"Of mighty poets in their misery dead."


Here it was that Otway perished of hunger—Butler in great neglect—starving Chatterton of poison. And these were the very streets which Richard Savage and Samuel Johnson had so often walked from midnight till morning, having at the time no roof tinder which to shelter. Pope summons up old Father Thames, in his " Windsor Forest," to tell a silly enough story ; how strangely different, how deeply tragic, would be the real stories which Father Thames could tell! Many a proud heart, quenched in despair, has for ever ceased to beat beneath his waters. Curiously enough, the first thing I saw on stepping ashore at London Bridge, was a placard, intimating that on the previous night a gentleman had fallen over one of the bridges, and offering a reward of twenty shillings for the recovery of the body.

    There was a house in Upper Thames Street which I was desirous to see.  I had had no direct interest in it for the last five-and-twenty years: the kind relative who had occupied it when I was a boy had long been in his grave—a far distant one beyond the Atlantic; and 110 Upper Thames Street might, for aught I knew, be now inhabited by a Jew or a Mahommedan.  But I had got some curious little books sent me from it, at a time when my books were few and highly valued; and I could not leave London without first setting myself to seek out the place they had come from.  Like the tomb of the lovers, however, which Tristram Shandy journeyed to Lyons to see, and saw instead merely the place where the tomb had been, I found that old 110 had disappeared; and a tall modern erection, the property of some great company, occupied its site.  I next walked on through the busiest streets I had ever seen,


"with carts, and cars, and coaches, roaring all,"


to Tower Hill; and saw the Crown jewels of England, and the English history done in iron—for such is the true character of the old armoury, containing the mailed effigies of the English kings.  I saw, too, the cell in which imprisoned Raleigh wrote his "History of the World;" and the dark narrow dungeon, with its rude stone arch, and its bare walls, painfully lettered, as with a nail-point, furnished me with a new vignette, by which to illustrate in imagination some of the most splendid poetry ever written in prose.  From the Tower I walked on to explore that most ingenious work and least fortunate under-taking of modern times—the Thames Tunnel; and found it so extremely like the ordinary prints given of it in the "Penny Magazine" and elsewhere, that I could scarcely believe I had not seen it before.  There were a good many saunterers, like myself, walking up and down along the pavement, now cheapening some of the toys exhibited for sale in the cross arches, and now listening to a Welsh harper who was filling one of the great circular shafts with sound; but not a single passenger did I see.  The common English have a peculiar turn for possessing themselves of almost-impossibilities of the reel-in-the-bottle class; and a person who drew rather indifferent profiles in black seemed to be driving a busy trade among the visitors.  The great charm appeared to lie in the fact that the outlines produced were outlines of their very selves, taken under the Thames.  I spent the rest of the day in riding along all the greater streets on the tops of omnibuses, and in threading some of the more characteristic lanes on foot.  Nothing more surprised me in my peripatetic wanderings than to find, when I had now and then occasion to inquire my way, that the Londoners do not know London.  The monster city of which they are so proud seems, like other very great ones of the earth, to have got beyond the familiarities of intimate acquaintance with even the men who respect it most.

    I learned not to wonder, as I walked along the endless labyrinth of streets, and saw there was no such thing for a pedestrian as getting fairly into the country, that the literature of London—its purely indigenous literature—should be of so rural a character.  The mere wayside beauties of nature—green trees, and fresh grass, and soft mossy hillocks sprinkled over with harebells and daisies, and hawthorn bushes grey in blossom, and slender woodland streamlets, with yellow primroses looking down upon them from their banks things common and of little mark to at least the ordinary men that live among them—must be redolent of poetry to even the ordinary Londoner, who, removed far from their real presence, contemplates them in idea through an atmosphere of intense desire.  There are not a few silly things in what has been termed the Cockney school of poetry: in no other school does a teasing obscurity hover so incessantly on the edge of no meaning, or is the reader so much in danger of embracing, like one of the old mythologic heroes, a cloud for a goddess.  But I call scarce join in the laugh raised against its incessant "babble about green fields," or marvel that, in its ceaseless talk of flowers, its language should so nearly resemble that of Turkish love-letters composed of nosegays.  Its style is eminently true to London nature—which, of course, is simply human nature in London—in the ardent desire which it breathes for rural quiet, and the green sunshiny solitude of the country.  "Shapes of beauty," according to one of its masters—poor Keats—


                    Move away the pall
From the tired spirit.


And then he tells us what some of those shapes of beauty are—


                      Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep: and such are daffodils,
With the green world they live in: and clear rills,
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms.


Keats, the apprentice of a London surgeon, was an over-toiled young man in delicate health, cooped up by his employment the whole week round for years together; and in this characteristic passage—puerile enough, it must be confessed, and yet poetical too—we have the genuine expression of the true city calenture under which he languished.  But perhaps nowhere in the compass of English poetry is there a more truthful exhibition of the affection than in Wordsworth's picture of the hapless town girl, poor Susan.  She is in the heart of the city, a thoughtless straggler along the busy streets, when a sudden burst of song from an encaged thrush hung against the wall, touches the deeply-seated feeling, and transports her far and away into the quiet country, where her days of innocency had been spent.


                             What ails her?   She sees
A mountain ascending, a vision of trees;
Bright volumes of vapour through Lothbury glide,
And a river flows on through the vale of Cheapside,
Green pastures she views in the midst of the vale,
Down which she so often has tripped with her pail
And a single small cottage, a nest like a dove's,
The only one dwelling on earth that she loves.


It is an interesting enough fact, that from the existence of this strong appetite for the rural—intensified into poetry by those circumstances which render all attempts at its gratification mere tantalizing snatches, that whet rather than satisfy—the influence of great cities on the literature of a country should be, not to enhance the artificial, but to impart to the natural prominence and value.  The "Farmer's Boy" of Bloomfield was written in a garret in the midst of London; and nowhere perhaps in the empire has it been read with a deeper relish than by the pale country-sick artisans and clerks of the neighbouring close courts and blind alleys.  Nowhere have Thomson, Cowper, and Crabbe, with the poets of the Lake School, given a larger amount of pleasure than in London; and when London at length came to produce a school of poetry exclusively its own, it proved one of the graver faults of its productions, that they were too incessantly descriptive, and too exclusively rural.

    I spent, as I have said, two days at the British Museum, and wished I could have spent ten.  And yet the ten, by extending my index acquaintance with the whole, would have left me many more unsettled points to brood over than the two.  It is an astonishing collection; and very astonishing is the history of creation and the human family which it forms.  Such, it strikes me, is the proper view in which to regard it: it is a great, many-chaptered work of authentic history, beginning with the consecutive creations—dwelling at great length on the existing one—taking up and pursuing through many sections the master production, Man—exhibiting in the Egyptian section, not only what he did, but what he was—illustrating in the Grecian and Roman sections the perfectibility of his conceptions in all that relates to external form—indicating in the middle-age section a refolding of his previously-developed powers, as if they had shrunk under some chill and wintry influence—exhibiting in the concluding section a broader and more general blow of sentiment and faculty than that of his earlier spring-time—nay, demonstrating the fact of a more confirmed maturity, in the very existence and arrangement of such a many-volumed History of the Earth and its productions as this great collection constitutes.  I found in the geological department—splendid, as an accumulation of noble specimens, beyond my utmost conception—that much still remains to be done in the way of arrangement—a very great deal even in the way of further addition.  The work of imparting order to the whole, though in good hands, seems barely begun; and years must elapse ere it can be completed with reference to even the present stage of geologic knowledge.  But how very wonderful will be the record which it will then form of those earlier periods of our planet—its ages of infancy, childhood, and immature youth—which elapsed ere its connexion with the moral and the responsible began!  From the Graptolite of the Grauwacke slate, to the fossil human skeleton of Guadaloupe, what a strange list of births and deaths—of the productions and extinction of races—will it not exhibit!  Even in its present half-arranged condition, I found the general progressive history of the animal kingdom strikingly indicated.  In the most ancient section—that of the Silurian system—there are corals, molluscs, crustacea.  In the Old Red—for the fish of the Upper Ludlow rock are wanting—the vertebræ begin.  By the way, I found that almost all the older ichthyolites in this section of the Museum had been of my own gathering—specimens I had laid open on the shores of the Cromarty Firth some ten or twelve years ago.  Upwards through the Coal Measures I saw nothing higher than the reptile fish.  With the Lias comes a splendid array of the extinct reptiles.  The Museum contains perhaps the finest collection of these in the world.  The earlier Tertiary introduces us to the strange mammals of the Paris Basin—the same system, in its second stage, to the Deinotherium of Darmstadt and the Megatherium of Buenos Ayres.  A still later period brings before us the great elephantine family, once so widely distributed over the globe: we arrive at a monstrous skeleton, entire from head to heel: 'tis that of the gigantic mastodon of North America—a creature that may have been contemporary with the earlier hunter tribes of the New World; and just beside it, last in the long series, we find the human skeleton of Guadaloupe.  Mysterious framework of bone locked up in the solid marble—unwonted prisoner of the rock!—an irresistible voice shall yet call thee from out the stony matrix.  The other organisms, thy partners in the show, are incarcerated in the lime for ever—thou but for a term.  How strangely has the destiny of the race to which thou belongest re-stamped with new meanings the old phenomena of creation!  I marked, as I passed along, the prints of numerous rain-drops indented in a slab of sandstone.  And the entire record from the earliest to the latest times is a record of death.  When that rain-shower descended, myriads of ages ago, at the close of the Palæozoic period, the cloud, just where it fronted the sun, must have exhibited its bow of many colours; and then, as now, nature, made vital in the inferior animals, would have clung to life with the instinct of self-preservation, and shrunk with dismay and terror from the approach of death.  But the prismatic bow strided across the gloom, in blind obedience to a mere optical law, bearing inscribed on its gorgeous arch no occult meaning; and death, whether by violence or decay, formed in the general economy but a clearing process, through which the fundamental law of increase found space to operate.  But when thou wert living, prisoner of the marble, haply as an Indian wife and mother, ages ere the keel of Columbus had disturbed the waves of the Atlantic, the high standing of thy species had imparted new meanings to death and the rainbow.  The prismatic arch had become the bow of the covenant, and death a great sign of the unbending justice and purity of the Creator, and of the aberration and fall of the living soul, formed in the Creator's own image—reasoning, responsible man.

    Of those portions of the Museum which illustrate the history of the human mind in that of the arts, I was most impressed by the Egyptian section.  The utensils which it exhibits that associate with the old domesticities of the Egyptians—the little household implements which had ministered to the lesser comforts of the subjects of the Pharaohs—seem really more curious—at any rate more strange in their familiarity—than those exquisite productions of genius, the Laocoons, and Apollo Belvideres, and Venus de Medicis, and Phidian Jupiters, and Elgin marbles, which the Greek and Roman sections exhibit.  We have served ourselves heir to what the genius of the ancient nations has produced—to their architecture, their sculpture, their literature, our conceptions piece on to theirs with so visible a dependency, that we can scarce imagine what they would have been without them.  We have been running new metal into our castings, artistic and intellectual; but it is the ancients who in most cases have furnished the moulds.  And so, though the human mind walks in an often-returning circle of thought and invention, and we might very possibly have struck out for ourselves not a few of the Grecian ideas, even had they all perished during the middle ages—just as Shakspere struck out for himself not a little of the classical thinking and imagery—we are at least in doubt regarding the extent to which this would have taken place.  We know not whether our chance reproduction of Grecian idea would have been such a one as the reproduction of Egyptian statuary exhibited in the aboriginal Mexican sculptures, or the reproduction of Runic tracery palpable in the Polynesian carvings—or whether our inventions might not have expatiated, without obvious reproduction at all, in types indigenously Gothic.  As heirs of the intellectual wealth of the ancients, and inheritors of the treasures which their efforts accumulated, we know not what sort of fortunes we would have carved out for ourselves had we been left to our own unassisted exertions.  But we surely did not fall heir to the domestic inventions of the Egyptians.  Their cooks did not teach ours how to truss fowls; nor did their bakers show ours how to ferment their dough or mould their loaves; nor could we have learned from them a hundred other household arts, of which we find both the existence and the mode of existence indicated by the antiquities of this section; and yet the same faculty of invention which they possessed, tied down in our as in their case by the wants of a common nature to expatiate in the same narrow circle of necessity, has reproduced them all.  Invention in this case has been but restoration; and we find that, in the broad sense of the Preacher, it has given us nothing new.  What most impressed me, however, were the Egyptians themselves—the men of three thousand years ago, still existing entire in their framework of bone, muscle, and sinew.  It struck me as a very wonderful truth, in the way in which truths great in themselves, but common-placed by their familiarity, do sometimes strike, that the living souls should still exist which had once animated these withered and desiccated bodies; and that in their separate state they had an interest in the bodies still.  This much, amid all their darkness, even the old Egyptians knew; and this we—save where the vitalities of revelation influence—seem to be fast unlearning.  It does appear strange, that men ingenious enough to philosophize on the phenomena of parental relation, on the mysterious connexion of parent and child, its palpable adaptation to the feelings of the human heart, and its vast influence on the destinies of the species, should yet find in the doctrine of the resurrection but a mere target against which to shoot their puny materialisms.  It does not seem unworthy of the All-Wise, by whom the human heart was moulded and the parental relation designed, that the immature "boy" of the present state of existence should be "father to the man" in the next; and that as spirit shall be identical with spirit—the responsible agent with the panel at the bar—so body shall be derived from body, and the old oneness of the individual be thus rendered complete,


"Bound each to each by natural piety."


 
CHAPTER XIX.


Harrow-on-the-Hill—Descent through the formations from the Tertiary to the Coal Measures—Journey of a hundred and twenty miles northwards, identical, geologically, with a journey of a mile and a quarter downwards—English very unlike Scottish landscape in its geologic framework—Birmingham fair—Credulity of the rural English; striking contrast which they furnish in this respect to their countrymen of the knowing type—The English grades of intellectual character of immense range; more in extremes than those of the Scotch—Front rank of British intellect in which there stands no Scotchman; probable cause—A class of English, on the other hand, greatly lower than the Scotch; naturally less curious; acquire, in consequence, less of the developing pabulum—The main cause of the difference to be found, however, in the very dissimilar religious character of the two countries—The Scot naturally less independent than the Englishman; strengthened, however, where his character most needs strength, by his religion—The independence of the Englishman subjected at the present time to two distinct adverse influences, the modern Poor Law and the Tenant-at-will system—Walsall—Liverpool—Sort of lodging-houses in which one is sure to meet many Dissenters.



ON the fifth morning I quitted London on my way north, without having once seen the sun shine on the city or its environs.  But the weather at length cleared up; and as the train passed Harrow-on-the-Hill, the picturesque buildings on the acclivity, as they looked out in the sunshine, nest-like, from amid their woods just touched with yellow, made a picture not unworthy of those classic recollections with which the place is so peculiarly associated.

    The railway, though its sides are getting fast covered over with grass and debris, still furnishes a tolerably adequate section of the geology of this part of England.  We pass, at an early stage of our journey, through the London Clay and then see rising from under it the Chalk—the first representative of an entirely different state of things from that which obtained in the Tertiary, and the latest written record of that Secondary dynasty at whose terminal line, if we except one or two doubtful shells, on which it is scarce safe to decide, all that had previously existed ceased to exist for ever.  The lower members of the Cretaceous group are formed of materials of too yielding a nature to be indicated in the section; but the Oolite, on which they rest, is well marked; and we see its strata rising from beneath, as we pass on to lower and yet lower depths, till at length we reach the Lias, its base, and then enter on the Upper New Red Sandstone.  Deeper and yet deeper strata emerge; and at the commencement of the Lower New Red we reach another great terminal line, where the Secondary dynasty ends, and the Palæozoic begins.  We still pass downwards; encounter at Walsall a misplaced patch of Silurian—a page transferred from the earlier leaves of the volume, and stuck into a middle chapter; and then enter on the Coal Measures—the extremest depth to which we penetrate in regular sequence on this line.  Our journey northwards from London to Wolverhampton has been also a journey downwards along the geologic scale; but while we have travelled northwards along the surface about a hundred and twenty miles, we have travelled downwards into the earth's crust not more than a mile and a quarter.  Our descent has been exceedingly slow, for the strata have lain at very low angles.  And hence the flat character of the country, so essentially different from that of Scotland.  The few hills which we pass—if hills they may be termed—mere flat ridges, that stretch, rib-like, athwart the landscape—are, in most cases, but harder beds of rock, intercalated with the softer ones, and that, relieved by the denuding agencies, stand up in bolder prominence over the general level.  Not an eruptive rock appears in the entire line on to Walsall.  How very different the framework of Scottish landscape, as exhibited in the section laid bare by the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway!  There, almost every few hundred yards in the line brings the traveller to a trap-rock, against which he finds the strata tilted at every possible angle of elevation.  Here the beds go up, there they go down; in this eminence they are elevated, saddle-like, on the back of some vast eruptive mass; in yonder hill, overflown by it.  The country around exists as a tumultuous sea raised into tempest of old by the fiery ground-swell from below; while on the skirts of the prospect there stand up eminences of loftier altitude, characteristically marked in profile by their terrace-like precipices, that rise over each other step by step—their trap—stairs [22] of trappean rock—for to this scenic peculiarity the volcanic rocks owe their generic name.

    I found Birmingham amid the bustle of its annual fair, and much bent on gaiety and sight-seeing.  There were double rows of booths along the streets, a full half-mile in length—ginger-bread booths, and carraway and barley-sugar booths, and nut and apple booths, and booths rich in halfpenny dolls and penny trumpets, and booths not particularly rich in anything, that seemed to have been run up on speculation.  There were shows, too, of every possible variety of attraction—shows of fat boys, and large ladies, and little men and great serpents, and wise poneys; and shows of British disaster in India, and of British successes in China; madcap-minded merry-andrews, who lived on their wits, nor wished for more; agile tumblers, glittering in tinsel; swings, revolvers, and roundabouts; and old original Punch, in all his glory.  But what formed by far the best part of the exhibition were the round, ruddy, unthinking faces of the country-bred English, that had poured into town, to stare, wonder, purchase, and be happy.  It was worth while paying one's penny for a sight of the fat boys and the little men, just to see the eager avidity with which they were seen, and the total want of suspicion with which all that was told regarding them was received.  The countrywoman who, on seeing a negro for the first time, deemed him the painted monster of a show, and remarked that "mony was the way tried to wyle awa' the penny," betrayed her country not less by her suspicion than by her tongue.  An Englishwoman of the true rural type would have fallen into the opposite mistake, of deeming some painted monster a reality.  Judging, however, from what the Birmingham fair exhibited, I am inclined to hold that the preponderance of enjoyment lies on the more credulous side.  I never yet encountered a better-pleased people: the very spirit of the fair seemed embodied in the exclamation of a pretty little girl from the country, whom I saw clap her hands as she turned the corner of a street where the prospect first burst upon her, and shriek out, in a paroxysm of delight, "Oh, what lots of—lots of shows!"  And yet, certainly, the English character does lie very much in extremes.  Among the unthinking, unsuspicious, blue-eyed, fair-complexioned, honest Saxons that crowded the streets, I could here and there detect, in gangs and pairs, some of the most disagreeably smart-looking men I almost ever saw—men light of finger and sharp of wit—full of all manner of contrivance, and devoid of all sort of moral principle.

    Nothing in the English character so strikingly impressed me as its immense extent of range across the intellectual scale.  It resembles those musical instruments of great compass, such as the pianoforte and the harpsichord, that sweep over the entire gamut, from the lowest note to the highest; whereas the intellectual character of the Scotch, like instruments of a narrow range, such as the harp and the violin, lies more in the middle of the scale.  By at least one degree it does not rise so high; by several degrees it does not sink so low.  There is an order of English mind to which Scotland has not attained: our first men stand in the second rank, not a foot-breadth behind the foremost of England's second-rank men; but there is a front rank of British intellect in which there stands no Scotchman.  Like that class of the mighty men of David to which Abishai and Benaiah belonged—great captains, who went down into pits in the time of snow and slew lions, or "who lifted up the spear against three hundred men at once and prevailed"—they attain not, with all their greatness, to the might of the first class.  Scotland has produced no Shakspere; Burns and Sir Walter Scott united would fall short of the stature of the giant of Avon.  Of Milton we have not even a representative.  A Scotch poet has been injudiciously named as not greatly inferior; but I shall not do wrong to the memory of an ingenious young man, cut off just as he had mastered his powers, by naming him again in a connexion so perilous.  He at least was guiltless of the comparison; and it would be cruel to involve him in the ridicule which it is suited to excite.  Bacon is as exclusively unique as Milton, and as exclusively English; and though the grandfather of Newton was a Scotchman, we have certainly no Scotch Sir Isaac.  I question, indeed, whether any Scotchman attains to the powers of Locke: there is as much solid thinking in the "Essay on the Human Understanding," greatly as it has become the fashion of the age to depreciate it, and notwithstanding its fundamental error, as in the works of all our Scotch metaphysicians put together.  It is, however, a curious fact, and worthy, certainly, of careful examination, as bearing on the question of development purely through the force of circumstances, that all the very great men of England—all its first-class men—belong to ages during which the grinding persecutions of the Stuarts repressed Scottish energy, and crushed the opening mind of the country; and that no sooner was the weight removed, like a pavement-slab from over a flower-bed, than straightway Scottish intellect sprung up, and attained to the utmost height to which English intellect was rising at the time.  The English philosophers and literati of the eighteenth century were of a greatly lower stature than the Miltons and Shaksperes, Bacons and Newtons, of the two preceding centuries: they were second-class men—the tallest, however, of their age anywhere; and among these the men of Scotland take no subordinate place.  Though absent from the competition in the previous century through the operation of causes palpable in the history of the time, we find them quite up to the mark of the age in which they appear.  No English philosopher for the last hundred and fifty years produced a greater revolution in human affairs than Adam Smith, or exerted a more powerful influence on opinion than David Hume, or did more to change the face of the mechanical world than James Watt.  The "History of England" produced by a Scotchman, is still emphatically the "English History;" nor, with all its defects, is it likely to be soon superseded.  Robertson, if inferior in the untaught felicities of narration to his illustrious countryman, is at least inferior to none of his English contemporaries.  The prose fictions of Smollett have kept their ground quite as well as those of Fielding, and better than those of Richardson.  Nor does England during the century exhibit higher manifestations of the poetic spirit than those exhibited by Thomson and by Burns.  To use a homely but expressive Scotticism, Scotland seems to have lost her bairn-time of the giants; but in the after time of merely tall men, her children were quite as tall as any of their contemporaries.

    Be this as it may, however, it is unquestionable that England has produced an order of intellect to which Scotland has not attained ; and it does strike as at least curious, in connexion with the fact that the English, notwithstanding, should as a people stand on a lower intellectual level than the Scotch. I have had better opportunities of knowing the common people of Scotland than most men ; I have lived among them for the greater part of my life, and I belong to them ; and when in England, I made it my business to see as much as possible of the common English people. I conversed with them south and north, and found them extremely ready—for, as I have already had occasion to remark, they are much franker than the Scotch -to exhibit themselves unbidden. And I have no hesitation in affirming that their minds lie much wore profoundly asleep
than those of the common people of Scotland. We have no class north of the Tweed that corresponds with the class of ruddy, round-faced, vacant English, so abundant in the rural districts, and whose very physiognomy, derived during the course of centuries from untaught ancestors, indicates intellect yet un- awakened. The reflective habits of the Scottish people have set
their stamp on the national countenance. What strikes the Scotch traveller in this unawakened class of the English, is their want of curiosity regarding the unexciting and the unexaggerated—things so much on the ordinary level as to be neither prodigies nor shows. Let him travel into the rural districts of the Scotch Highlands, and he will find the inquisitive element all in a state of ferment regarding himself. He finds every Highlander he meets adroit of fence, in planting upon him as many queries as can possibly be thrust in, and in warding off every query directed against himself. The wayside colloquy resolves itself into a sort of sword-and-buckler match; and he must be tolerably cunning in thrusting and warding who proves an overmatch for the Highlander. [23]  And in the Lowlands of Scotland, though in perhaps a less marked degree, we find the same characteristic caution and curiosity.  In the sort of commerce of mutual information carried on, the stranger, unless he exercise very great caution indeed, is in danger of being the loser.  For it is the character of the common Scotch people, in this kind of barter, to take as much and give as little as they can.  Not such, however, the character of the common English.  I found I could get from them as much information of a personal nature as I pleased, and on the cheapest possible terms.  The Englishman seems rather gratified than otherwise to have an opportunity of speaking about himself.  He tells you what he is, and what he is doing, and what he intends doing—gives a full account of his prospects in general—and adds short notices of the condition and character of his relatives.  As for you, the inquirer, you may, if you please, be communicative about yourself and your concerns, and the Englishman will listen for a little; but the information is not particularly wanted—he has no curiosity to know anything about you.  And this striking difference which obtains between the two peoples seems a fundamental one.  The common Scot is naturally a more inquisitive, more curious being, than the common Englishman: he asks many more questions, and accumulates much larger hoards of fact.  In circumstances equally unfavourable, he acquires, in consequence, more of the developing pabulum; just as it is the nature of some seeds to attract a larger amount of moisture than others, and to shoot out their lobes and downward fibres, while huskier germs lie undeveloped amid the aridity of their enveloping matrices.

    But the broader foundations of the existing difference seem to lie rather in moral than in natural causes.  They are to be found, I am strongly of opinion, in the very dissimilar religious history of the two countries.  Religion, in its character as a serious intellectual exercise, was never brought down to the common English mind, in the way in which it once pervaded, and to a certain extent still saturates, the common mind of Scotland.  Nor is the peculiar form of religion best known in England so well suited as that of the Scotch to awaken the popular intellect.  Liturgies and ceremonies may constitute the vehicles of a sincere devotion; but they have no tendency to exercise the thinking faculties: their tendency bears rather the other way—they constitute the ready-made channels, through which abstract, unideal sentiment flows without effort.  The Arminianism, too, so common in the English Church, and so largely developed in at least one of the more influential and numerous bodies of English Dissenters, is a greatly less awakening system of doctrine than the Calvinism of Scotland.  It does not lead the earnest mind into those abstruse recesses of thought to which the peculiar Calvinistic doctrines form so inevitable a vestibule.  The man who deems himself free is content simply to believe that he is so; while he who regards himself as bound is sure to institute a narrow scrutiny into the nature of the chain that binds him; and hence it is that Calvinism proves the best possible of all schoolmasters for teaching a religious people to think.  I found no such peasant metaphysicians in England as those I have so often met in my own countrymen who, under the influence of earnest belief, had wrought their way, all unassisted by the philosopher, into some of the abstrusest questions of the schools.  And yet, were I asked to illustrate by example the grand principle of the intellectual development of Scotland, it would be to the history of one of the self-taught geniuses of England—John Bunyan, the inimitable Shakspere of theological literature—that I would refer.  Had the tinker of Elstow continued to be throughout life what he was in his early youth—a profane, irreligious man—he would have lived and died an obscure and illiterate one.  It was the wild turmoil of his religious convictions that awakened his mental faculties.  Had his convictions slept, the whole mind would have slept with them, and he would have remained intellectually what the great bulk of the common English still are; but, as the case happened, the tremendous blows dealt by revealed truth at the door of his conscience aroused the whole inner man; and the deep slumber of the faculties, reasoning and imaginative, was broken for ever.

    In at least one respect, however, religion—if we view it in a purely secular aspect, and with exclusive reference to its effects on the present scene of things—was more essentially necessary to the Scotch as a nation, than to their English neighbours.  The Scottish character seems by no means so favourably constituted for working out the problem of civil liberty as that of the English.  It possesses in a much less degree that innate spirit of independence which, in asserting a proper position for itself, sets consequences of a civil and economic cast at defiance.  In the courage that meets an enemy face to face in the field—that triumphs over the sense of danger and the fear of death—that, when the worst comes to the worst, never estimates the antagonist strength, but stands firm and collected, however great the odds mustered against it—no people in the world excel the Scotch: but in the political courage manifested in the subordinate species of warfare that has to be maintained, not with enemies that assail from without, but with class interests that encroach from within, they stand by no means so high; they are calculating, cautious, timid.  The man ready in the one sort of quarrel to lay down his life, is not at all prepared in the other to sacrifice his means of living.  And these striking traits of the national character are broadly written in the history of the country.  In perhaps no other instance was so poor and so limited a district maintained intact against such formidable enemies for so many hundred years.  The story so significantly told by the two Roman walls, is that of all the after history of Scotland, down to the union of the two crowns.  But, on the other hand, Scotland has produced no true patriots, who were patriots only—none, at least, whose object it was to elevate the mass of the people, and give to them the standing, in relation to the privileged classes, which it is their right to occupy.  Fletcher of Saltoun, though, from the Grecian cast of his political notions, an apparent exception, was, notwithstanding, but a mere enthusiastic Scot of the common national type, who, while he would have made good the claims of his country against the world, would, as shown by his scheme of domestic slavery, have subjected one-half his countrymen to the unrestrained despotism of the other half.  It was religion alone that strengthened the character of the Scotch where it most needed strength, and enabled them to struggle against their native monarchs and the aristocracy of the country, backed by all the power of the State, for more than a hundred years.  Save for the influence over them of the unseen and the eternal, the Englishman in his struggle with Charles the First would have found them useless allies; Leslie would never have crossed the Borders at the head of a determined army; and the Parliament of England would have shared, in this century, the fate of the contemporary States-General of France.  The devout Knox is the true representative of those real patriots of Scotland who have toiled and suffered to elevate the character and standing of her common people; and in the late Disruption may be seen how much and how readily her better men can sacrifice for principle's sake, when they deem their religion concerned.  But apart from religious considerations, the Scotch affect a cheap and frugal patriotism, that achieves little and costs nothing.

    In the common English, on the contrary, there is much of that natural independence which the Scotchman wants; and village Hampdens—men quite as ready to do battle in behalf of their civil rights with the lord of the manor as the Scot with a foreign enemy—are comparatively common characters.  Nor is it merely in the history, institutions, and literature of the country—in its great Charter—its Petition of Right—its Habeas Corpus Act—its trial by jury—in the story of its Hampdens, Russells, and Sidneys, or in the political writings of its Miltons, Harringtons, and Lockes—that we recognise the embodiment of this great national trait.  One may see it scarce less significantly stamped, in the course of a brief morning's walk, on the face of the fields.  There are in Scotland few of the pleasant styles and sequestered pathways open to the public, which form in England one of the most pleasing features of the agricultural provinces.  The Scotch people, in those rural districts in which land is of most value, find themselves shut out of their country.  Their patriotism may expatiate as it best can on the dusty public road, for to the road they have still a claim; but the pleasant hedgerows, the woods, and fields, and running streams, are all barred against them; and so generally is this the case, that if they could by and by tell that the Scotch had taken Scotland, just as their fathers used to tell in a joke, as a piece of intelligence, that "the Dutch had taken Holland," it would be no joke at all, but, on the contrary, a piece of most significant news, almost too grand to be true.  From encroachments of this character the independent spirit of the English people has preserved them.  The right of old pathways has been jealously maintained.  An Englishman would peril his livelihood any day in behalf of a style that had existed in the times of his grandfather.  And hence England, in its richest districts, with all its quiet pathways and pleasant green lanes, has been kept open to the English.

    There are, however, at least two causes in operation at the present time, that are militating against this independent spirit.  One of these is the Whig poor-law; the other, the tenant-at-will system, now become so general in England.  Under the old poor-law, the English labourer in the rural districts indulged in a surly, and by no means either amiable or laudable, independence.  The man who, when set aside from labour, or who, when employment could not be procured, could compel from his parish an allowance for his support, unclogged by the horrors of the modern workhouse, occupied essentially different ground from the man who, in similar circumstances, can but compel admission into a frightful prison.  The exposures of journals such as the "Times" have been less successful in producing an influential reaction against the Union Bastiles, than in inspiring the poor with a thorough dread of them.  A modern workhouse in the vista forms but a dreary prospect; and the independence of the English agricultural labourer is sinking under the frequent survey of it which his circumstances compel.  Nor has the very general introduction of the tenant-at-will system been less influential in lowering the higher-toned and more manly independency of spirit of a better class of the English people.  One of the provisions of the Reform Bill has had the effect of sinking the tenantry of England into a state of vassalage and political subserviency without precedent in the country since the people acquired standing-room within the pale of the Constitution.  It has been well remarked by Paley, that the more direct consequences of political innovation are often the least important, and that it is from the silent and unobserved operation of causes set at work for different purposes, that the greatest revolutions take their rise.  In illustration of the remark, he adduces that provision in the Mutiny Act, introduced with but little perception of its vast importance, which, by making the standing army dependent on an annual grant of Parliament, has rendered the King's dissent from a law which has received the sanction of both Houses too perilous a step to be advised, and has thus altered the whole framework and quality of the British Constitution.  He adduces, further, the arrangement, at first as inadequately estimated, which, by conferring on the Crown the nomination to all employments in the public service, has well-nigh restored to the Monarch, by the amount of patronage which it bestows, the power which the provision in the Mutiny Act had taken away.  And thus the illustrations of the philosopher run on—all of a kind suited to show that "in politics the most important and permanent effects have, for the most part, been incidental and unforeseen."  It is questionable, however, whether there be any of the adduced instances more striking than that furnished by this indirect consequence of the Reform Bill on the tenantry of England.  The provision which conferred a vote on the tenant-at-will, abrogated leases, and made the tiller of the soil a vassal.  The farmer who precariously holds his farm from year to year cannot, of course, be expected to sink so much capital in the soil, in the hope of a distant and uncertain return, as the lessee certain of possession for a specified number of seasons; but some capital he must sink in it.  It is impossible, according to the modern system, or, indeed, any system of husbandry, that all the capital committed to the earth in winter and spring should be resumed in the following summer and autumn.  A considerable overplus must inevitably remain to be gathered up in future seasons; and this overplus, in the case of the tenant-at-will, is virtually converted into a deposit lodged in the hands of the landlord, to secure the depositor's political subserviency and vassalage.  Let him but once manifest a will and mind of his own, and vote in accordance with his convictions, contrary to the will of the landlord, and straightway the deposit, converted into a penalty, is forfeited for the offence.

    I spent a few fine days in revisiting the Sliurian deposits of Dudley, and in again walking over the grounds of Hagley and the Leasowes.  I visited also the Silurian patch at Walsall, which, more than one-half surrounded by the New Red Sandstone, forms the advanced guard, or piquet, of this system in England towards the east.  It presents, however, over the entire tract of some six or eight square miles which it occupies, a flat, soil-covered surface, on which the geologist may walk for hours without catching a glimpse of the rock underneath; and it is only from the stone brought to the surface at sinkings made for lime, and wrought after the manner of coal-pits, that he arrives at a knowledge of the deposits below.  I picked up beside the mouth of a pit near the town of Walsall, at least two very characteristic fossils of the system—the Atrypa Affinis and the Catenipora Escharoides; and saw that, notwithstanding the proximity of the Coal Measures, the rock, though mineralogically identical with the Carboniferous Limestone, cannot be regarded as belonging to that formation, which, with the Old Red Sandstone, is wholly wanting in the Dudley coal-field.  The coal here rests on the Upper Silurian, just as the Lias of Cromartyshire rests on the Lower Old Red, or the Wealden of Moray on the Cornstone.  On my way north, I quitted the train at Nantwich, to see the salt-works which have been carried on in that town for many years; but I found them merely editions in miniature of the works at Droitwich.  I would fain also have visited the salt-mines of Cheshire, so famous for their beauty.  They lay off my road, however; and, somewhat in haste to get home, I did what I afterwards regretted—quitted England without seeing them.  Before nightfall, after leaving Nantwich, I got on to Liverpool, and passed the night in a respectable temperance coffee-house—one of the lodging-houses of that middle grade in which, in England, the traveller is sure to meet with a great many Dissenters, and the Dissenter with a great many of his brethren; and in which hath, in consequence, are apt to regard the cause of Dissent as rather stronger in the country than it actually is.  But the consideration of this somewhat curious subject I shall defer till the next—my concluding chapter.


 
CHAPTER XX.


Dissent a Mid-formation Organism in England—Church-of-Englandism strong among the tipper and lower classes; its peculiar principle of strength among the lower; among the upper—The Church of England one of the strongest institutions of the country—Puseyism, however, a canker-worm at its root; partial success of the principle—The type of English Dissent essentially different from that of Scotland; the causes of the difference deep in the diverse character of the two peoples—Insulated character of the Englishman productive of Independency—Adhesive character of the Scotch productive of Presbyterianism—Attempts to legislate for the Scotch in Church matters on an English principle always unfortunate—Erastianism; essentially a different thing to the English Churchman from what it is to the Scot—Reason why—Independent Scotch congregation in a rural district—Rarely well based; and why—Conclusion.



WHEN I first came among the English, I was impressed by the apparent strength of Dissent in the country.  At least two out of every three Englishmen I met in the lodging-houses, and no inconsiderable proportion of the passengers by the railway, so far as I could ascertain their denominations, were, I found, Dissenters.  I had lodged in respectable second-class coffeehouses and inns: I had travelled on the rails by the second-class carriages: I had thus got fairly into a middle stratum of English society, and was not aware at the time that, like some of the geologic formations, it has its own peculiar organisms, essentially different, in the group, from those of either the stratum above or the stratum below.  Dissent is a mid-formation organism in England; whereas Church-of-Englandism more peculiarly belongs to the upper and lower strata.  Church-of-Englandism puts up at the first-class inns, travels by the first-class carriages, possesses the titles, the large estates, and the manor-houses, and enjoys, in short, the lion's share of the vested interests.  And in the lower stratum it is also strong after a sort: there exists in its favour a powerful prejudice, capable of being directed to the accomplishment of purposes of either good or evil.

    Among the mid-stratum Dissent of England I found a Marked preponderance of Independency, which, indeed, seems the true type of English Dissent in the middle walks; and shrewd, intelligent, thoroughly respectable men the English Independents are. But when I descended to a humbler order of lodging-houses, and got by this means among the lower English people, I lost sight of Independency altogether. The only form of Dissent I then encountered was Wesleyism:—in the New Connexion, political, speculative, and not over sound in its theology; in the Old, apparently much more quiet, more earnest, and more under the influence of religious feeling. The typo of Dissent seems as decidedly Wesleyan among the humbler English, as it is Independent among the middle classes; nay, judging from what I saw—and my observations, if necessarily not very numerous, were at least made at points widely apart—I am inclined to believe that a preponderating share of the vital religion of the labourers and handicraftsmen of the English people is to be found comprised among the membership of this excellent body. And yet, after all, it takes up but comparatively a small portion of the lower population of the country. Among the great bulk of the humbler people, religion exists, not as a vitality—not even as a speculative system—but simply as an undefined hereditary prejudice, that looms large and uncertain in the gloom of darkened intellects.  And, to the extent to which this prejudice is influential, it favours the stability of the Established Church.  The class who entertain it evince a marked neglect of the Church's services—give no heed to her teachings—rarely enter her places of worship even—nay, her right has been challenged to reckon on them as adherents at all.  They have been described as a neutral party, that should be included neither in the census of Dissent nor of the Establishment.  But to the Establishment they decidedly belong.  They regard the National Church as theirs—as a Church of which an Englishman may well be proud, and in which each one of them, some short time before he dies, is to become decent and devout.  And there may be much political strength, be it remarked, in prejudices of this character.  Protestantism in the Lord George Gordon mobs was but a prejudice, not a religion.  These mobs, scarce less truly in history than as drawn by Dickens, were religious mobs without religion; but the prejudice was, notwithstanding, a strong political element, which, until a full half-century had worn it out of the English mind, rendered concession to the Papists unsafe.  We see nearly the same phenomenon exhibited by the Orangemen of Ireland of the present day—a class with whom Protestantism is a vigorous, influential principle, though it bears scarce any reference to a world to come; and find, in like manner, the Episcopalian prejudice strong among the English masses broken loose from religion.

    Church-of-Englandism is peculiarly strong in the upper walks of English society.  Like the old brazen statue, huge enough to hold a lighthouse in its hand, it strides across the busy current of middle English life, and plants its one colossal foot among the lower orders, and the other among the aristocracy.  It undoubtedly possesses among the higher classes a double element of strength.  It is strong, on the principle eulogized by Burke, from the union which it exhibits of high rank and the sacerdotal character.  Religion developed in the Puritanic type, and existing as an energetic reforming spirit, is quite as independent of riches and exalted station in its ministers now as in the days of the Apostles; but to religion existing simply as a conservative influence—and such is its character in the upper walks of English society—wealth and title are powerful adjuncts.  When the more conservative clergyman has Earls and Dukes to address, he is considerably more influential as a Rector than as a Curate, and as an Archbishop than as a Dean.  The English hierarchy is fitted to the English aristocracy.  And, further, the Church of England, as an Establishment, derives no little strength through an element from which the Establishment of Scotland, owing in part to its inferior wealth, but much more to the very different genius of the Scotch people, derives only weakness—it is strong in its secular and Erastian character.  There is scarce an aristocratic interest in the country, Whig or Tory, with which it is not intertwined, nor a great family that has not a large money stake involved in its support.  Like a stately tree that has sent its roots deep into the joints and crannies of a rock, and that cannot be uprooted without first tearing open with levers and wedges the enclosing granite, it would seem as if the aristocracy would require to be shaken and displaced by revolution, ere, in the natural course of things, the English Establishment could come down.  The Church of England is, at the present moment, one of the strongest institutions of the country.

    There is, however, a canker-worm at its root.  The revival of the High Church element, in even its more modified form, bodes no good; while in the extreme Puseyite type it is fraught with danger.  In the conversions to Popery to which the revival has led, the amount of damage done to the Establishment is obvious.  We see it robbed of some of its more earnest, energetic men.  These, however, form merely a few chips and fragments struck off the edifice.  But the eating canker, introduced by the principle into its very heart, threatens results of a greatly more perilous cast—results none the less formidable from the circumstance that the mischief inflicted is of too covert a nature to be exactly estimated.  If the axe of an enemy has assailed the supporting posts of the hut of the Indian, he can at once calculate on the extent of the damage received; but the ravages of the white ants, that scoop out the body of the wood, leaving merely a thin outside film, elude calculation, and he trembles lest the first hurricane that arises should bury him in the ruins of the weakened structure.  This much at least is obvious—the position in which the revived influence has placed the English Church is one of antagonism to the tendencies of the age; and equally certain it is that institutions waste away, like ice-floes stranded in thaw-swollen rivers, when the general current of the time has set in against them.  The present admiration of the mediæval cannot be other than a mere transitory freak of fashion.  The shadow on the great dial of human destiny will not move backward: vassalage and serfship will not return.  There is too wide a diffusion of the morning light for bat-eyed superstition; and the light is that of the morning—not of the close of the day. Science will continue to extend the limits of her empire, and to increase the numbers of her adherents, unscared by any spectre of the defunct scholastic philosophy which Oxford may evoke from the abyss.  Nay, the goblin, like those spirits that used to carry away with them, in their retreat, whole sides of houses, will be formidable, in the end, to but the ecclesiastical institution in which it has been raised.  It is worthy of notice, too, that though Popery and Puritanism—the grand antagonistic principles of church history for at least the last four centuries—are both possessed of great inherent power, the true analogue of modern Puseyism proved but a weakling, even when at its best: it was found not to possess inherent power.  The Canterburianism of the times of Charles the First did that hapless monarch much harm.  But while many a gallant principle fought for him in the subsequent struggle, from the old chivalrous honour and devoted loyalty of the English gentleman, down to even the poetry of the playhouse and the esprit de corps of the green-room, we find in the thick of the conflict scarce any trace of the religion of Laud.  It resembled the mere scarlet rag that at the Spanish festival irritates the bull, but is of no after-use in the combat.  It is further deserving of remark, that an English Church reformed in its legislative and judicial framework to the very heart's wish of the Puseyite, would be greatly more suited to the genius of the English people than in that existing state of the institution over which the Puseyite sighs.  To no one circumstance is the Church more indebted for its preservation than to the suppression of that Court of Convocation which Puseyism is so anxious to restore.  The General Assemblies and Synods of Presbyterian Scotland form, from their great admixture of the lay element, ecclesiastical parliaments that represent the people; and their meetings add immensely to the popular interest in the Churches to which they belong; but the Convocation was a purely sacerdotal court.  It formed a mere clerical erection, as little representative in its character as the Star-Chamber of Charles.  It was suppressed just as it was becoming thoroughly alien to the English spirit; and its restoration at the present time would be one of the greatest calamities that could befall the English Eatablishment.

    Of the partial successes of Puseyism I cannot speak from direct observation.  There are cases, however, in which it seems to have served to some extent the ends which it was resuscitated to accomplish—in one class of instances, through the support lent it by a favouring aristocracy—in another class, through the appliance of means more exclusively its own.  And, at the risk of being somewhat tedious, I shall present the reader with a specimen of each.

    It has been told me by an intelligent friend, who resided for some time in a rich district in one of the midland counties, in which the land for many miles round is parcelled out among some three or four titled proprietors, that he found Protestant Dissent wholly crushed in the locality—its sturdier adherents cast out—its weaker ones detached from their old communions, and brought within the pale of the Establishment—and a showy if not very earnest Puseyism reigning absolute.  The change had been mainly brought about, he ascertained, by the female members of the great landholding families.  The ladies of the manors had been vastly more active than their lords, with whose Conservative leanings, however, the servile politics of Puseyism agreed well.  Charities to the poor of the district had been extensively doled out on the old non-compulsory scheme; but regular attendance at the parish church, or the chapel attached to the mansion-house, was rendered all-essential in constituting a claim; the pauper who absented himself might, if he pleased, fall back on the workhouse and crush bones.  Schools had been erected in which the rising generation might be at once shown the excellence and taught the trick of implicit submission to authority; and the pupils who attended school had to attend church also, as a matter of course.  Even their parents had been successfully hounded out.  Lords of the manor have no little power in England where their tenants are tenants-at-will, and where almost every cottage of the villages on their lands is their own property.  Obstinate Dissenters found the controversy speedily settled by their removal from the scene of it; while the less stubborn learned in time to grope their way to the parish church.  Even the itinerant preacher now finds himself barred out of districts in which he could draw around him considerable audiences only a few years ago.  There are eyes on his old hearers, and they keep out of ear-shot of his doctrine.  And this state of things obtains in localities in which the clergy, though essentially Puseyite, are by no means so overburdened by earnestness as to be in danger of precipitating themselves on Rome.  I have heard of a whole parish brought out by such means to listen to a zealous sprig of High Churchism who preached to them with a broken face—the result of an accident which he had met at a fox-hunt a few days before!

    This, however, is not a safe, nor can it be an enduring triumph.  To use Cowper's figure, the bow forced into too violent a curve will scarce fail to leap into its "first position with a spring."  The reaction in English society on the restraint of the times of Cromwell, which so marked the reign of Charles the Second, will be but faintly typical of the reaction destine to take place in these districts.  It is according to the unvarying principles of human nature, that the bitterest enemies of High Churchism and a High Church aristocracy England ever produced should be reared at the Puseyite schools and churches, which mere tyrant compulsion has thus served to fill.  In the other class of cases in which the revived religion has triumphed, its successes have been of a more solid and less perilous character.  I have been informed by a friend resident in one of the busier English towns, that by far the most influential and flourishing congregation of the place is a Puseyite one.  Some eight or ten years ago it had been genteelly Evangelistic; but, without becoming less earnest it had got fairly afloat on the rising tide of revived Anglo-Catholicism, and had adopted both the doctrines and the policy of the Puseyite party.  It has its energetic, active staff of visiting ladies, who recommend themselves to the poor of the district by their gratuitous labours and their charities.  Its clergyman, too, is a laborious, devoted man, frequent in his visits to families saddened by bereavement or afflicted by disease; and the congregation have their missionary besides—a person of similar character—to second and multiply in the same walk the endeavours of his superior.  Whatever Moderatism and its cogeners may think of the aggressive system of Dr. Chalmers, Puseyism at least does not deem it either unimportant or impracticable.  The revived principle is, besides, found supplementing the system with expedients of its own.  The Whig poor-law adds, as has been shown, to Puseyite influence; and Puseyism adds to that influence still more, by denouncing the Whig poor-law.  Is a pauper in the locality aggrieved through the neglect or cruelty of some insolent official?—Puseyism in this congregation takes up his cause and fights his battle; and hence its great popularity among the poorer classes, and pews crowded with them to the doors; while Evangelistic clergymen of the Establishment, in the same town, have to preach to nearly empty galleries, and the Dissenters of the place are fain to content themselves with retaining unshortened, and hardly that, their old rolls of membership.  The only aggressive, increscent power in the locality is Puseyism.  Nor is it found, as in the case of the Popish converts, precipitating itself on Rome.  Much must depend, in matters of this kind, on the peculiar character of the leading minds of a congregation.  Mr. Newman has become a zealous Papist; but Dr. Pusey, on the other hand, is still a member of the Church of England: and it is a well-known historical fact, that Laud with all his Popish leanings, refused a cardinal's hat, and died an English bishop.  There are minds that, like Mahomet's coffin, can rest in a middle region, surrounded by balancing attractions—that can dwell on premises without passing to conclusions—and thus resist the gravitating influence; and in the English Establishment the balancing attractions are many and powerful.  Hence the midway position occupied by the great bulk of the English Puseyites, and the bad metaphysics with which they bemuse themselves, in justifying their sudden halt at what should be so palpable a point of progress.  As has been quaintly remarked by an English clergyman on the opposite side of the Church, "they set out for Rome, but stopped short on reaching Appii Forum, and got drunk at the Three Taverns."

    But enough, and, I am afraid, more than enough, of Puseyism.  It forms, however, one of the most remarkable features of the domestic history of England in the present day; and seems destined powerfully to affect, in the future, the condition and standing of the great ecclesiastical institution of the country.  And it is worth while bestowing a little attention on a phenomenon which the future chronicler may have to record as by far the most influential among various causes which led to the downfall of the English Establishment.  It may yet come to be written as history, that this great and powerful institution, when casting about for an element of strength, instead of availing herself of the Evangelism of her first Reformers—the only form of religion fitted to keep ahead of the human mind in its forward movement—attached herself to that old stationary religion of resuscitated tradition, idle ceremony, and false science, which her Reformers had repudiated; and that, unable, in consequence, to prosecute the onward voyage, the great tidal wave of advancing civilisation bore her down, and she foundered at anchor.

    I was a good deal impressed by the marked difference which obtains between the types of English and Scotch Dissent.  They indicate, I am of opinion, the very opposite characters of the two countries.  No form of Dissent ever flourished in Scotland that was not of the Presbyterian type.  The Relief Body—the various branches of the Secession—the Free Church—the followers of Richard Cameron—are all Presbyterian.  Wesleyism thrives but indifferently; Independency, save where sustained by the superior talents of its preachers in large towns, where the character of the people has become more cosmopolitan and less peculiarly Scotch than in the smaller towns and the country, gets on at least no better; Episcopacy, with fashion, title, and great wealth on its side, scarce numbers in its ranks the one-sixtieth part of the Scotch people.  Presbyterianism, and that alone, is the true national type of the religion of Scotland.  In England, on the other hand, there are two distinct national types—the Episcopalian and the Independent; and both flourish to the exclusion of almost every other.  Wesleyism also flourishes; but Wesleyism may be properly regarded as an offshoot of Episcopacy.  In the New Connexion there is a palpable development of the Independent spirit; but in that genuine Wesleyism established by Wesley, which gives its preachers at will to its people, and removes them at pleasure, and which possesses authority, order, and union, without popular representation, the spirit and principle is decidedly Episcopalian.  It may be worth while examining into a few of the more prominent causes in which these ecclesiastical peculiarities of the two countries have in a great measure originated, altogether independently of the jus divinum arguments of the theologian, or of the influences which these exercise.

    There obtains a marked difference in one important respect between English and Scotch character.  The Englishman stands out more separate and apart as an individual; the Scotchman is more mixed up, through the force of his sympathies, with the community to which he belongs.  The Englishman's house is his castle, and he glories in its being such.  England is a country studded over with innumerable detached fortalices, each one furnished with its own sturdy independent castellan, ready, no doubt, to join for purposes of mutual defence with his brother castellans, but not greatly drawn towards them by the operation of any internal sympathy.  Englishmen somewhat resemble in this respect particles of matter lying outside the sphere of the attractive influences, and included within that of the repulsive ones.  The population exists as separate parts, like loose grains of sand in a heap—not in one solid mass, like agglutinated grains of the same sand consolidated into a piece of freestone.  Nothing struck my Scotch eyes in the rural districts as more unwonted and peculiar than the state of separatism which neighbours of a class that in Scotland would be on the most intimate terms, maintain with respect to each other.  I have seen, in instances not a few, the whole farmers of a Scotch rural parish forming, with their families, one unbroken circle of acquaintance, all on visiting terms, and holding their not unfrequent tea-parties together, and all knowing much of one another's history and prospects.  And no Scotchman resident in the parish, however humble—whether hind or labourer—but knew, I have found, who lived in each farm-house, and was acquainted in some degree with at least the more palpable concerns of its inmates.  Now, no such sociableness appears to exist in the rural parishes of England; and neighbour seems to know scarce anything of neighbour.

    In the "Essay on National Character," we find Hume remarking a different phase of the same phenomenon, and assigning a reason for it.  "We may often observe," he says, "a wonderful mixture of manners and characters in the same nation, speaking the same language, and subject to the same Government; and in this particular the English are the most remarkable of any people that perhaps ever were in the world.  Nor is this to be ascribed to the mutability and uncertainty of their climate, or to any other physical causes, since all these causes take place in the neighbouring country of Scotland, without having the same effect.  Where the Government of a nation is altogether republican, it is apt to beget a peculiar set of manners.  Where it is altogether monarchical, it is more apt to have the same effect—the imitation of superiors spreading the national manners faster among the people.  If the governing part of a State consist altogether of merchants, as in Holland, their uniform way of life will fix the character.  If it consist chiefly of nobles and landed gentry, like Germany, France, and Spain, the same effect follows.  The genius of a particular sect or religion is also apt to mould the manners of a people.  But the English Government is a mixture of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy.  The people in authority are composed of gentry and merchants.  All sorts of religion are to be found among them; and the great liberty and independency which every man enjoys, allows him to display the manners peculiar to him.  Hence the English, of any people in the universe, have the least of a national character, unless this very singularity may pass for such."  Such is the estimate of the philosopher; and it seems but natural that, in a country in which the people are so very various in character, the extreme diversity of their tastes, feelings, and opinions should fix them rather within the sphere of the repulsive than of the attractive influences.

    Certain it is that the multitudinous sources of character in England do not merge into one great stream: the runnels keep apart, each pursuing its own separate course; and hence, apparently, one grand cause of the strange state of separatism which appears among the people.  It seems scarce possible to imagine a fitter soil than that furnished by a characteristic so peculiar, for the growth of an Independent form of Christianity.  The influences of Evangelism are attractive in their nature: they form the social prayer-meeting, the congregation, the National Church, and, spreading outwards and onwards, embrace next the Church catholic and universal, and then the whole human family.  And unquestionably in the Evangelism of Independency, as in Evangelism in every other form, there is much of this attractive influence.  But it is the distinctive peculiarity of its structure that it insulates every congregation, as forming of itself a complete Christian church, independent in its laws, and not accountable to any ecclesiastical body for its beliefs; and this peculiarity finds in the English mind the most suitable soil possible for its growth.  The country of insulated men is the best fitted to be also the country of insulated churches.  Even the Episcopacy of the National Church has assumed in many districts a decidedly Independent type.  The congregations exist as separate, detached communities—here Puseyite, there Evangelical—High Church in one parish, Rationalistic in another; and, practically at least, no general scheme of government or of discipline binds them into one.

    But while the Englishman is thus detached and solitary, the Scotchman is mixed up, by the force of his sympathies, with the community to which he belongs.  He is a minute portion of a great aggregate, which he always realizes to himself in its aggregate character.  And this peculiarity we find embodied in our proverbs and songs, and curiously portrayed, in its more blameable or more ludicrous manifestations, in the works of the English satirists.  "Most Scotchmen," said Johnson, in allusion to the Ossianic controversy, "love Scotland better than truth, and almost all of them love it better than inquiry."  "You are almost the only instance of a Scotchman that I have known," we find him saying on another occasion to Boswell, "who did not at every other sentence bring in some other Scotchman."  "One grand element in the success of Scotchmen in London," he yet again remarks, "is their nationality.  Whatever any one Scotchman does, there are five hundred more prepared to applaud.  I have been asked by a Scotchman to recommend to a place of trust a man in whom he had no other interest than simply that he was a countryman."  " 'Your Grace kens we Scotch are clannish bodies,' " says Mrs. Glass in the "Heart of MidLothian," to the Duke of Argyll.  " 'So much the better for us,' " replies the Duke, " ' and the worse for those who meddle with us.' " "Perhaps," remarks Sir Walter, in his own person, in the same work, "one ought to be actually a Scotchman, to conceive how ardently, under all distinctions of rank and situation, the Scotch feel the mutual connexion with each other, as natives of the same country."  But it may seem needless to multiply illustrations of a peculiarity so generally recognised.  The gregariousness of the Scotch—"Highlanders! shoulder to shoulder"—the abstract coherency of the people as a nation—their peculiar pride in the history of their country—their strong exhilarating associations with battle-fields on which the conflict terminated more than six hundred years ago—their enthusiastic regard for the memory of heroes many centuries departed, who fought and bled in the national behalf—are all well-known manifestations of a prominent national trait.  Unlike the English, the Scotch form, as a people, not a heap of detached particles, but a mass of aggregated ones; and hence, since at least the days of Knox, Scotland has formed one of the most favourable soils for the growth of Protestantism, in a Presbyterian type, which the world has yet seen.  The insulating bias of the English character leads to the formation of insulated Churches; while this aggregate peculiarity of the Scottish character has a tendency at least equally direct to bind its congregations together into one grand Church, with the area, not of a single building, but of the whole kingdom, for its platform.  It is not uninstructive to mark, in the national history, how thoroughly and soon the idea of Presbyterianism recommended itself to the popular mind in Scotland.  Presbyterianism found a soil ready prepared for it in the national predilection: and its paramount idea as a form of ecclesiastical government seemed the one natural idea in the circumstances.  An Englishman might have thought of gathering together a few neighbours, and making a Church of them; the Scotchman at once determined on making a Church of all Scotland.

    It seems necessary to the right understanding of the leading ecclesiastical questions of Scotch and English history, that these fundamental peculiarities of the two countries should be correctly appreciated.  The attempt to establish a Scottish Church on an English principle filled an entire country with persecution and suffering, and proved but an abortive attempt after all.  And a nearly similar transaction in our own times has dealt to the cause of ecclesiastical Establishments in Britain by far the severest blow it has ever yet sustained.  What was perhaps the strongest of the three great religious Establishments of the empire, has become, in at least an equal degree, the weakest; and a weak State Church placed in the midst of a polemical people, is weakness very perilously posted.

    In no respect did the national Churches of England and Scotland differ more, as originally established—the one at the Reformation and Restoration, the other at the Reformation and Revolution—than in the place and degree of power which they assigned to the civil magistrate.  The Scottish Church gave up to his control all her goods and chattels, and the persons of her members, but allowed him no voice in ecclesiastical matters; fully recognising, however, as an obvious principle of adjustment, that when their decisions chanced to clash in any case, the civil magistrate should preserve his powers as intact over the temporalities involved, as the Church over the spiritualities.  The magistrate maintained his paramount place in his own province, and disposed at will, in every case of collision, of whatever the State had given to the Church—lands, houses, or money; while the Church, on the other hand, maintained in her own peculiar field her independence entire, and exercised uncontrolled those inherent powers which the State had not conferred upon her.  She wielded in the purely ecclesiastical field a sovereign authority; but, like that of the British monarch, it was authority subject to a stringent check: the civil magistrate could, when he willed, stop the supplies.  In England, on the contrary, it was deemed unnecessary to preserve any such nice balance of civil and ecclesiastical power.  The monarch, in his magisterial capacity, assumed absolute supremacy in all cases, spiritual as well as temporal; and the English Church, satisfied that it should be so, embodied the principle in the Articles, which all her clergy are necessitated to subscribe.  So essentially different was the genius of the two countries, that the claim on the part of the civil magistrate, which convulsed Scotland for more than a hundred years to be ultimately rejected at the Revolution, was recognised and admitted in England at once and without struggle.

    The necessary effects of this ecclesiastical supremacy on the part of the Sovereign are of a kind easily estimated.  One has but to observe its workings, and then try it by its fruits.  That there exists no discipline in the Anglican Church, is an inevitable consequence of the paramount place which her standards assign to the civil magistrate.  For it is of the nature of civil law that it will not bear—let men frame its requirements and penalties as they may—against what happen for the time to be the gentlemanly vices.  If hard drinking chance to be fashionable, as fashionable it has been, no one is ever punished for hard drinking.  A gentleman may get drunk with impunity at a chief magistrate's table, and have the chief magistrate's companionship in the debauch, to set him all the more at his ease.  In like manner, if swearing chance to be fashionable, as fashionable it has been, even grave magistrates learn to swear, and no one is ever fined for dropping an oath.  Exactly the same principle applies to the licentious vices: there are stringent laws in the statute-book against bastardy; but who ever saw them enforced to the detriment of a magistrate or a man of fortune?  And it is by no means in exclusively a corrupt state of the courts of law that this principle prevails; it obtains also in their ordinary efficient condition, in which they protect society against the swindler and the felon, and do justice between man and man.  It is of their natures as civil courts—not a consequence of any extraordinary corruption—that they will not bear against the gentlemanly vices; and it is equally of their nature, too, in a country such as Britain, in which the influence of the toleration laws has been directing for ages the course of public opinion, that they should be thoroughly indifferent to the varieties of religious belief.  Unless the heresiarch be an indecent atheist, who insults society and blasphemes God, he is quite as good a subject in the eye of the law as the orthodox assertor of the national creed.

    Now, the magistrate does not relinquish this indifferency to mere matters of doctrine, and this leniency with regard to the genteeler offences, by being made supreme in ecclesiastical matters.  On the contrary, he brings them with him into the ecclesiastical court, where he decides in the name of the Sovereign; and the clergyman, whom he tries in his character as such, is quite as safe if his vices be but of the gentlemanly cast, or his offences merely offences of creed, as if he were simply a layman.  Hence the unvarying character of decisions by the English Judges in Church cases.  Is an appeal carried to the civil magistrate by a clergyman deprived for drunkenness?—the civil magistrate finds, as in a late instance, that the appellant is, in the main, a person of kindly dispositions and a good heart, and so restores him to his office.  Is an appeal carried by a clergyman deprived for licentiousness and common swearing?—the magistrate concludes that there would be no justice in robbing a person of his bread for more peccadilloes of so harmless a character, and so restores him to his office.  Is an appeal carried by a clergyman deposed for simony?—the civil magistrate finds that a man is not to be cut off from his own living for having sold some two or three others, and so restores him to his office.  Is a clergyman a frequenter, on his own confession in open court, of houses of bad fame?  What of that?  What civil magistrate could be so recklessly severe as to divest a highly-connected young man, for so slight an offence, of thirteen hundred a year!  As for mere affairs of doctrine, they are, of course, slighter matters still.  Let the Socinian teach undisturbed in this parish church, and the Puseyite in that—let the Arminian discourse yonder, and the Calvinist here—the civil magistrate in the British empire is toleration personified, and casts his shield over them all.  And such, in its workings, is that flagrant dread and abhorrence of the Evangelistic Scotch, Erastianism.  It is impossible, in the nature of things, that it can co-exist with discipline; for it is inherent and constitutional to it to substitute for the law of the New Testament, the indifferency of the civil magistrate to mere theological distinctions, and his sympathy with the gentlemanly vices.

    But while such seems to be the real character of this Erastian principle, the Scotch Presbyterian who judges the devout English Episcopalian in reference to it by his own moral standard, and the devout English Episcopalian who decides respecting the Presbyterian Scot with regard to it by his own peculiar feelings, may be both a good deal in error.  In order to arrive at a just conclusion in either case, it is necessary to take into account the very opposite position and character of the parties, not only as the members of dissimilar Churches, but also as the inhabitants of different countries.  That adhesive coherency of character in the Presbyterian Scot, which so thoroughly identifies him with his country, and makes the entire of his Church emphatically his, gives to the Erastian principle a degree of atrocity, in his estimate, which, to the insulated English Episcopalian, practically an Independent in his feelings, and deeply interested in only his own congregation, it cannot possess.  A John Newton at Olney may feel grieved as a Christian that Mr. Scott, the neighbouring clergyman of Weston-Underwood, should be a rank Socinian, just in the way a devout Independent minister in one of the chapels of London may feel grieved as a Christian that there should be a Unitarian minister teaching what he deems deadly error in another of the city chapels half a street, away.  But neither John Newton nor the Independent feel aggrieved in conscience by the fact: enough for them that they are permitted to walk, undisturbed, their round of ministerial duty, each in his own narrow sphere.  The one, as an insulated Englishman and Independent, is the leading member of a little congregational state, and all congregations besides are mere foreign states, with whose internal government he has nothing to do.  The other, as an insulated Englishman, and as holding in an unrepresentative slumbrous despotism a subordinate command, which resolves itself practically, as certainly as in the case of the Independent, into a sort of leading membership in a detached congregational state, feels himself as entirely cut off from the right or duty of interference with his neighbours.  And so long as the Erastian decision, unequivocally legalized by statute, fails to press upon him individually, or to operate injuriously on his charge, he deems it a comparatively light grievance: it affects a foreign state—not the state that is emphatically his.  But not such the estimate or the feelings of the Presbyterian Scot.  He is not merely the member of a congregation, but also that of a united coherent Church, co-extensive with his country, and whose government is representative.  There is not a congregation within the pale of the general body in which he has not a direct interest, and with regard to which he may not have an imperative duty to perform.  He has an extended line to defend from encroachment and aggression; and he feels that at whatever point the civil magistrate threatens to carry in the contamination which, when he assumes the ecclesiastical, it is his nature to scatter around him, he must be determinedly resisted, at whatever expense.  Erastianism to the Scot and the Presbyterian is thus an essentially different thing from what it is to the Episcopalian and the Englishman.  It is a sort of iron boot to both; but, so far at least as feeling is concerned, it is around the vital limb of the Scotchman that it is made to tighten, while in the case of the Englishman it is wedged round merely a wooden leg.

    The errors committed by the government of the country, in legislating for Scotland in matters of religion as if it were not a separate nation, possessed of a distinct and strongly-marked character of its own, but a mere province of England, have led invariably to disaster and suffering.  Exactly the same kind of mistakes, however, when dissociated from the power of the State, have terminated in results of rather an amusing than serious character.  In a country district or small town in Scotland, in which the Presbyterian clergy were of the unpopular Moderate type, I have seen an Independent meeting-house get into a flourishing condition; its list of members would greatly lengthen, and its pews fill; and, judging from appearances, on which in England it would be quite safe to calculate, one might deem it fairly established.  The Independent preacher in such cases would be found to be a good energetic man of the Evangelistic school; and his earnest Evangelism would thus succeed in carrying it over the mere Presbyterian predilection of the people.  The true Scotch feeling, however, would be lying latent at bottom all the while, and constituting a most precarious foundation for the welfare of the Independent meeting-house.  And when in some neighbouring Presbyterian church an earnest Evangelistic minister came to be settled, the predilection would at once begin to tell: the Independent congregation would commence gradually to break up and dissipate, until at length but a mere skeleton would remain.  The Independent minister would have but one point of attraction to present to the people—his Evangelism; whereas the Presbyterian would be found to have two—his Evangelism, and his Presbyterianism also; and the double power, like that of a double magnet, would carry it over the single one.  Some of my readers must remember the unlucky dispute into which the editor of a London periodical, representative of English Independency, entered, about a twelvemonth after the Disruption, with the Free Church.  It hinged entirely, though I daresay the English editor did not know it, on the one versus the two attractive points.  An Independent chapel had been erected in the north of Scotland in a Moderate district; and Evangelism, its one attractive point, had acquired for it a congregation.  But through that strange revolution in the course of affairs which terminated in the Disruption, the place got a church that was at once Evangelistic and Presbyterian; and the church with the two points of attraction mightily thinned the congregation of the church that had but one.  The deserted minister naturally enough got angry and unreasonable; and the Congregationalist editor, through the force of sympathy, got angry and somewhat unreasonable too.  But had the latter seen the matter as it really stood, he would have kept his temper.  The cause lay deep in the long-derived character of the Scotch; and it was a cause as independent of either Congregationalism or the Free Church, as that peculiarity in the soil and climate of an African island which makes exactly the same kind of grapes produce Madeira in its vineyards, that in the vineyards of Portugal produce Sherry.

    After a stay of rather more than two months in England, I took my passage in one of the Liverpool steamers for Glasgow, and in somewhat less than twenty-four hours after, was seated at my own fireside, within half a mile of the ancient Palace of Holyrood.  I had seen much less of the English and their country than I had hoped and proposed to see.  I had left the Chalk, the Wealden, and the London Clay unexplored, and many an interesting locality associated with the literature of the country unvisited.  But I had had much bad weather, and much indifferent health; I had, besides, newspaper article-writing to the extent of at least a volume; to engage me in dull solitary rooms, when the pitiless rain was dropping heavily from the eaves outside.  And so, if my journey, like that of Obidah, the son of Abensina, has, in its discrepancies between expectation and realization, promise and performance, resembled the great journey of life, I trust to be not very severely dealt with by the reader who has accompanied me thus far, and to whom I have striven to communicate, as fairly as I have been able, and as fully as circumstances have permitted, my First Impressions of England and its People.

 

NOTES.

 
22.    Trap-stairs; Scotish, a stair of one flight.
 
23.    One of the most amusing sketches of this sort of sword-and-buckler play which I have anywhere seen may be found in Macculloch's "Travels in the Western and Northern Highlands."  Were I desirous to get up a counter sketch equally characteristic of the incurious, communicative turn of the English, I would choose as my subject a conversation—if conversation that could be called in which the speaking was all on the one side—into which I entered with an Englishman near Stourbridge.  He gave me first his own history, and then his father and mother's history, with occasional episodes illustrative of the condition and prospects of his three aunts and his two uncles, and wound up the whole by a detail of certain love passages in the biography of his brother, who was pledged to a solid Scotchwoman, but who had resolved not to get married until his sweetheart and himself, who were both in service, should have saved a little more money.  And all that the narrator knew of me in turn, or wished to know, was simply that I was a Scot, and a good listener.  Macculloch's sketch, however, of the inquisitive Highlander would have decidedly the advantage over any sketch of mine of the incurious Englishman; his dialogue is smart, compact, and amusing, though perhaps a little dashed with caricature; whereas the Englishman's narratives were long, prosy, and dull.  The scene of the dialogue furnished by the traveller is laid in Glen Ledmack, where he meets a snuffy-looking native cutting grass with a pocket knife, and asks—"How far is it to Killin?"—"It's a fine day Ay, it's a fine day for your hay."—"Ah! there's no muckle hay; this is an unco cauld glen."—" I suppose this is the road to Killin?" (trying him on another tack.)—"That's an unco fat beast o' yours."—"Yes; she is much too fat; she is just from grass."—"Ah! it's a mere, I see; it's a gude beast to gang.  I'se warran' you?"—"Yes, yes; it's a very good pony."—"I selled just sic another at Doune fair five years by-past: I warran' ye she's a Highland-bred beast?"—"I don't know; I bought her in Edinburgh."—"A-weel a-weel, mony sic like gangs to the Edinburgh market frae the Highlands."—"Very likely; she seems to have Highland blood in her."—"Ay, ay; would you be selling her?"—"No, I don't want to sell her; do you want to buy her?"—"Na! I was nee thinking o' that: has she had na a foal?"—"Not that I know of."—"I had a good colt out of ours when I selled her.  Ye're na ganging to Doune the year?"—"No, I am going to Killin, and want to know how far it is"—"Ay, ye'll be gaing to the sacrament there the morn?"—"No, I don't belong to your kirk."—"Ye'll be an Episcopalian then?"—"Or a Roman Catholic!"—"Na, na; ye're nae Roman."—"And so it is twelve miles to Killin?" (putting a leading question.)—"Na; it's nae just that."— "It's ten, then, I suppose?"—"Ye'll be for cattle then for the Falkirk tryst?"—"No; I know nothing about cattle."—"I thocht ye'd ha'e been just ane o' thae English drovers. Ye have nae siccan hills as this in your country?"—"No, not so high."—"But ye'll ha'e bonny farms?"—"Yes, yes; very good lands."—"Ye'll nae ha'e better farms than my Lord's at Dunira?"—"No, no; Lord Melville has very fine farms."—"Now, there's a bonny bit land; there's nae three days in the year there's use meat for beasts on it; and it's to let. Ye'll be for a farm hereawa?"—"No, I am just looking at the country."—"And ye have nae business?"—"No."—"Weel, that's the easiest way."—" And this is the road to Killin?"—"Will ye tak' some nuts?" (producing a handful he had just gathered.)—"No; I cannot crack them."—"I suppose your teeth failing.  Ha'e ye cry snuff?"—"Yes, yes; here is a pinch for you."—"Na, na; I'm unco heavy on the pipe, ye see: but I like a hair o' snuff; just a hair," (touching the snuff with the end of his little finger, apparently to prolong time, and save the answer about the road a little longer, as he seemed to fear there were no more questions to ask.  The snuff, however, came just in time to allow him to recall his ideas, which the nuts were near dispersing.) "And ye'll be from the low country?"—"Yes; you may know I am an Englishman by my tongue."—"Na; our ain gentry speaks high English the now."—"Well, well, I am an Englishman at any rate."—"And ye'll be staying in London?"—"Yes, yes,"—"I was ance at Smithfield mysel' wi' some beasts: it's an unco place London.  And what's your name? asking your pardon."  The name was given.  "There's a hantel o' that name i' the north.  Yore father'll maybe be a Highlander?"—"Yes; that is the reason why I like the Highlanders."—"Well" (nearly thrown out) "it's a bonny country now, but it's sair cauld here in the winter."—"And so it is six miles to Killin?"—"Ay, they ca' it sax."—" Scotch miles I suppose?"—"Ay, ay; auld miles."—"That is about twelve English?"—"Na, it'll no be slums ten short miles,"—(here we got on so fast, that I began to think I should be dismissed at last)—"but I never see'd them measured.  And ye'll ha'e left your family at Comrie?"— "No, I am alone."—"They'll be in the south maybe?"—"No; I have no family."—"And are ye no married?"—"No."—"I'm thinking it's time."—"So am I"—"Weel, weel, ye'll ha'e the less fash:,"—"Yes, much less than in finding the way to Killin."—"O ay, ye'll excuse me; but we countra folks speers muckle questions."—"Pretty well, I think."—"Weel, weel, ye'll find it saft a bit in the hill; but ye maun hand wast, and it's nae abune ten mile.  A gude day."

 


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