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“ More or less this interference of Presidential politics in all the concerns of life, obtained in every part of America which I visited. There were exceptions, it is true, but these were so rare, that the tone I have been describing was assuredly the predominant one every where. The consequence was, that the candidates for office, instead of being the principals, were generally mere puppets-men of straw-abstract beings, serving the purpose of rallying points to the voters from whence they might carry on their main attack in the pursuit of an ulterior object, which, after all, was equally immaterial in itself, but which served, for the time being, to engross the attention of the people as completely as if it were of real consequence to them. In these respects, therefore, the Presidential contests in America resemble those field sports in which the capture of the game is entirely subordinate to the pleasures of its pursuit.” Vol. i. pp. 248–250.
As for that peevish disposition which the worthy Captain manifests on other points, it is partly to be accounted for by his political theory, and partly by the simple fact that he is an Englishman. We say Englishman, because we know that every North-Briton affects to be thought so, if possible. If the education of the more opulent classes is defective-if domestic dige ei pline is lax and feeble--if the speeches in Congress are prosy and bombastic-if the roads are rough-if the stage-coaches have hard seats and only one door, or, perhaps, none at all-if every body "gobbles up" his dinner in a trice, and goes about his business—if in a country-inn or a cheap boarding-house in town, “the dangerous practice of eating with a broad-sword, nicknamed a knife, instead of a silver fork, and without any napkin, is still kept up here, as it was in England until very recently—it is all owing to that accursed spirit of democracy, the mighty leveller, the universal defiler. So if the gentlemen do not smooth their hats, are very superficially versed in the neckclothiana, and seem far less concerned than they ought to be about the cut of their coats. The emphasis which is laid upon these things by so very intelligent a person, will surprise the uninitiated; but his complaints on another head, are more frequent and lugubrious. It is, we are grieved to say, but very seldom that he finds a bill of fare satisfactory to his distinguished appetite, or more distinguishing palate. The good gentleman talks of the boys at Captain Partridge's Academy, bolting their dinner like cormorants. We do not pretend either to dispute his statement, or to defend such heathenish manners--but if some little envy did not enter into this criticism, we have read this book to little purpose. We never, in all our experience, heard so much about eating, except in a passage across the Atlantic, with a company of French gourmands, whose daily practice it was to supply a very scanty and unsavoury dinner,
by the "bare imagination of a feast." We should say that Captain Hall was labouring under as confirmed and violent gastrimurgia* as honest Sancho. Another annoyance of which he complains bitterly, is, that he was constantly put to the torture until he confessed what he thought of everything that he saw and beard, and if his answer happened to be less rapturous than was desired, he uniformly had the mortification to perceive that he had given great offence. We are glad to find that he was relieved from this bore as soon as he got as far southward as Baltimore, and was allowed during the rest of his journey, to bestow or to withhold bis admiration as he saw fit. There is, no doubt, a great deal of truth in the remark, that Americans do not bear criticism well. We know this from our own very limited experience, and we think the account given of it by Captain Hall, is substantially correct.
We readily conceive that the last mentioned grievance is a serious one, and he has all our sympathy when he dwells upon it. But really, nothing but the proverbial querulousness of Englishmen, especially when travelling in foreign countries, can excuse or rather account for some of our tourist's complaints. Grumbling seems to be John Bull's prescriptive privilege, whether at home or abroad. Whoever has happened to meet with him on the Continent of Europe, knows that Poco-Curante himself was not harder to please. Voltaire paints him very pleasantly in the following lines :
"Ce fut là qu' à table ils rencontrèrent
Plus dédaigneuse encore, plus impolie,” &c. If there were nothing more in it than this, we should have less cause to complain of the treatment we have received at their hands. But the fact is, that for obvious reasons, we are subject to the utmost rigour of this peevish and splenetic criticism. We certainly do not imagine—what Captain Hall says, is a preva
* We do not know that this word has been yet naturalized, but it has quite as much right to the jura civitatis, as gastronomy," &c.
+ Vol. i. p. 241.
lent idea in the Northern States, and what is often repeated in fourth of July orations every where—that the English, still sore under their defeats in the revolutionary war, are anxious to revenge themselves upon us as well as they may, by these and other annoyances.
We know by actual intercourse with them, that this is a most ridiculous notion : the fact is truly stated in the volume before us. The people of the mother country are profoundly, and we may add, disgracefully ignorant of every thing that relates to the history and condition of their quondam colonies, and perhaps of their present ones too. We have reason to believe, what a celebrated compatriot of our traveller is reported to have said to Mr. Madison, that many well informed persons in all parts of Great-Britain, have never so much as heard of the last war, which was so fruitful to us of signal triumphs and proud recollections. It is not the resentment of the English (we are sorry to confess it) that we have to apprehend in this matter of criticism so much as another feeling, far less complimentary, which we do not care to mention. Even when they roam through countries strictly foreign—that is of a different origin and languagethey rarely do more, as we have already remarked, than tolerate their peculiar usages and manners. Still they do make some allowances on this score, while strange idioms which they seldom comprehend very perfectly, conceal or disguise some of the most remarkable features of national character. But with us, nothing escapes their observation, and everything is tried by false weights and measures.
It is by no means enough, that we should be all that can be expected under existing circumstances—nay, that our manners should even come up (if they do come up, which we neither affirm nor deny) to the standard of propriety recognized by polite society all over the world. We must be in the latest fashion of the West End. Our clothes must be cut by Stultz, our language must be learned in the slang-dictionary, some Brummel must be our model in the supreme bon genre. Take the important example of the silver fork. It is not very long ago since this great comfort came into very general use in England, if it can properly be said to be so even now. But since it is reckoned by the better sort there a badge of vulgarity to put steel into one's mouth a British traveller draws the same inference here, as a matter of course, quite overlooking the ocean between us, and what is yet more important, quite forgetting that his own father must probably come in for his share of the condemnation. Language is another and a very striking example of the same blind propensity. Certainly there is no line of demarcation between vulgar people, and people of comme it faut so palpable, as the use and abuse of the vernacular. Between the inbabitants of the same country, the test is quite infallible. But here, too, the English traveller forgets that he is out of his latitude; and is forever wondering why we should not express ourselves in the current slang of the day, instead of speaking a language which no Englishman can comprehend. He never once suspects that he knows nothing about the matter--that it is we who have preserved our mother tongue in its primitive purity, while it has been debased or corrupted among them by recent innovations. Yet so, in many cases, it undoubtedly is. For example, we were quite amused at Captain Hall's dissertation upon the word " Fall,” which it seems we use in the place of " Autumn," and which he gravely recommends to the adoption of his countrymen, for poetical purposes at least. Now it so happens, that our common ancestors had anticipated his discovery in its whole extent by some centuries, and that the traveller has mistaken, as other people have done before him, his ignorance for originality.
In a word, it is taken for granted by every Englishman, that every thing in America differing in anywise from the same thing in England, is ipso facto wrong and conclusive against the intelligence and taste of the people.
This transporting us beyond seas for trial, would be even under the most favorable circumstances, a very outrageous proceeding, but its injustice becomes still more glaring, when we consider by what law we should be judged. We hazard nothing in saying, that with all the admirable characteristics of her people, which have raised England to such a pitch of glory and power, there is no where to be found in christendom, a state of society in many respects so artificial, exclusive and disagreeable-in short, so widely at variance, if we may be indulged in the expression, with the jus gentium of polished life. One very striking feature of it, is the stress they lay upon the merest minutiæ of dress and manners; which are regulated by a most arbitrary and fluctuating standard, so that is utterly impossible for any but the regularly initiated to be sure of conforming to in all respects. It is not to be wondered, therefore, that Captain Hall, who came hither expressly to play the censor, should appear so vastly fastidious and fault finding. We must confess, that we sometimes find it difficult to repress a smile when we think of his performance in that character-there is something so outré in the notion of a blunt, bluff, opiniated, though we admit very shrewd and clever Scotch sailor, giving himself the airs of an effeminate and priggish dandy. How far, however, his political prejudices contributed to the severity of his criticism, is obvious from the excellent part in which he takes the roughest usage on the northern side of the St. Lawrence and Ontario.
Still, it must be confessed, that he seems in many respects to have struggled hard against his feelings, which were such as any philosopher might make a boast of curbing ; though it is another instance to shew that the yow to JEAUTOV was a divine precept, that the author of this book has actually persuaded himself, that he came hither prepossessed in favour of the country! He confesses freely, and with all suitable professions of gratitude, that he was every where treated with kindness, nay, that he was sometimes overwhelmed with it, especially in the matter of sight-seeing in the Northern cities. But wherever he went-in crowds or in solitudes, in the maritime capitals, or in the wildest. backwoods, he never encountered a human being who did not greet him hospitably, and if need were, serve him cheerfully. Let it be borne in mind, too, that he made no secret at all of his opinions, but went about sketching, scribbling, sneering, scolding to our very faces, without encountering so much as one ruffled cemper, or one uncivil answer.* No greater eulogy, it appears to us, could possibly be passed upon any people. Indeed, highly as in duty bound, we shall ever think of our beloved countrymen, the statement seems to us scarcely credible. What we should like to know, would be the reception of a foreigner in England, under similar circumstances? The remarks of our author upon all the public, but especially the charitable institutions of the country are, also, highly favourable to it. According to this account of us, neither pains nor expense are spared to perfect them-no difficulties, no discouragements damp our philanthropy, or make us weary of welldoing. Captain Hall has done us full justice, too, in another most important particular. He has been at no pains, we think, to disguise the fact, that, bad as its government is, the country is in a very flourishing condition. At least, whatever he may say in occasional passages, this is the necessary inference from his wbole statement taken together. He thinks, indeed, that if we had remained under the royal government, we should have had a more prosperous, though not so populous a country. As respects one devoted part of this confederacy, we are sorry to say, we entertain no doubt about the truth of
Perhaps, the manners of a noble Roman would be vulgar in Grosvenor Square, and the morality of a heathen be despised by those who enjoy the advantages of an established church, but there is something after all in the following precept: Peregrini officium est nibil præter suum negotium agere, nihil de alieno anquirere, minime que in aliena esse republica curiosum.Cic. off. i. 34.