AS the end of my stay in England drew near, I hurried about, trying to see as much as possible of the country. Though I spent most of my time in the great metropolis, I felt that I couldn’t be satisfied to start for the Continent without having seen something of the English country as well. London was great, but I knew that there was much of interest to be seen elsewhere.
One trip which I particularly enjoyed was a visit to the English Lakes. It was interesting, not only on account of the beautiful scenery, but from the associations connected with them ; so- many of England’s distinguished poets and authors having lived, written, and died there. My first sail was by a steam yacht around Lake Windermere. The residence of Professor Wilson (” Christopher North “) was the first place of note that met our view; then Mrs. Heman’s ” Dove Nest “, a little white cottage, was seen embowered amid the trees on the slope. After leaving the yacht, at the head of the lake, I made a pedestrian tour of the neighborhood, and was enchanted by the lovely views of mountain and mere, and residences nestling by the waterside. The first house of special interest was ” Nab Cottage,” the humble white homestead on the roadside, by the margin of Rydal Lake, where Hartley Coleridge, the poet, lived and died. Then came Rydal Mount, near the summit of which stands Wordsworth’s house. The grounds are called Rydal Park, and I had hoped to see them, but entrance was forbidden. The property was rented, and the occupant did not care to be annoyed by visitors.
The Beautiful Lake District of England
I soon came to the quiet, smooth and beautiful Lake Grasmere, and then visited the churchyard, where Wordsworth’s family lie buried, under a simple and modest slate-colored tombstone, about three feet in height, with the following inscriptions : ” William Wordsworth, 185o; ” Mary Wordsworth, 1859.” Beside them lies their daughter, and, next to her, her husband. Close behind this family group I saw the monument of Hartley Coleridge, about two feet in height, of gray granite, and surmounted with a Greek cross and crown. Around the crown were the words, ” By thy cross and passion, good Lord, deliver us.” I entered the quaint old church near-by, where both these famous men had worshiped, and saw the pews they had occupied. It was all wonderfully interesting.
The country round about this district was beautiful almost beyond description. The vale of Grasmere is thus described by Wordsworth : ” This vale of Gras-mere, the loveliest spot that man bath ever found,” and I felt that I could perfectly agree with the sentiment. I found a path which led me past the house where the great poet had first lived, and where he was visited by Sir Walter Scott and other authors. This path afforded me a splendid view of the whole region, of surpassing loveliness, and led me past several beautiful homes laid out in English style, with lawns and flower-beds of almost every imaginable shape. I never walked over such velvety lawns; yet their beauty was somewhat marred by the queer-shaped flower-beds.
One could hardly find a more interesting and beautiful walk in all the world than this one among the English Lakes, with thirty-four mountains in view, and in the vicinity sixteen lakes and eleven waterfalls. At Keswick, I walked by the side of Derwent Water to the Cascade of Lodore. Nearby was Greta Hall, where the poet Southey lived and died, and in a near-by churchyard I visited his grave. On the tombstone were the dates of his birth and death and the following inscription : ” I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord.” At Greta Hall I saw the poet’s study, where he wrote more than one hundred volumes and one hundred and fifty articles for different reviews. It was a memorable experience to see these scenes where great men lived and worked ; the impressions gained have remained with me ever since.
British Workmen and Their Methods
Since my ancestors had been Scotch, I felt that I must see something of the country north of the Clyde, and from the lake district I started for Glasgow, making a detour by the way to visit Ayr, the birthplace of Robert Burns. There I saw the splendid monument erected to the memory of the poet, near the scenes of some of his most beautiful verses. I found that the Scotch are very enthusiastic over Burns, and there were great crowds of excursionists from Glasgow, Paisley and other cities, since it was a Saturday afternoon, and the workmen had a holiday. The workmen were little different in appearance and actions from those with which I had become well-acquainted in London. As far as I could observe, the laboring classes all over Britain were terribly demoralized by drunkenness, and the skilled artisans were losing their power over other nations as superior workmen, by their dissolute habits, which deadened their sensibilities. When I saw the way in which work is done in some of the British factories, I thought to myself, that in a short time the country would surely be overrun with workmen from America, or, if not that, with the finished products from our establishments. The British workmen can never accomplish as much in ten days as the Americans do in a week. They take the Saturday half-holiday and almost invariably get drunk. On Sunday they are unfit to go to church, and it is a fact that they often take Monday as their day for rest and religion, so that it has come to be called ” Saint Monday.”
I was young, perhaps, to make such observations, but I couldn’t fail to observe distress among the working people wherever I went. In every consider-able town there were persons who were actually suffering from hunger and want, and the workhouses are always full to overflowing. Many families were apparently too poor to buy meat, and lived on bread and beer. The most unobservant traveler in any part of Britain could see that whisky and beer drinking are a terrible curse. It is said that twelve times as much are spent for alcoholic stimulants in Great Britain as for clothing, and that would seemingly be enough to ruin any country, if the proportion be long continued.
The Ownership of Land
Another condition which impressed me as contrary to our American ideas was the system of landownership. The laboring classes are often unable to purchase a home, because the land is owned by a small number of large landholders. It is stated that more than half the land of Great Britain is held by two thousand persons, and sometimes these aristocratic gentry think less of the poor than of their thousands of acres for deer parks. One estate, that of the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth, contains two thousands acres for his private park, and thousands of acres for farming. His flower-garden embraces two hundred acres, and there are two thousand deer on the place. This arrangement might not be objectionable in the boundless plains of western America, but in a small country like England, it means that someone must suffer on account of this extravagance.
I sometimes traveled for miles without seeing any house except two or three large castles, occupied by families living in great splendor; while at the little villages, saw the renters of the land, who were nearly always miserably poor, and hardly able to make ends meet after paying their taxes, rents and church dues. It is not to be wondered at that the poor tenants are absolutely without ambition. There is no inducement for them to try to more than make a bare living; they cannot hope to own a home, and they feel that the laws are made to protect the aristocratic class. It is too often true that the English landowner overrides all justice. He takes precedence of all ordinary creditors on the helpless tenants of his estate, he controls the system of cultivation, often in utter disregard of private rights or private judgment, and, in addition, secures to himself the absolute reversion of every improvement which the tenant may make on the land. I couldn’t help contrasting the condition of the British peasantry with our happy, prosperous farmers at home. One renter with whom I talked in Scotland, told me that he paid two thousand dollars a year for one hundred and sixty acres of land, and when I told him that he could buy three or four hundred acres of the best land in Kansas or Nebraska for that sum, he looked incredulous.
The Scotch Metropolis
After visiting the home of Burns, I went to Glasgow, the largest city of Scotland, and the second in Great Britain. It is a substantial, business-like place, with buildings of stone, and many handsome public edifices. I was particularly impressed with the large number of churches, and the number of people who attended religious service on the Sabbath. Not only were the churches well-filled, but there were lay preachers holding forth in the parks, and on the public corners, and every preacher had a crowd. I followed my usual custom of attending service in the most historic place of worship, and visited the ancient cathedral, which was founded in 1133. It had lately been restored, and I thought it as beautiful as any I had seen in England. The stained-glass windows, in fact, were the finest I had seen anywhere. It is now controlled by the Presbyterians, and it seemed odd to witness the beautifully simple services of this denomination conducted in such a stately edifice. I wished that some of the members of our Presbyterian church at home could have been present with me.
From Glasgow I determined to make the tour of the Highlands, for I thought it best to visit all the interesting places of the neighborhood while I was near-by. I went by way of the Scotch Lakes and the Caledonia Canal, and the scenery was picturesque and beautiful beyond any I had seen in Britain. I passed many beautiful watering-places, and obtained fine views of Dunglass Castle, with the monument arising amid its ruins to the memory of Bell, who perfected and launched, for practical purposes, the first steamer in the world. One could not desire a more lovely tour than this, and I was sorry when I had to leave the beautiful country and go to Edinburgh.
The Beauties of Edinburgh
I had long heard and read of the beauty of the Scotch capital, and I wasn’t disappointed. It is certainly one of the most fortunately located cities, for natural beauty, in the world. Built upon a group of hills, from nearly every point the place appears to advantage. The city is rich, too, in historic interest, and my short visit was crowded with interesting jaunts to the Abbey of Holyrood, the Castle, Arthur’s Seat, and other noted places. I could have sat for hours on the walls of the old castle, looking at the city stretched out below me, and when I reached Arthur’s Seat I felt as if I never wanted to leave. But I had been absent from London for several days, and I felt that I must cut my stay in Edinburgh short.
On my return to the metropolis, I of course visited Melrose Abbey, which is only about thirty-six miles from Edinburgh, and I found it larger and more perfect than any piece of ecclesiastical architecture I had seen. I also visited Abbottsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, whose novels I had so enjoyed while I worked in the public library at home. It is a magnificent residence, and I could well believe that it cost two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to construct it. The library consists of sixty thousand volumes, and the dimensions of this single room are sixty by fifty feet. In the armory, I enjoyed seeing the old muskets and other ancient instruments of war, and in one room I found copies of the great author’s writings, and the clothing which was worn by him just before his death. I felt that after this visit I would be more interested than ever in the stirring novels, for I had been amid the very scenes of some of them.
A Gorgeous Christian Temple
After leaving Abbottsford I stopped at York, where I desired to visit the famous cathedral. I had seen so many pictures of it and had read so much of its beauty that I was quite prepared to be disappointed in the reality. But I found it to be even more beautiful than I had imagined. It may well be considered one of the finest in the world, as it is one of the oldest, having been begun in the seventh century and completed in the fourteenth. The view across the great transept is said to surpass, in architectural effect, that of any other Gothic edifice. The deanery, chapels and canons’ residences give to everything a grandeur and a lavishment of wealth which was fairly stunning to my American simplicity. I had never witnessed such magnificence in connection with religion, and could hardly grasp it in one visit.
The great east window in the cathedral is seventy-five feet high, by thirty-two feet wide. It is one of the glories of the building, and it is the largest window in Britain that retains its original glazing. The contract for the glazing between the Dean and Chapter and John Thornton, of Coventry, is dated 1405. The glazier was to receive for his work four shillings, or one dollar a week, and was to finish the window in three years. There are two hundred compartments, each about a yard square. The subjects in the upper division, above the gallery, are from the Old Testament, beginning with the Creation, and ending with the death of Absalom. Those below are from the book of Revelations, except those in the lowest tier, which are representations of kings and bishops.
On the way from York to London I had some excellent views of England’s country scenery. The train seemed to pass through a continuous city, which was dotted with small farms, like garden-spots. There were no handsome farm-houses, on the American plan, to be seen anywhere, only small cottages with tiled roofs. I couldn’t help wondering what one of these English farmers would think if he could visit an American farmhouse, with the conveniences of gas, telephone, and electricity, and could see the vast extent of one of our Western farms. The wonderful machinery for mowing, reaping, and harvesting would seem marvelous indeed to the English countryman. American machinery, how-ever, is being rapidly introduced in the British Isles.
Back to My London Home
I was very glad to return to the little inn after my wanderings, for it now seemed like home to me. Sometimes the old lady was a little cross, but as a rule she treated me kindly, and I was always congratulating myself that I had succeeded in finding such a good place in which to stay. The work was never hard, after the first, and they were good about allowing me to take trips into the country. When I returned from these sightseeing jaunts, the people at the inn were always curious to know what I had seen. They always expected that I would have some unusual adventure, and usually I was able to gratify their expectations in this regard.
The people of the neighborhood filled the tap-room each evening, come to spend the evening in gossip, and they never tired of listening to what I had to tell of the things I had seen. It was surprising how little of England, and of London, even, these people had seen. Many of them confessed that they had never been inside Westminster Abbey, and there was hardly one who had visited the British Museum. The good women of the street thought it a terrible thing that I should be alone and so far from home, and several of them were bent on being mothers to me while I was in London. I appreciated all their interest, for such kindnesses kept me from growing homesick.
There were times, however, when it was impossible to keep my thoughts from the dear ones at home, and very often when I went to bed at night, I lay awake for a long time, thinking of what they might be doing, and wishing I could see them, if only for a few hours. Each Friday I sent a long letter home, telling of all the things I was doing and seeing, and mother wrote in reply every week or two. She was solicitous about my health, feeling that I might fall ill in some strange place, but otherwise she seemed pleased that I was learning so much from my experiences. I was always able to send home good reports of my health, and I was careful never to send any word of my disappointments and failures.
A Distressing Lack of Money
There was one thing which worried me a great deal after I had been in England for a couple of months, and that was the failure of the American editors to send me any money. I had begun to send letters to the two newspapers soon after my arrival, and I knew that some of them had been printed, for I had seen them in the papers. I couldn’t understand, therefore, why the money wasn’t sent in payment. I sent several letters of inquiry, and expected that every mail would bring the expected checks, but day after day I was disappointed. I was glad that I hadn’t depended altogether upon the money from America, and I exerted myself to write something which I could sell to the London journals. They were generous in their dealings, and through their kindness I earned sufficient money to pay my expenses in England and Scotland. I also saved up a small sum, and finally I had forty-five dollars deposited with the British Post-Office Savings Bank.
As the weeks passed, and I had no word from the American editors, I determined to wait no longer before starting upon a tour of the Continent of Europe. The money I had would be sufficient, I thought, to pay my expenses for a few weeks, and I felt certain that the expected checks would soon arrive. I left word with the dear old lady at the inn to send my mail to three different addresses which I gave her, and I confidently expected that the money would be waiting for me when I reached the first place.
My ideas of Continental travel were rather vague, or I would have wanted more than forty-five dollars to start with from London. But I had great confidence by this time in my ability to get along, and I had faith that since I had so far succeeded so well, I would surely be able to get through the remainder of my tour. So I arranged to travel from London to Ostend, in Belgium, where I planned to begin my Continental journey. If I could have looked ahead a few weeks, I would probably have remained at the little inn, where I was comfortable, and sure, at least, of my board and lodging.