Are the English taller, stouter, lustier, ruddier, healthier, than our New England people? If I gave my impression, I should say that they are. Among the wealthier class, tall, athletic-looking men and stately, well-developed women are more common, I am compelled to think, than with us. I met in company at different times five gentlemen, each of whom would be conspicuous in any crowd for his stature and proportions. We could match their proportions, however, in the persons of well-known Bostonians. To see how it was with other classes, I walked in the Strand one Sunday, and noted carefully the men and women I met. I was surprised to see how many of both sexes were of low stature. I counted in the course of a few minutes' walk no less than twenty of these little people. I set this experience against the other. Neither is convincing. The anthropologists will settle the question of man in the Old and in the New World before many decades have passed.
What do you want? he asked, thrusting the pearls into his pocket.
Here are some of my first impressions of England as seen from the carriage and from the cars.--How very English! I recall Birket Foster's Pictures of English Landscape,--a beautiful, poetical series of views, but hardly more poetical than the reality. How thoroughly England is groomed! Our New England out-of-doors landscape often looks as if it had just got out of bed, and had not finished its toilet. The glowing green of everything strikes me: green hedges in place of our rail-fences, always ugly, and our rude stone-walls, which are not wanting in a certain look of fitness approaching to comeliness, and are really picturesque when lichen-coated, but poor features of landscape as compared to these universal hedges. I am disappointed in the trees, so far; I have not seen one large tree as yet. Most of those I see are of very moderate dimensions, feathered all the way up their long slender trunks, with a lop-sided mop of leaves at the top, like a wig which has slipped awry. I trust that I am not finding everything couleur de rose; but I certainly do find the cheeks of children and young persons of such brilliant rosy hue as I do not remember that I have ever seen before. I am almost ready to think this and that child's face has been colored from a pink saucer. If the Saxon youth exposed for sale at Rome, in the days of Pope Gregory the Great, had complexions like these children, no wonder that the pontiff exclaimed, Not Angli, but angeli! All this may sound a little extravagant, but I am giving my impressions without any intentional exaggeration. How far these first impressions may be modified by after-experiences there will be time enough to find out and to tell. It is better to set them down at once just as they are. A first impression is one never to be repeated; the second look will see much that was not noticed before, but it will not reproduce the sharp lines of the first proof, which is always interesting, no matter what the eye or the mind fixes upon. "I see men as trees walking." That first experience could not be mended. When Dickens landed in Boston, he was struck with the brightness of all the objects he saw,--buildings, signs, and so forth. When I landed in Liverpool, everything looked very dark, very dingy, very massive, in the streets I drove through. So in London, but in a week it all seemed natural enough.
Author: Oliver Wendell Holmes
Where wandering flocks went nibbling round
I well remembered my visit to Stratford in 1834. The condition of the old house in which Shakespeare was born was very different from that in which we see it to-day. A series of photographs taken in different years shows its gradual transformation since the time when the old projecting angular sign-board told all who approached "The immortal Shakespeare was born in this House." How near the old house came to sharing the fortunes of Jumbo under the management of our enterprising countryman, Mr. Barnum, I am not sure; but that he would have "traded" for it, if the proprietors had been willing, I do not doubt, any more than I doubt that he would make an offer for the Tower of London, if that venerable structure were in the market. The house in which Shakespeare was born is the Santa Casa of England. What with my recollections and the photographs with which I was familiarly acquainted, it had nothing very new for me. Its outside had undergone great changes, but its bare interior was little altered.
In the same way we passed through the exhibition of paintings at the Royal Academy. I noticed that A---- paid special attention to the portraits of young ladies by John Sargent and by Collier, while I was more particularly struck with the startling portrait of an ancient personage in a full suit of wrinkles, such as Rembrandt used to bring out with wonderful effect. Hunting in couples is curious and instructive; the scent for this or that kind of game is sure to be very different in the two individuals.
Beneath the leaves or snows,
As for the kind of monument such as I see from my library window standing on the summit of Bunker Hill, and have recently seen for the first time at Washington, on a larger scale, I own that I think a built-up obelisk a poor affair as compared with an Egyptian monolith of the same form. It was a triumph of skill to quarry, to shape, to transport, to cover with expressive symbols, to erect, such a stone as that which has been transferred to the Thames Embankment, or that which now stands in Central Park, New York. Each of its four sides is a page of history, written so as to endure through scores of centuries. A built-up obelisk requires very little more than brute labor. A child can shape its model from a carrot or a parsnip, and set it up in miniature with blocks of loaf sugar. It teaches nothing, and the stranger must go to his guide-book to know what it is there for. I was led into many reflections by a sight of the Washington Monument. I found that it was almost the same thing at a mile's distance as the Bunker Hill Monument at half a mile's distance; and unless the eye had some means of measuring the space between itself and the stone shaft, one was about as good as the other. A mound like that of Marathon or that at Waterloo, a cairn, even a shaft of the most durable form and material, are fit memorials of the place where a great battle was fought. They seem less appropriate as monuments to individuals. I doubt the durability of these piecemeal obelisks, and when I think of that vast inverted pendulum vibrating in an earthquake, I am glad that I do not live in its shadow. The Washington Monument is more than a hundred feet higher than Salisbury steeple, but it does not look to me so high as that, because the mind has nothing to climb by. But the forming taste of the country revels in superlatives, and if we could only have the deepest artesian well in the world sunk by the side of the tallest column in all creation, the admiring, not overcritical patriot would be happier than ever was the Athenian when he looked up at the newly erected Parthenon.
The week passed away rapidly enough, and we made ready for our departure. It was no easy matter to get a passage home, but we had at last settled it that we would return in the same vessel in which we had at first engaged our passage to Liverpool, the Catalonia. But we were fortunate enough to have found an active and efficient friend in our townsman, Mr. Montgomery Sears, who procured staterooms for us in a much swifter vessel, to sail on the 21st for New York, the Aurania.
I cannot do justice to the hospitalities which were bestowed upon us in Cambridge. Professor and Mrs. Macalister, aided by Dr. Donald Macalister, did all that thoughtful hosts could do to make us feel at home. In the afternoon the ladies took tea at Mr. Oscar Browning's. In the evening we went to a large dinner at the invitation of the Vice-Chancellor. Many little points which I should not have thought of are mentioned in A----'s diary. I take the following extract from it, toning down its vivacity more nearly to my own standard:--