The art of cooking is in general not much advanced in England, and that of dressing vegetables the least of all. I have heard Englishmen, who had mended their taste in foreign countries, say in jest, that heaven had given them good things for the kitchen, but that the devil had sent the cooks.
|On the Character of the English,||356|
Since the chapter on London is exceptionally long, I have broken it up into three segments as in the German original.
LONDON, though even in the times of Tacitus1, celebrated for its commerce, was, however, eight hundred years ago, but of a very small circumference, when compared with its present extent. Within this century it has increased to an astonishing degree, and the mad spirit of building, during the twenty years, in which I have resided in this metropolis, has enlarged its extent so much, that a person who has not seen it within this short space of time, would hardly know the environs of London any more. New towns have sprung up on its former borders, in the south, west, and north, where tracts of land, that were, a few years since, fields for cattle to graze in, are now covered with thousands of houses. Fine squares and streets, most of them regularly laid out and well paved, present palaces to the eye, which bespeak riches and grandeur, where a little while ago nothing was to be seen but uncultivated grounds, brick-kilns, and even dung-hills. Perhaps, within twenty years more, if 253 government does not set bounds to this rage of enlarging the metropolis, all the villages, which about the middle of this century, were two or three miles distant from London, will be at the end of it joined to this monstrous capital, and make part of it. It has been a matter of dispute, whether Paris or London could boast of the greater extent; and I am certain, that the latter has the advantage, if it can be allowed to be such, and deserves that name. I have surveyed Paris twenty years ago, from the church of Notre Dame, and from the royal observatory, and I thought it then one third smaller than London. About four years ago when I visited the metropolis of France again, I took the opportunity of another view, and was fully confirmed in my former opinion.
Forty years ago, the number of houses in London was estimated at about 125,000, and the number of streets at 6000. I believe the former may, with some degree of probability, now be said to be not less than 150,000, and the other perhaps 6500. As to the number of inhabitants in London, the opinions differ greatly, and it is during the winter season undoubtedly more populous than during the summer months. But supposing, the number 254 of houses as stated before was nearly right, and every one of them, on an average, was inhabited by five persons only, the sum total would be about 750,000, which I think by no means too much; though Dr. Price endeavours to prove2, that in the year 1777, it amounted only to 543,420. I am rather inclined to think, that during the winter, and the beginning of spring, London contains very near 900,000 souls; some pronounce them to be a million. How great an increase is this when compared to former times. It is said that in the year 1631, under Charles I. the inhabitants of London were numbered by an order from the privy-council, and that only 130,1783 were found. If this be true, and the population of all England at that time, as it might be supposed, was not much inferior to what it is now, how great is then the disproportion between the present metropolis and that about an hundred and fifty years ago! How monstrous does the head appear now, when compared with the body.255
The riches which are sunk and gained upon that, comparatively speaking, little spot, which goes under the general denomination of London, is incredible, even when only the building and the rent of houses is calculated. Supposing the erecting of each house, some of which have cost many thousand pounds, is put down for three hundred only, it will produce forty-four millions; and stating the annual rent of each, without exception, at twenty pounds only, three millions will be paid in London annually for house-rent.
The government of the city of London, represents, in miniature, that of the kingdom, and that of the united American provinces is a still greater likeness. The lord-mayor may be looked upon as the king of the city, the aldermen bear a faint resemblance to the house of lords, and the common council, as deputies of the different wards, to the house of commons. A lord-mayor is annually elected, and that solemn shew, by which the city is yearly entertained on the lord mayor’s day, when he enters his office, though highly satisfactory to the majority of spectators, is a kind of burlesque upon the taste of the citizens; but it was more so formerly than now, since of late some alterations have taken place in conducting 256 this solemnity, though there is great room for much more reformation4.
The city of London is divided not only into twenty-six wards, but into eighty-nine companies also, each of which has its hall. Twelve of them are the most respected, and the Lord-mayor is generally a member of one of these. Those who are called livery-men of companies, only have the right to the representatives for the city in parliament; and whoever is not a freeman of the city and does not belong to them, is excluded from voting. Hence it appears, that numbers of the most opulent inhabitants of London, many merchants, bankers, and others who live upon their fortunes, are not qualified to chuse their representatives in parliament, because they do not belong to any of those companies.
Though the English in general, and the inhabitants of London in particular, are much against soldiery; yet the city maintains a kind of militia of its own, which is called the trained bands. If they were complete, they would consist of 6000 men, besides an artillery 257 company of 500. They are of little consequence, and though it is said that London could raise within four and twenty hours, not less than 40,000 men, yet I believe that 10,000 regular troops could disperse them on the first onset.
As Westminster is a separate and independent city from that of London, it has likewise a distinct government. Instead of a lord-mayor it has a high-steward, who is appointed for life by the dean and chapter of Westminster-abbey. He is generally a nobleman, and has a deputy-steward under him. The chapter nominates a high-bailiff also, who is confirmed by the high-steward. Westminster sends two representatives to parliament, and every house-keeper has a right to vote. I have seen several parliamentary elections in England, but none that, in regard to the most scandalous rioting, exceeded those of Westminster.
1 Tacitus Annal. xiv. c. 33.
2 Essay on the Population of England, p. 5.
3 If this statement be true, which, I own, appears to me improbable, it is, perhaps, to be understood of the city by itself, and even then it seems to be under-rated.
4 In the German original a more ample account is given of the internal government of the city; but as this is well known in this country, it is here omitted.
In the German original, this long section is divided into three headings: London; Anmerkungen über London (remarks about London); and finally Von den Merkwürdigkeiten in und nahe um London (noteworthy things in and near London).
the sum total would be about 750,000
[He cited the same number a few chapters earlier. Since the population of London in the 1801 census was close to a million, the figure of “very near 900,000 souls” offered later in the paragraph is probably closer to the mark.]
only have the right to choose the representatives for the city
text has chose
every house-keeper has a right to vote
[I’m inclined to think he means “house-holder”, although the idea of Mrs. Hughes casting her ballot does have a certain appeal.]
[Footnote] Tacitus Annal. lib. xiv. c. 33.
text has iib. xiv.
[Footnote] but as this is well known in this country, it is here omitted
[I can’t help wondering about the author’s basis for assuming that the entire population of England—to say nothing of other English-speaking regions—is intimately familiar with the details of London’s “internal government”.]
There is no place in the world, where a man may live more according to his own mind, or even his whims, than in London. For this reason, I believe, that in no place are to be found a greater variety of original characters, which are the offspring of such freedom. Every one may choose his company according to his liking, and never trouble himself about 258 his next neighbour, whom he oftentimes does not know even by name. A foreigner will at first hardly be pleased with the manner of living in London, because it is so different from what he has experienced on the continent; but if he has sense enough, to perceive and to value that freedom in thinking and acting, which is to be enjoyed in England, he will soon adopt the sentiments of Erasmus5, without thinking of the suavia, which he seemed to be so fond of, and wish to conclude his days in England. One thing, however, I shall mention, that poverty is no where harder to be endured than in this country; and, perhaps, the consequences of getting into debt are no where more to be dreaded than here. If England were not so enormously burdened with taxes, no land, to live in, could be preferred to this, and no place would be more desirable than London. The friend of arts and sciences, the friend of religious liberty, the philosopher, the man who wishes to be secure against political and 259 tyrants, the man of business, the man of pleasure, can no where be better off than in this metropolis. A man of learning, who can live without great cares, may gratify here his favourite inclinations, for libraries, for new publications, for learned acquaintance. I have known many a one here, who, as a philosopher, lived happy, and according to Horace:
Ambitione procul, . . . . . . .
. . . . . paucorum hominum, est mentis bene sanæ.
Epicureans, who regard sensual pleasures as the chief end of life, naturally resort to London; and the man of business, who thinks it the greatest happiness to be accumulating money, may here, sooner than any where, either acquire riches or become a bankrupt.
It is a prejudice to think that London is an unhealthy place. No wonder that a great many die, when there is so vast a number of inhabitants. I have found, that people of a good constitution, who lead a regular life, may attain to a great age here as well in other towns; and I have observed, that those who live in the country are subject to as many illnesses, and die as soon, as those in town. There are undoubtedly instances, in which the exchange of country air for that in London, 260 may be conducive to health, or its recovery; but I have likewise reason to think, that many who exclaim against the air of London do it from affectation. There are parts of London, and particularly of Westminster, which are almost as quiet as the country, and where, in regard to disturbances and sleep, no such complaints can be made as Boileau brought against Paris:
Qui frappe l’air bon Dieu! de ces lugubres cris?
Est ce donc pour veiller, qu’on se couche a Paris?
Nor are those subterraneous dangers to be dreaded at London, which are concealed at Paris under the very ground upon which many of its streets, and many of its churches, are erected. The quarries underneath that capital, which more than once, by the falling in of their surfaces, have excited horror and exhibited melancholy scenes, present, as Mr. Mercier expresses it, steeples and high-vaulted churches, like so many signs, to tell the eye, that as much as they see of them in the air, so much they want below at their foundation6.261
The arguments which are derived from the bills of mortality, to prove the unhealthiness of London, will be found very unsatisfactory by him who knows how little dependance is to be placed upon them. They are made with so little exactness, that no conclusive inferences can be drawn from them, in regard to the state of the air, and the salubrity of London, by comparing the annual number of christenings and burials. The latter will always exceed the former, for the following reasons: Quakers and Jews do not have their children baptized; most of the Dissenters, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Calvinists, Roman Catholics, &c. have them baptized by their own clergy. All these are not included among the christenings, although many of them contribute to fill up the burials7. It may be farther observed, that most of the servants in London, particularly females, come out of the country, and consequently are not to be found among the christenings, though generally among the burials. Many of those who die in hospitals are not among the christenings, though they are interred 262 in episcopal church-yards. If these circumstances, relative to the bills of mortality, are considered, the wonder will cease, how it happens, that the number of burials always exceeds that of christenings; and whoever knows the manner in which these bills are composed, will be cautious what inferences he draws from them, in regard to the state of mortality of inhabitants of London.
Great improvements have taken place in London, within these twenty years, and most of them ought to be considered as conducive to the health of its inhabitants. I only wonder that the good understanding of the English, and an age so fertile in improvements, has not yet seriously thought of putting a stop to that absurd and noxious custom of burying the dead among the living, in church-yards amidst dwelling houses, and even in churches under the feet of the parishioners. The late king of Prussia made the best regulations in this respect; and I wonder that the wise example which he has given, has not been more generally adopted.
If all London were built like its western parts, particularly that which is called Marybone, it would be one of the finest cities in Europe. It exceeds Paris by far in regard to 263 pavement and cleanliness, and at night, is infinitely better lighted. A foot-passenger is in continual danger in Paris, but not in London. The lamps to lighten the streets of the French metropolis are hung up in the midst of them, on lines drawn across from one house to the other, like bird-cages; and when the almanack announces moon-light, they are during a fortnight extinguished, let it be ever so dark. Hardly a night passes there without murder being committed; but, in London, the great command, Thou shalt not commit murder, seems to be much more regarded.
A thousand hackney-coaches ply day and night in the streets, Sundays excepted, when their number is lessened. In the city the noise and bustle is greater than in the western part of the town; and it is said, that the manners in the neighbourhood of St. James’s are more refined than about the Royal Exchange. The nearer I come to the mansion-house, the more I am put in mind of the picture which is drawn of Rome by Juvenal:
. . . . . Nobis properantibus obstat
Unda prior; magno populus premit agmine lumbos
Qui sequitur: ferit hic cubito, ferit assere duro
Alter; et hic tignum capiti incutit, ille metretam.
More people are seen in the streets of London at midnight than in many considerable towns of Europe at noon-day. In the time of James the First, the houses were almost entirely built of wood, but at present they are of brick; and though their outside appearance, particularly in the city, is, on account of the smoak, sometimes as black as the tents of Kedar, yet the inside of those which are inhabited by reputable people, is clean and neat, and oftentimes costly. It must be said, in praise of the modern English, that they are much addicted to cleanliness; and that, particularly in regard to the neatness of their linen, they leave other nations much behind them. In Erasmus’s time, indeed, they must have been but very little acquainted with the virtue of cleanliness. Their habitations must then have borne rather the resemblance of hog-styes than of the dwellings of men. No wonder, therefore, that Erasmus was of opinion, that uncleanliness was one of the causes which occasioned the plague to break out so frequently in London. His description of the filthiness, to be observed in houses, would hardly be credited in our “The floors in them, he says, are covered with clay and bull-rushes, which now and then are renewed in such a manner, that 265 the old bottom remains for twenty years together. Under it are concealed spittings and spewings, the urine of dogs and men, remnants of beer thrown away, fish-bones, and other kinds of filth, which I forbear to mention8.” At present foreigners, introduced into the houses of the better class of people, are struck with the neatness and elegance of the furniture, and are almost afraid to tread upon those fine carpets, which now cover the floor, instead of the bull-rushes with which they were anciently decorated.
The number of inhabitants in London being so great, it may be easily supposed, that their manner of living must be different, according to their situation in life, their education, and their circumstances. It has been observed in all societies, where different ranks are to be met with, that those who are of a lower order, want to imitate those of a higher, and to adopt as much as is in their power, their dress and air; this is also very visible in London. To guess at the rank in life of those who appear in the streets, or in public places, is a difficult matter. The rich man dresses frequently as if he had but a small income; and he, whose 266 circumstances are very narrow, is desirous of being supposed to be in affluence. On comparing the manner of living in England, and particularly in London, which differs greatly from that in great towns of other countries, it will be found, that the English, particularly those of the middling class, live more frugally than those who are of the same rank in other countries. Nevertheless, house-keeping, let it be ever so œconomically conducted, will be expensive.
The causes of the dearness of all the necessaries of life, particularly of provisions, in London, are various. I will mention only a few. The traffic in provision is considered as one method of acquiring fortunes, and of amassing riches, which alone, cannot but produce bad consequences for the community. This trade is no where carried on with more refinement, nor stretched farther than in England, especially in the metropolis. Many good laws have been made to regulate this trade, and bring it to a standard of equity and justice; but the case is the same in this respect, as in that of a hundred other good laws, which, after being made, are not sufficiently enforced, and consequently soon neglected. People who live by what they earn with the 267 work of their hands, suffer most by this dearness of provisions; for though it is said that the price of day-labour is four or five times higher than it was about the year 1514; yet, it ought to be considered, that corn at present is five, and butchers’ meat fifteen times dearer than it was then; and consequently, that labour, in proportion, is cheaper, and a day-labourer poorer, than in the year which is mentioned.
All sorts of provisions are not only burdened with the heaviest taxes, but every one, through whose hands they pass, receives considerable profits, which the consumer at last is to pay. When government lays a small tax upon a commodity which is much in use, those who sell it wholesale or retail will not seldom take the advantage immediately, and under pretence of an increased tax, reimburse themselves perhaps ten-fold. Thus, when some years ago, one single penny was laid on each bottle of port wine, as an additional duty, the retailers of wine took the opportunity immediately of raising it to six pence, which hitherto has been paid in every tavern and every coffee-house, though the duties on this sort of wine have once been lowered. Yet none of the frequenters of coffee-houses and taverns ever 268 complain, or try to bring it to the old standard again, because they all wish to go under the denomination of gentlemen; and it seems, at least in London, the prevailing notion, that it is ungentleman-like to take notice, or to complain of any imposition in such places, and that a true gentleman must pay whatever is demanded, without murmuring, let it be ever so extravagant.
In those provinces of England, where provisions may be bought, without their going through many hands before they come to the last consumer, living is much cheaper than in or near London. Within the distance of sixty miles, the best provisions are brought to this devouring metropolis, because here they fetch the best price. They who live in or near those villages which furnish London with garden-stuff, can very seldom buy it so good as it is to be had in Covent Garden, or other London markets. The people in Gloucestershire, when they wish to have good cheese, the produce of their county, are sometimes under a necessity of sending for it to London. The necessaries of life, and the supply of the wants of luxury, which are daily carried to this enormous metropolis, are beyond conception, and the annual 269 consumption of them might even stagger the belief of credulity.
It is very natural, that if luxury increases, particularly in London, dearness of living must do the same. Fifty years ago a family might live very handsomely on five hundred pounds per annum, but a thousand will at present hardly go so far. Yet, though the price of every thing is advanced, more necessaries of life, as well as luxuries, are at present required in London than fifty years ago. To prove this, I could produce a number of arguments, but two may be sufficient. The first relates to the article of sea-coals, the other to coaches. The former are not only much dearer than they were fifty years ago, but the consumption of them is more than doubled also. Coaches have increased at an enormous rate. The coach-making trade, an hundred years ago, was hardly known in England, and at present it is one of the most lucrative that is carried on. In the time of James I. a tax upon coaches would, perhaps, have produced not a hundred pounds, and at present it is worth to government, annually, more than a hundred thousand. I cannot, however, help observing, that luxury has, within these few years made such great strides and so rapid a progress, 270 that it seems as if it were hastening to its summit; from whence, after being arrived there, its motion must, according to the nature of all human things, be retrograde, for it cannot go on ad infinitum, and to stand still, in its full strength and vigour, for a long while, is hardly possible, since its nerves must grow weaker. As for the minister of finances, the increase of luxury, among all classes of people, must be beneficial to him; he must grow richer because the taxes will be the more productive, whilst those who indulge themselves with a more luxurious life, will grow poorer. Whoever lives upon a thousand a year, is supposed to pay at present about six hundred of it in government duties, taxes, excise, church, parish and poor-rates.
Great, however, as this dearness is, it seems to be a wonder that it does not rise higher. Considering only the article of beer, and the very great duties, to which the process of brewing is subject, it is rather surprising that the price is not higher. If it be considered, how great the imposts are upon the land which produces the corn; the expences of tillage, and the profits of the farmer; the heavy taxes upon malt and hops; the very considerable profits which are taken by the brewers, 271 who frequently acquire great fortunes; the profits of the alehouse-keepers, and the productive imposts laid on the beer itself by government; it is hardly to be wondered at, that a pot of porter costs three-pence half-penny. It has been calculated, that an acre of land, which is set at thirty shillings, if it is sowed with barley, produces to government by the manifold taxes, until the beer reaches the last consumer, not less than eight pounds sterling annually.
Having mentioned before, that all articles of provision when they come into the London market, have already passed through many hands, which have taxed them very heavily, I will explain this in two instances only. The first shall be taken from the butcher’s meat, and the other from the fish-market. There is a kind of leeches called graziers, who buy as much cattle of the farmers as they can get. These they keep in fields, meadows, and stables so long, till the carcase-butchers, a kind of beings, we, on the continent, are entirely unacquainted with, come from London to buy it off their hands. These butchers of quality, if I may so style them, have their slaughter-houses in and near London, whence the common butchers, who keep stalls in the markets, fetch 272 the meat to sell it to the consumer. No wonder that, by so much forestalling, the price is advanced, when farmers, graziers, carcase-butchers, and retail butchers, get rich at the expence of the last buyer. And to keep up the price, I have been told, that it is no uncommon thing with some butchers, rather to bury the meat, which they cannot dispose of, under ground, than to sell it under that price which they have fixed upon. There are, indeed, good laws to forbid forestalling and such iniquitous transactions; but they are, as I have already observed of other English laws, too much neglected, and easily evaded, being executed with very little rigour. These, however, are the natural consequences of too luxurious a state of society, and of the avarice of trade, by which means the feelings of humanity towards the indigent are suppressed. In the cheaper provinces of Germany and France, the prices of provisions are, at present, almost the same as they were about four hundred years ago in England9, but which now, at least in London, bread perhaps excepted, are six or seven times higher. What I have said of the flesh-market, is likewise applicable to that of fish. London might be abundantly supplied 273 with almost all kinds of sea-fish, and by that means the price of butcher’s meat be lowered; but here again tricks are played in abundance, and forestallers are in plenty. The consumers of fish in London, I believe, pay not much less than an hundred per cent. on the original cost. Besides, the English do not pay a proper attention to the fisheries on their coasts, which, if they did, they would find extremely advantageous. I have been informed, that many an English fishing-boat, which goes to sea to provide for the London market, is glad to meet a Dutch one, which by its industry has obtained a good cargo. The Englishman readily buys it, pays a good price to the Dutchman, brings the fish to London, and sells it for double the money which it cost him. The common people in London, I have observed, are not overfond of fish; for they prefer flesh, as to them the most agreeable food. A foreigner, when he first comes to England, will be surprised to see what flesh-eaters the English are. He will be struck with the sight of an enormous piece of beef, such, perhaps, as he never saw in his life, placed before him upon the table; and being used, in his own country, to a great deal of vegetables, he will be at a loss what to make of a small plate, with a few 274 green leaves, as the companion to the beef, bearing a proportion of one to fifty. The common people in London are likewise more dainty than those in other places. A labourer will have his daily beef or mutton, his white bread, and his strong beer. I remember that within my time, the parliament ordered a kind of bread to be baked of flour of wheat mixed with that of rye, to sell it cheaper; but none even of the poorer class will eat it, though it is very palatable, and keeps longer moist than the common white bread. It is brown, and that seems to be a sufficient reason to reject it. Most of the English are much prejudiced in respect to the colour of what they eat and drink; they please the eye oftentimes at the expence of the palate and of the taste. The whiter the bread is, the better they think it to be; and some bakers, who take the advantage of this fancy, mix the flour, in the most unwarrantable manner, with alum. There are heavy penalties against such abominable practices, but it is said to be done notwithstanding. The English like also their vegetables on the table as green as when gathered, and therefore seldom boil them sufficiently, either in mere water, or salt and water, for fear they should lose their colour; though they would be more 275 palatable, and more wholesome, if they dressed them as we do. A foreigner will wonder at the whiteness of their veal, which is likewise produced by art, for the calves are frequently bled, and chalk is laid before them to lick at, with no other view than to make the flesh whiter, though it becomes, by these means, more dry. We foreigners think otherwise in these things; we do not indulge our eyes, when our tongue and our taste enter a protest against their gratification. The same prejudice prevails among the English in regard to some liquors. They would not think the best French brandy to be good, if it were not deeply coloured; nor would they much care for their red port, if the juice of the grape were not tinged by art.
As I am speaking of the provisions in London, I will here make a few remarks on a French writer10, who gave, but a few years ago, an account of London. He says, there are but three kinds of red wine in London, and the white are all factitious. As to the first, there are many more sorts than three, and as to the second assertion, it is untrue. Among the red, that of port is the most common. They say, that this kind of wine is best 276 adapted to promote the digestion of English food, though I am sure, that among hundreds hardly two can afford to drink wine, and the rest, who do without it, digest as well as those who indulge themselves with a bottle. The wines which are to be had in taverns and coffee-houses, are, few houses excepted, very indifferent; nay in many, at least before the wine was subject to the excise, were entirely English productions, or liquors made in England, and sold as foreign wine. The very indifferent taste of numbers of wine-drinkers, even of many who think themselves connoisseurs in these things, is very beneficial to retailers of wine. Many will drink any thing for port-wine that is red, and will praise it is mixed with brandy to make it fiery. I have been told, though I do not vouch the fact, that some students in one of the English universities, many of whom think themselves as good connoisseurs of red-port as ever Horace could fancy himself of his Falernian, were sorry that a tavern-keeper, whom they attended more than their public lectures, would leave off business, because he could live with ease on the fortune he had acquired by it, and towards which the students had greatly contributed. To alleviate their 277 sorrow, on account of his quitting the tavern, he told them, that he had left the recipe of making the port-wine, which they were so fond of, with his successor, and that they might be sure of losing nothing in regard to the quality of their favourite wine. The ingredients of such home-brewed wines are not always the best, and frequently very prejudicial to health. There is, however, reason to think, that this shameful business, of imposing such factitious liquors for real wines, is much checked by that recent act, which has put the selling of wine under the regulations of the excise. As to white wines I am convinced that, formerly at least, great quantities were made in England. Our Rhenish wines, on account of the heavy duties, which they pay on entering British ports are excessively dear. Nevertheless it may sometimes be read, even over the doors of little ale-houses about London, that there is to be had “Old Hock neat as imported.” Our good old Hochheimer is there degraded to perhaps the lowest sort of raisin-wine, if even that is actually to be had. By the bye I will only mention, that the English substitute Hock for Hochheim, pronouncing and even writing Hock for Hoch, and leaving the syllable heim entirely out. 278 Madeira wine of the best quality may be had in London, but in many taverns, coffee-houses, and wine-vaults, it is far from being genuine. The French author, whom I have before mentioned, is consequently much in the right when he complains that the wines in England are subject to be adulterated, which, however, is not peculiar to this country. Ancient Rome had not alone a Tucca, whom Martial addresses in a passion:
Scelus est jugulare Falernum;
they will spring up in all countries where wine is drank.
What our French author says of the meat in England, that it has neither the firmness, nor the juice and delicacy of that in France, he is, in my opinion, not wholly right, though he is not altogether in the wrong. As for beef, nothing can excel that of England; but a foreigner, before he is used to English cookery, will not like it, because it is seldom done enough for the taste of one who has been brought up on the continent. In many countries the calves are killed too early, in England too late. Their mutton is excessively fat, and has, therefore, sometimes a taste which borders on rankness. The London epicureans 279 know this very well, and prefer, therefore, the Welsh mutton, if they can get it. The English are very partial to their mutton, and seem to be so well convinced of the wholesomeness of this food, that, if any body is not well, they advise him immediately to sweat and to eat mutton-broth; like Doctor Sangrado in Gil Blas, who, in all kind of illnesses, recommended warm water and bleeding. The poultry in England is very good, but I cannot say the same of their venison; though they think it one of the highest delicacies, particularly if it is excessively fat. Our venison on the continent, being thoroughly wild, is of a much finer flavour than the English, which greatly resembles their mutton; and indeed, their deer feed as tame in their parks as their sheep. A good haunch of mutton has, therefore, sometimes been imposed upon even pretended connoisseurs for a haunch of venison.
Of English vegetables our French author says: “They are impregnated with the smoke of sea-coals, which, particularly about London, fills the whole atmosphere, and they communicate this disagreeable taste to the meat they are boiled with.” As to the last assertion, I believe few English, 280 the very common people perhaps excepted, will put vegetables on their table which are boiled with the meat; and as to the first, I believe it will be denied by every body. The vegetables that grow about Fulham and Battersea, or in other fields and gardens, in the neighbourhood of London, are very good, except that it may be said they are too much forced, by the ground being made too rich. Cauliflowers are no where better than in the London markets, and the English cabbages and turnips are very good. The gardeners, who send their produce to the markets, know very well how to choose the grounds for the different vegetables, and to manure them so as to render them as profitable as possible. Some gardens or fields which lie too low, and too near the Thames, do not, indeed, produce greens so palatable as those on higher ground, because they taste watery, though not smoky. But this is the case with vegetables in other countries, as well as in England. Horace, who tells us that he himself went into the market to buy greens and to enquire, quanti olus ac far? knew this perfectly well, for he says:
Caule suburbano, qui siccis crevit in agris
Dulcior; irriguo nihil est elutius horto.
The misfortune with regard to English vegetables is, as I observed before, that they are often boiled in mere water, and seldom enough. The art of cooking is in general not much advanced in England, and that of dressing vegetables the least of all11. I have heard Englishmen, who had mended their taste in foreign countries, say in jest, that heaven had given them good things for the kitchen, but that the devil had sent the cooks.
After this rather long digression, I shall return to the causes of that great dearness of provisions which prevails in London. The luxury of the rich is one of them. A rich duke in England, who keeps no soldiers, neither for ostentation, nor hire, nor for the oppression of his subjects, as our petty princes in Germany do, knows hardly how to spend his income; a lord who wishes to disperse his money among the people, and to contract debts, according to custom; a nabob, who has 282 shared in the plundering of the poor Indians; besides many others, who have more money than wit; all these will pay any price for things from which they expect the gratification of their palate, and of their sensuality. For this reason every thing, within forty miles and upwards, is carried to the metropolis, and sold there for prices which would no where else be given. I will not say that luxury in England has been carried to such a height as that of the Romans during their triumvirates, or the times of some Roman emperors of the three first centuries, or that it equals the ridiculous and shameful sensuality of a few German princes, who, not many years ago, had the pastry for their tables sent them from Paris, by extraordinary and very expensive messengers: but, since it is said to be a fact, that some English lords and nabobs have ordered their cooks to put in one day, at noon, every quarter of an hour, a chicken, or venison to the spit before the fire, that they might, if they should come home at an uncertain hour, always find something roasted to Apician nicety; it bears a strong resemblance, and appears to be a faithful imitation of that extravagant luxury of Mark Antony and Cleopatra, which, according to Plutarch, excited so 283 much the astonishment in the physician Philotas. The number of idle servants which are kept by people of quality, and who do as much as they can to live somewhat like their masters, is another cause of the dearness of provisions. They too frequently act in earnest the play of High Life below Stairs, for which the master is to defray the expences. The number of horses which are kept in London, and in the country, increase likewise the dearness of provisions. It is very justly said that England is a hell for horses; but, in general, they are, no where better fed and more taken care of, though they afterwards must work hard and run fast. Whoever can, keeps a horse; and the clerks, as well as those who serve behind the counter during the week-days, will at least on Sundays show themselves as gentlemen on the road on horseback. It may easily be supposed, that such a number of horses must require a great deal of corn, and many people to attend them. Besides, how great a number of gentlemen’s carriages, hackney coaches, and post-chaises, with a proportionable number of servants are kept, most of which have a relation to luxury, though it cannot be said of all!284
The raising of the price of land and its ground-rent, cannot but raise, at the same time, its produce. Agriculture is carried on to a high degree, with a view of making it a source of riches. The owners of landed property endeavour, as much as they can, to farm it out at very high prices; and yet most of the farmers find ways and means to enrich themselves. The worst is, that the great and rich among them generally do whatever they can to enlarge their farms, by the expulsion of the smaller ones. By these means, they too often can form combinations, to fix the price of many sorts of provisions as they think proper. Little farmers and cottagers bring their produce, and the savings of their provisions, to market, or sell them, when they have an opportunity for it, at a moderate price, because they want money; but this not being always the case with the rich farmers, who expel the poorer ones, and get possession of their grounds, they may keep the necessaries, as well as some of the luxuries of life back, till they bear a price that suits their avarice.
I have reason to think, that the riches imported from the East Indies have also greatly contributed to raise the price of provisions and 285 of landed estates. There are many ways in England to attempt the acquisition of a fortune. Success in trade is perhaps one of the most honest, if no improper means are employed. To get contracts from government to provide for the army, or navy, has enriched many; and he who has friends to recommend and to support him, whatever his character in other respects may be, succeeds generally in his application for them; but a worthy man, who has only his honesty to recommend him, seldom obtains a lucrative contract. It is likewise possible, that a person who keeps a bagnio may acquire an ample fortune, and buy estates, to make his posterity rise in the world after him; it is possible, that a waiter in one of those houses, where old and young men of quality and fashion sometimes lose a thousand guineas, or more, in one evening, may steal, within a few years, a fortune together: but, within these many years, no way has been surer to acquire riches than to try the climate of the East Indies, and after getting, by fair and unfair means, plenty of money, to return to England and to live in affluence, sacrificing to all kinds of luxury and ostentation. These people having acquired with so much ease immense riches, wetted, perhaps, with the tears 286 of a thousand poor Indians, do not care how much they pay for an estate; and, therefore, will give prices which are out of all proportion with the real value of things, as generally prevalent in Europe. They regard the rules of œconomy as little as that Roman spendthrift Lucullus, who thought it a trifle to pay fifty thousand pounds for a statue of Apollo, which he intended to place in the Capitol.
The inclosing of commons is considered by some as a cause of the increasing dearness of provisions. Much has been advanced on both sides, relative to the inquiry, whether such inclosures are beneficial or not? but I think that this question ought to be answered differently, according to the light in which it is viewed. To till uncultivated ground, and make it productive, is certainly a commendable and useful undertaking, and must render provisions more plentiful and consequently cheaper; but, if the poor who lived on such a common, and, kept, perhaps, a cow, a few sheep, or some poultry, to procure a livelihood, and to sell something of their little produce, are driven from thence by the rich men, who obtained a grant to inclose it, without being provided for elsewhere, nobody can deny, that this is the 287 greatest injustice. I have heard of frequent complaints being made, that by the inclosing of commons, the interest and convenience of the rich have been much more consulted than the feelings of compassion towards the poor. Some opulent people, who reside in the country, will sometimes buy cottages near their mansions, for no other purpose than to shut them up, and to let them decay, because they do not like to have the poor for their neighbours. They allege, that they are addicted to stealing, and therefore ought to be kept at a distance: but this way of reasoning has no foundation either in truth or humanity. If opportunities and encouragement were given to the indigent to earn bread, and if care were taken to initiate their children early and properly in morality as well as industry, they never would apply themselves to stealing, nor even think it strange, that, since the Creator designed the earth for the dwelling and the subsistence of all men, a few should engross so much, whilst thousands have nothing.
The number of women known to be of easy virtue, with which London is filled, contributes, in some respects, towards the expensiveness of living. I have before mentioned, that 288 hundreds, perhaps thousands of houses, in this large town, are occupied by women who live by prostitution. Old dotards, who, as it might be supposed, are possessed of more money than wit; young men, who, in expectation that their fathers, or some rich relations will soon die, borrow money of a Jewish usurer, at the rate of ten and more per cent. keep their bewitching dulcineas in all sorts of extravagance, for their own amusement as they think, but frequently, unknown to them, for the entertainment of others also. This, perhaps, is carried so far, that married men, without acquainting their wives and children with it, are at the expence of double housekeeping, of which that of the mistress is generally the most expensive; for it is needless to prove, that these kind of creatures are not much addicted to frugality, prudence, or moderation. The host of these mercenaries of the Cyprian goddess have been reckoned to be in London stronger than forty thousand. Many of them follow their profession from inclination; others, who have been first debauched, and afterwards abandoned by unprincipled men, do it from want and indigence. There are instances that some of them, who were kept in affluence, and all possible indulgence by their votaries, have 289 reduced them at last, probably not from a principle of gratitude, to the utmost distress, nay sometimes to an ignominious exit. Grosley12, without proper inquiry into the truth of the assertion, has copied what the Abbé le Blanc, in his letters on the English and French nations13, has said, that many daughters of clergymen, even of the dignitaries of the church, are among this class of unfortunate females. There are undoubtedly instances of this; but they do by no means occur so often as is stated by the Abbé, who frequently writes in a very superficial manner; and when such cases do happen, even then, in all probability, the contributions of this sort are greater on the side of the clergy of the established church than on that of the dissenters, because the first are not only more numerous, but the education, which many of them give their children, is not so strict and exemplary as that which the generality of the dissenting clergy bestow upon theirs.
The reasons why the number of women, who plunge into this irregular course of life, is so great, are various, and many of them very visible. Corruption of morals and luxury, 290 which are beyond imagination in so great a metropolis, become very dangerous to youth of both sexes; they produce seducers, and such as wish to be seduced, in abundance. All great cities, and particularly London, may be considered as a sort of hot-beds, where all natural instincts, and all vices, which from an abuse of them take their origin, vegetate very powerfully, and arrive at maturity quicker than in common soils. Montaigne14, that strict and careful observer of himself and others, was astonished at a conversation of some young ladies, which unobserved he had over-heard; but, what would he have said, if he could have listened to the private conversations of numbers of the hopeful youth of both sexes in London! The education given to young females, is, as I have before observed, generally some degrees above their respective rank. To gratify afterwards their inclination for vanity, for dress, and for sensual pleasures, chastity is too often made a sacrifice. In that state of society in which we live, every thing almost may be done with money, and all that is desirable may be bought for it; health, tranquillity of mind, and immortality excepted. The fable of Jupiter 291 and Danae is every day, in this great city, turned into history and real fact. Men of rank, or riches, or such as are possessed of neither, but live without morality and good principles, become the seducers of those who are too ready to be seduced; and when their paramours have gratified their lust, they leave those whom they have made miserable, and go in quest of other victims, whom they may deprive of their innocence and virtue. Thus the number of those wretched females increases daily, who are seen wandering about in the streets, by dozens and more, not only at night but even at noon day. Many of them are hardly twelve or thirteen years of age, who, by following their unfortunate occupation, soon hasten to an untimely end, and finish their early days generally in extreme distress, in poverty and disease.
It may easily be supposed, from what I have said, that the education of youth in London must be liable to many dangers; and that parents, though they had the eyes of Argus, would not always be able to prevent great mischief and serious misfortunes from happening to their children. In that part of London where the court air is to be breathed, nunneries are established, in which, however, the vow of chastity is unknown. The abbesses and prioresses of these convents 292 are said to be matrons of great experience; and, as some call them, diabolical instruments of seduction. They save, as I have been informed, out of the income of their benefices, so much, that they at last give them up, and conclude their days, with much pomp, in a secular life. I do not think, that it redounds much to the honour of English police, not to devise effectual means to lessen at least this growing evil, so detrimental to that morality, which is pronounced to be the support of that society in which we live. How far the indulgence goes, which is shewn in this respect, appears from the uninterrupted publication of the most immoral writings, and the most indecent prints; which are exposed to public view at the windows of some print-shops, to divert the young and old of both sexes, who pass by. Nay, there is even published annually, and sold publicly, a list of the principal Corinnas, mentioning at the same time their respective habitations, and their personal accomplishments, not forgetting those which are to be met with in private. What blessed effects must this produce upon young minds of both sexes! and how happy must a country be, where the police, without concern, may leave it to the power of virtue to prevent all the evils of which wisdom might be apprehensive! I will 293 by no means enter into a dispute with those who affirm, that since the state of nature and that of society are frequently at open variance, women of easy virtue are not only to be connived at, but even, under some restrictions, to be supported, that the virtue of modest women may be preserved, and be in safety. Supposing all this were granted, should it notwithstanding not be deemed necessary to make this evil, for the sake of morality, less apparent? If luxury were checked, if frugality were substituted for extravagance, if the things of this world were more equally divided than they are, the good effects of it would soon shew themselves. There is no doubt, but that among those unfortunate females, whose prostitution is deemed a safeguard of modest women, some might be found, who would have turned out better wives and tenderer mothers than many who affect the strictest virtue, and wish to appear as if they could undergo the proof of a fiery ordeal. Indeed, much might be found to lessen the guilt of many of these unfortunate beings, if the history of their seduction and fall were known. Oftentimes, when I have met a Mahomedan in the streets of London, I have not been able to refrain from guessing at his thoughts, when he sees so many prostitutes, who are deemed to be 294 a security for a husband, that his head may not be ornamented, or that his daughter may not become a mother before she is married. When, in the beginning of the Roman republic, the land was equally divided; when young men married early, without being in fear that they were to starve with their wives and children, the violation of the virtue of the Roman women was almost unheard of, and the sententia dia Catonis, which Horace ascribes to him, was, together with his exhortation to young men, very unnecessary. But, when riches, luxury, and expensiveness of living intruded, the value of innocence was lessened, and it being so intimately connected with happiness, this lost ground too, and deserted Rome. The capital of modern England resembles that of ancient Italy; interest there retarded matrimony, and when it took place at last, it was the expected fortune, as Juvenal says, which excited love, and money that tied the connubial knot:
Inde faces ardent, veniunt a dote sagittæ.
It is true, that various means have been devised in London, to check the evil of prostitution, but they answer very imperfectly. The Magdalen-hospital, a very commendable charity, 295 was instituted some years since, for the benefit of females who wish to renounce their disorderly life, and reform their morals. But how small is the number of those who can be received, and who really return from vice to virtue, when compared to those who prefer the ways of immorality! Some, perhaps, are taken up in the street, and sent to Bridewell, where they are kept for a while to hard labour; but they are hardly missed among the number of those who remain; and since no provision is made for their support, when liberated out of prison, they return, partly from necessity, partly from inclination, to their former occupation. That London is infested with so many thieves, house-breakers, and highwaymen, and that, almost every six weeks, dozens of youth, who have hardly attained their twentieth year, are condemned to die, is greatly owing to these women of the town, as they are called. Most of such young malefactors gave themselves up to a debauched course of life, they soon got into distress, which instigated them to robbery, and thus repented too late under the gallows, their acquaintance with these mercenary fair ones. Here, indeed, is an ample field for a good police to exert its wisdom in preventing crimes, that the number of those may be lessened 296 who are to be punished for committing them.
Before I conclude these remarks upon London, I will add something relative to English newspapers. A foreigner, who has never seen them, will hardly believe that so many are printed daily. Every morning, at present, no less than ten different papers, and almost as many in the evening, are published in London, on large folio, in small print. It is now even carried so far, that a paper is published on Sunday morning. Besides these, every week, twice, a Gazette is printed by authority, which contains some news published under the sanction of the court, royal proclamations, advertisements of government, and a long list of notices relative to bankrupts. A true Englishman looks upon the accounts given in these Gazettes, which, in some instances, particularly in war-time, are published extraordinary, as infallible truth; and it is astonishing how they sell on such occasions, and how profitable they are to their printer. A foreigner ought not to think that the news, published in so many papers, is much different. They contain, some letters and essays excepted, nearly the same information. A number of advertisements, paid for at a high price, various letters on political 297 and other subjects, innumerable and frequently the most insignificant paragraphs relating to town and country news, much scandal, and many false reports, which the next day are contradicted, fill the long columns of these papers. Some of them are for the court and the minister, others against them; but, in both kinds of such prints, very severe things and bitter truths, are published by one party against the other. Cart-loads of papers being printed every day in London, besides many which are published in the country15, it is no wonder that the revenues of government, which arise merely from newspapers must be very great. Not only the stamps of the papers themselves, but the tax upon the advertisements which are inserted, are very high. Some papers have more than an hundred of them, and render to government, daily, perhaps more than twenty pounds. All puffs which are inserted among the news as paragraphs, to take in the reader inadvertently, are made to pay as advertisements in the stamp-office; 298 and it were to be wished, that all those paragraphs, which are intended for scandal, should pay, for the benefit of morality and finances, the duty of advertisements also.
The liberty of the press is very visible in these public prints. Several times attempts have been made to restrain this liberty, but fortunately they never have succeeded. Such officers as censors of the press, which in Germany are established almost every where, are not to be met with in England, the two universities perhaps excepted. For this very reason, things are said in these public prints against the highest and the lowest, which in other countries would be severely animadverted upon. The letters which are inserted, on various political and other subjects, are of different merit. Some are elegant, and commend themselves by their style, as well as by the bold truths, and the judicious remarks which they contain; others can boast of neither, and convey calumny and false reasoning, whilst they intend to mislead the weak, or to feed the spirit of party. If any body thinks his character injured by these prints, he may find redress in a court of justice, on proving damages. In such instances the printer is the first who is to be indicted, unless he gives up the author; yet I remember that both printer 299 and author have been punished. The editors of the papers, however, know very well, for the most part, how to evade prosecutions, though of late, several of them have been intangled in law suits, and sometimes suffered imprisonment, fine, or even an exhibition in the pillory. Frequently those who are attacked, appear in print only with the initials of their names, or are exposed by nicknames, very well known to the generality of newspaper readers. The greatest part of those who are thus exposed care very little about it, particularly the ministers and their friends, who mind no abuse, when they only remain in possession of the good things, which they enjoy under government. On the continent, if but half so much were said against princes and ministers, as is done almost daily in England, the most bitter resentment, and the severest punishments, would soon crush him who had dared to expose the follies of the great, or to censure their unjust transactions. I commend the English, who, some excepted, are neither so touchy nor so revengeful, and who happily by their constitution are intitled to speak and to censure freely. Since, however, the reading of newspapers is so common, the ministers, with a view to justify or to defend their good and their bad measures, are almost 300 under a necessity to keep some papers and some writers in pay, who are to fight their battles, and to combat their antagonists, lest they should create them too many enemies, and gain over to their party more converts than they can spare. Hence such prints go under the denominations of ministerial and anti-ministerial papers; on both sides animosity is carried to a great length, and impartiality is not to be met with: nay, I think an Englishman would soon throw away an impartial paper as an insipid one, because it seldom happens that he is not attached either to one or the other party.
Every newspaper has its proprietors, who have, according to their deposit-money, a share in the profits which they may produce; if such a public print is successful, these profits are very considerable. Yet, when I recollect how many new ones have started up during the time I have resided in London, it would seem inexplicable how they could support themselves, if the desire, or rather the avidity of Englishmen to read newspapers, was not beyond conception, and bordering almost upon frenzy. They are so addicted to talking politics, that in almost all companies, from the highest to the lowest, this topic is generally the first and the last which serves for conversation. 301 The newspapers furnish the champions of either party with materials to keep it up, and to shine with intelligence, or political sagacity, either as patriots or as courtiers. Very few of the numerous frequenters of coffee-houses have any influence in politics; but though they cannot sit, or harangue, or vote in parliament, it is a great satisfaction for them to read the speeches in both houses during the session, and judge of the patriotism, the wisdom, and the eloquence of British senators.
An Englishman, being taken up so much with the politics of his own country, very seldom troubles himself about those of foreign countries, unless they are of great importance, and make him apprehensive that the balance of Europe may be altered. It is his favourite opinion, that England regulates this balance; though, perhaps, among a thousand, there are not five who have any just idea of such a balance, or who are in the least acquainted with the comparative strength of the different European states, their different interests, and the relation they bear to each other, and to the whole, collectively taken, in its aggregate power. Hence the want of knowledge of the geography and the state of the continent is oftentimes so very visible in English newspapers. 302 The little relish, therefore, of their readers for foreign affairs, is very beneficial to them, whom they please most when they entertain them, besides the greater political news of the British empire, with little trifling incidents of the day, which have happened in the metropolis and its environs, or in the more distant parts of the country. After short extracts from the French and Dutch Gazettes, when the mails are arrived, they give strings of paragraphs containing either high flown panegyrics for, or bitter invectives against the ministry; criticisms on their transactions, on their sins of commission and omission; anecdotes of romantic lovers; horrid accounts of robberies, murders, fires, and melancholy accidents. Those papers which communicate the earliest and most interesting intelligence out of the scandalous chronicle, be it true or fictitious, are generally thought to be the most entertaining. They, indeed, furnish no news from distant parts, nor do they mention
. . . . quid toto fiat in orbe;
Quid Seres, quid Thraces agant:
but the description which Juvenal gives immediately after, fits them exactly; for they contain scandal in abundance,303
. . . . secreta novercæ
Et pueri; quis amet, quis decipiatur adulter.
. . . . Quis viduam prægnantem fecerit et quo
A foreigner, who is not acquainted with the genius of English newspapers, will, when he first takes them in hand, be inclined to think, that they are one of the greatest blessings which could be bestowed on poor mortals. Those who are in want of money, are offered a hundred or a thousand and more pounds; whoever wants health, may soon be restored to it, if he will only chose one of those universal medicines, which are daily announced and which cure every kind of malady. He who wishes to retain health and vigour beyond his eightieth year, may be furnished with the means of doing it, for a few shillings. Those who are desirous of extending their lives beyond the limits of a century, need only use those restoratives and corroboratives, which are offered at a guinea or half a guinea a bottle. Should a person wish to obtain a snug place and income under the government, he may be provided with it, on offering a moderate sum of money, and giving assurance that he who will procure it, may depend upon honour and secrecy. Ecclesiastics, not trusting their church preferment 304 to merit, which is likely to be overlooked and to be neglected, need only inspect the papers, where presentations and advowsons are publicly announced for sale to the best bidder. Bachelors and widowers who want wives, and maidens or widows who long for husbands, have only to pay for the insertion of a tender advertisement, signifying their situation, and assigning the place where answers may be directed to, in unequivocal hopes that their proposals will meet in return with kind overtures, to quench their honourable flames. Married people who wish for healthy, handsome, and strong children, have only to read and to accept the persuasive invitations of Dr. Graham, to attend his delightful lectures, daily announced in the papers16; and they will be better instructed by them how to satisfy their wishes, than by reading Quillet’s Callipædia with the utmost attention from the beginning to the end. Nay, from motives of philanthropy, to prevent scandal and disgrace, and to save the honour and reputation of those who unluckily have committed false steps, good-natured people offer their houses, under promises of inviolable 305 secrecy, to those young females, who, without being previously married, are on the point of becoming mothers. They are assured, that they shall be accommodated with all requisite conveniencies, and be treated with the utmost tenderness, until they return into public again with honour; and being afterwards well married, it shall not at all be suspected by their loving husbands, that early chastity did not enter into the catalogue of the virtues of their wives. All these good things, and many more, are daily announced in the English newspapers, for the benefit of mankind, and of society! Our gazettes on the continent do not contain any thing similar, though always on the top of them is mentioned, that they are printed for the good of the public, under the sanction, the censure, and with the gracious privileges of magistrates and princes. British newspapers require no such authorities, nor do they lie under any restrictions. A red neat little vignette, they are ornamented with at the stamp-office, serves instead of all authorities or privileges, and which, though the duties are increased from time to time, bears the motto semper eadem.
The coffee-houses in London, where these papers may be read, are said to amount to 306 300017, which, indeed, is an enormous number, particularly, when it is remembered, that in 1657, the people were so prejudiced against them, that the master of the Rainbow coffee-house, one of the first which was established in London, could not prevent his house being indicted for a nuisance. The great propensity of the modern English to politics, and the increasing curiosity, which constitutes part of their character, can only account for the number of coffee-houses and newspapers in latter times; though their usefulness to trade, and in the transaction of public business, have not a little contributed towards it. The English coffee-houses are greatly preferable to those of other nations, and have only the name, the newspapers, and the refreshments, in common with them. Turbulent noise and loud talking are not to be heard, except in those coffee-houses which are frequented by foreigners, or by people who seem to think they cannot transact business without the most disagreeable noise. In general, the coffee-rooms are filled with the persons who read newspapers, four times as large as ours on the continent, and in very small print, with an attention that excites surprize 307 in a foreigner, who never has been witness to it before. Some read with great rapidity, and soon throw away a paper, which they have taken into their hands; others seem to spell every word, and make those, who wish for dispatch, wait a long while before they have finished. When I first came into England, I used to wonder how some people could read, with so much patience and attention, these long, and, as it appeared to me, very tedious publications; but when I became a little more acquainted with the English constitution, with the politics, the parties in the state, and the manners of the nation, I soon found, that I began to read with an interest that made me forget the length of them. In Germany the clergy, and other people who affect a strict morality, would think it hurtful to their character, if they were to frequent a coffee-house; but the English think more reasonably, and nobody is blamed for frequenting a coffee-house. Some of them take in, by subscription of their customers, new publications of a small size, together with those which are regularly published monthly. This, however, is not so frequent in the coffee-houses of London, as in those of the country, especially in towns which 308 are frequented at certain seasons, by people who want to be called fashionable.
5 Erasmi Epist. lib. v. epist. 10. Nymphæ divinis vultibus, blandæ, faciles.—Suavia, quæ si tu, Fauste, semel gustasses, quam sint mollicula, quam fragrantia, profecto cuperes non decennium solum, ut Solon fecit, sed ad mortem usque in Anglia peregrinari.
6 Mercier, Tableau de Paris, tome i. p. 20. Amsterdam, 1783.
7 This was written before the tax on the registering of the christenings and burials was laid on; and since that time the bills of mortality may, perhaps, have become more exact.
8 Erasm. Op. tom. iii. Epist. 432. col. 1815. Edit. Lugd. Batav. 1703.
9 Rapin, vol. i. p. 339, note 4.
10 Grosley, Londres, tom. i. p. 143. suiv.
11 In the former part of the reign of Henry VIII. there did not grow in England cabbage, carrot, turnip, or other edible root; and it has been noted, that even queen Catharine herself could not command a sallad for dinner, till the king brought over a gardener from the Netherlands. Kames’s Sketches, Sk. v. sect. i. Hume’s Hist. of Engl. vol. iv. p. 273.
12 Londres, tome ii. p. 128.
13 Vol. ii. Lett. lviii. p. 67. English Translation.
14 Essais, liv. iii. chap. 5. vol. iii. p. 125.
15 Supposing that twenty different in London and in other places in England and Scotland six and thirty, are published weekly, the whole amounts to no less than fifty-six. How far luxury promotes the sale of them, the account-books in the Stamp-office, can prove. In the year 1775, 12,680,000, and in 1782, 15,272,519 were stamped.
16 This was written at the time when these curious advertisements were presented daily to all classes of newspaper readers.
17 In Paris are only between six and seven hundred. Mercier Tableau de Paris, tome i. p. 212.
There is no place in the world, where a man may live more according to his own mind
[In the German original, this marks a new chapter, Anmerkungen über London (“Remarks about London”).]
the friend of religious liberty . . . can no where be better off
[At the time of writing, and for the better part of a century afterward, a man could neither attend the national universities nor seek political office unless he was a member of the Established Church.]
political and ecclesiastical tyrants
text has eclesiastical
Epicureans, who regard sensual pleasures as the chief end of life, naturally resort to London
[He will discuss English food a bit further along.]
here as well as in other towns
text has as well is
the filthiness, to be observed in houses, would hardly be credited in our days.
final . (full stop) supplied from Dublin edition
most of them ought to be considered as conducive to the health of its inhabitants
[It is hard to reconcile the writer’s insistence on the healthfulness of London, with his belief—expressed in an earlier chapter --about the city’s decline in population.]
The English like also their vegetables on the table as green as when gathered, and therefore seldom boil them sufficiently
[A century after Wendeborn, French immigrant “Max O’Rell” (né Paul Blouët) similarly wrote that English vegetables “have to be crunched rather than eaten”. As noted elsewhere, it is not easy to reconcile this assertion with English cookbooks’ insistence that vegetables must be cooked anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours. Eliza Acton, for example, does not consider carrots done until they can be pushed through a hair sieve.
The German original (Vol. 2, pg. 91) also gets in a dig at England’s one sauce, “melted butter”:
Darum kochen sie ihre Gartengewächse kaum halb gar, damit sie die grüne Farbe nicht verlieren, und essen sie lieber aus Wasser, und giessen, wenn sie auf den Tisch gekommen, Butter, die in Wasser mit Mehl zerlassen ist, darüber, anstatt dass sie sie in Fleischtopfe mit gar kochen solten, um sie wohlschmeckender zu machen, und um Butter zu ersparen. ]
Many . . . will praise it the more it is mixed with brandy
[The Dublin edition has the same wording. I couldn’t figure out if a word is missing—“will praise it the more if it is mixed with brandy”
they will spring up in all countries where wine is drank.
[Thanks to looking up the passages about vegetables and port, I see that the German goes on for another page and a half about cider, punch and various other drinks. The author must have decided these were too obvious to bother including in the translation.]
What our French author says of the meat in England . . . . Of English vegetables
[In the German, he quotes Grosley’s actual French words both times. Do we deduce that your average German could be expected to read French, while your average Englishman couldn’t?]
After this rather long digression
[It was even longer in German, because he wraps up with a paragraph about the English preference for unripe fruit. The footnote about Henry VIII.’s time was, however, added for the translation.]
the education, which many of them give their children, is not so strict and exemplary as that which the generality of the dissenting clergy bestow upon theirs
[Our author never says so explicitly, but he is presumably a Lutheran—which, in England, counts as a dissenter.]
I do not think, that it redounds much to the honour of English police, not to devise effectual means
[This kind of thing will recur many times in the course of the book. The author does not seem to have a clear conception of the difference between legislative and executive, between making laws and enforcing them.]
there is even published annually, and sold publicly, a list of the principal Corinnas
[Should I ever happen to come across a readable copy of such a list, be assured I will lose no time putting it online.]
Oftentimes, when I have met a Mahomedan in the streets of London
[Spoiler: When it comes time to enumerate England’s religions, in the second half of Volume II (Volume Three in the German original), “Mahomedans” will not rate a mention. Just how often did the author meet one?]
I will add something relative to English newspapers
[The German original has etwas von den englischen Zeitungen und Coffehäusern. You can see his point.]
twenty different papers, in London and in other places in England and Scotland six and thirty
[The comma really should go after “in London”—i.e. twenty papers in London vs. thirty-six elsewhere—but the Dublin edition is the same.]
Juv. Sat vi. v. 401, seq.
[The two quotations are continuous. Current reading (VI.402 ff.):
haec eadem nouit quid toto fiat in orbe,
quid Seres, quid Thraces agant, secreta nouercae
et pueri, quis amet, quis diripiatur adulter;
dicet quis uiduam praegnatem fecerit et quo
[Footnote] Mercier, Tableau de Paris, tome i. p. 20. Amsterdam, 1783.
[Can we draw conclusions from the fact that the work was not published in France?]
[Footnote] Erasm. Op. tom. iii. Epist. 432. col. 1815. Edit. Lugd. Batav. 1703.
[William Savage’s Dictionary of the Art of Printing tells us that “Lugd. Batav.” is Leyden, Holland. Not to be confused with Lyon, Laon, Loudun, or any of the other places that began life as Lugdunum.]
I would advise a foreigner or stranger, who wishes to get acquainted with this great metropolis, to provide himself, immediately after his arrival, with a map of London, as the best means to survey such a heap of buildings, and to find his way through thousands of streets, which perplex even those who have resided many years together in this extensive town. Almost every printshop will furnish him with such a plan; but he must be careful to ask for one of the newest, since a single year, perhaps, will produce new streets, which are not to be found on a map that is but a few years old. There is no occasion for his carrying it always publicly in his hand, when he goes abroad, as Condamine did, and by that means exposed himself to the laughter, or even insults of the populace. He will do well to peruse it for his purpose before he goes out, and here and there are places little frequented, where, on taking it out of his pocket, he may consult it as his guide.
After this previous advice, I will point out to the stranger the principal objects in London, which may be thought worth seeing. It is 309 neither my intention, nor consistent with my plan, to be prolix, and there are many descriptions and histories of London, easily to be procured, which a curious traveller may peruse for his instruction.
Westminster-abbey, that famous cathedral, admired and respected not only by the English themselves, but on the continent also, is perhaps one of the first objects which will attract his curiosity. It is undoubtedly, an awful and melancholy, but at the same time a pleasing scene, which presents itself on entering this Gothic pile, and walking, in a contemplative mood, between the silent tombs and the sepulchral monuments of kings, heroes, philosophers, and poets. No where can the estimate of man and human things be better made than here; but the inscriptions on the monuments are certainly not the instructors by which to be guided. They are too often a kind of satire, which neither instructs the living, nor honours the ashes of the dead. Indeed, inscriptions in public places, which are likely to remain for a series of years, should, before they are engraved, be submitted to the criticisms, not only of learned men, but even of such as are known to be lovers of truth, lest the honour and sincerity of the age, in which 310 these inscriptions were made, should become suspected by a late posterity. It is, however, well that these monumental inscriptions are little read, and much less examined by their readers, whether they record what is true or what is not. Some of the monuments in Westminster-abbey, particularly among the modern ones, do credit to the art of their sculptor; but a great many disgrace the place in which they are erected, and offend the eye of the beholder. The church, which is of a Gothic structure, has suffered greatly by the devastations of time; repairs of the outside were begun some years ago, but soon stopped, as I believe, on account of the great expence. The tombs of many British kings and queens, with some of the royal offspring, are in that part of the church, which is called King Henry the Seventh’s chapel. During the day-time, somebody is always present, who shews, for a few half-pence, what is remarkable in this chapel, and there is generally sufficient company to make it worth his while to recite his lesson; which he does with such quickness, and monotonous volubility of tongue, that a foreigner, even if he should understand some English, will be at a loss to comprehend him, though he listens with great attention. In a corner of a chapel 311 called St. Bennet’s, the monuments for poets, for dramatic writers, for players, musicians, and some men of letters, are erected, which, for this reason, goes under the general denomination of Poet’s Corner. St. Evremond, a Frenchman, and Grabe and Handel, both Germans, have here monuments erected. It may excite surprize, that Pope and Addison, two British writers of such eminence, should here have not even an inscription; not that this was necessary to preserve their memories, for this their writings will do; but as a testimony of the regard of the nation for them. We foreigners, however, are much mistaken in respect to these monuments, when we entertain an opinion, that merit alone can procure the honour of an inscription in this famous abbey, and that these monuments were erected by the nation to shew gratitude and respect to the manes of the dead. In fact this is seldom the case. Relations, patrons, or friends of the deceased, generally furnish the expences, which, if the monument is not costly, do not amount to any great sum; and I believe, many a one, who has received this honour, would wonder, if he arose to life again, how he came to be buried in this abbey, and decorated with such a monumental inscription. Even the great Newton’s monument 312 was not at the expence of the public, or the nation; and he might, perhaps, have been left, without one, if a gentleman, who married the philosopher’s niece, had not erected it at his own expence. Sometimes people desirous of idle fame, have paid for the monument of an other, that they, at the same time, might deliver their own name, on his tomb, to posterity. Hence that severe line of Pope:
On poet’s tombs see Benson’s titles writ!
Indeed foreigners, who judge of the honour of being interred in Westminster-abbey too highly, may be exceedingly mistaken.
Not far from the cathedral is Westminster-hall, built by William Rufus, and admired for its Gothic architecture. This place is very well known to the gentlemen of the law, for the principal law-courts are kept here; and if peers or peeresses are to be tried, or other persons impeached by the house of commons, this hall is fitted up in a magnificent manner for that purpose.
The house of lords and that of commons are adjoining to this hall. The latter was in ancient times a chapel dedicated to St. Stephen; whence the newspapers, sometimes, make use of this name, if they think they tread upon tender ground in what they are saying 313 about parliament, or members of the lower-house. That of the lords is close by, and consists of a large room decorated with tapestry, representing the victory over what was called the invincible Spanish armada. On the throne erected here, the king reads those speeches to both houses of parliament, which we see at full length translated in our foreign Gazettes, and wonder at the condescension with which British kings speak to their subjects.
The Park of St. James’s, which king Henry VIII. created out of a swampy field, is at present an ornament to the palace, and a very agreeable place for those who love walking. In some seasons of the year, the mall is so filled with elegant company, either at noon, or, in the longer days, in the evening, that there is hardly room to pass, except by moving along with the crowds among which ladies of the first nobility, and persons of high rank, are to be seen. Buckingham-house, which is at present the queen’s palace, presents a pretty view at the west-end of the Park. It is agreeably situated, and contains very elegant apartments, decorated in a splendid style. The king’s private library is likewise here, and can boast of very valuable and magnificent books, which, as it is said, will be, one time or other, 314 joined to that in the British Museum, which bears the name of the king’s library.
The palace at St. James’s was formerly an hospital, and that side which joins to the Park, is pleasantly situated. This old smoky irregular building has oftentimes astonished foreigners, on being told, that this was the residence of British kings, after they had before passed by the magnificent hospital at Greenwich. However, there are very good rooms in this old building; and it is, at present, used only when the king has a levee, or when a court-day is kept. The palace of the prince of Wales, formerly called Carleton-house, has been, within these few years, almost rebuilt, and so conveniently, that, in all probability, this will be in future times the residence of British kings, by which means that of St. James’s will be superseded.
Charing-cross is not far from the Park. In the middle of this place a statue of bronze is erected, representing king Charles I. on horseback, without a hat. It is looked upon as a fine piece of workmanship; but I do not know whence the story has taken its origin, that la Seur, the artist who made it, hung himself, because a peasant coming from the country had discovered, that the strap to fasten the saddle 315 round the horse’s belly was forgotten, and the king, therefore, in danger of falling off. Some of our German writers, who give an account of England, have repeated this idle tale, which is refuted by ocular inspection at any time, as the girth is plainly to be seen.
Whitehall, from the time of Henry VIII. till near the close of the last century, was the royal residence, till the greater part of the old palace was burnt down in 1697, and from that time St. James’s has been the residence of the kings of England. What is now called the Banquetting-house, Whitehall, was built in the reign of James I. and is a very fine edifice. It is a small part of a new palace, which was begun to be erected by Inigo Jones; and it was close to this Banquetting house, that the scaffold was erected on which Charles the First was executed; though it is not known which window it was from whence he went to the block.
An object deserving notice is the Pantheon in Oxford-road; a building erected during my time. It was intended for winter’s amusements, such as balls, masquerades, concerts, and similar entertainments, to divert the rich and the idle. A society, as I am informed, has advanced no less than ninety thousand pounds 316 towards its erection, in hopes, as it is said, of great profits, which, however, if it be true, have not answered the expectation.
In Bloomsbury-square the duke of Bedford has a palace, built by Inigo Jones, which, considering its situation in London, is very airy and commands a fine prospect. But of more importance to the curious traveller is the British Museum in Great-Russel-street, a noble and extensive building, formerly the residence of the dukes of Montague. It is, by no means, my intention to give a circumstantial account of the curiosities and valuable libraries, which are to be met with here. A friend to literature, and particularly an admirer of natural history, will derive much pleasure from visiting these large and lofty rooms, dedicated to the Muses; and the longer he examines the contents of them, the greater satisfaction will he receive. I know not that any complete, or satisfactory catalogue, of the curiosities in the British Museum has been published; but it were to be wished, that the public might soon be in possession of one, and that the denominations of the curiosities might be affixed to them in legible characters, in proportion to the height in which they are placed. By these means the inquisitive curiosity of strangers, 317 who come to see the Museum, might be gratified, and their questions answered, without giving unnecessary trouble to the gentlemen who attend the company.
The institution of the Museum, which is an honour to the nation, is to be dated from the year 1752. Parliament then granted the various sums for purchasing the house, the curiosities of sir Hans Sloane, and the Harleian manuscripts, together with 30,000 pounds, as a fund for the maintenance of the different officers in the house, to be raised by way of lottery. Since, however, that fund is found to be insufficient for its intention, certain sums have been granted by parliament, from time to time, to make up the deficiencies, which amount, on an average, to a thousand pounds annually. It was likewise enacted by parliament, that forty-one trustees should be nominated, three of whom were to be the archbishop of Canterbury, the lord chancellor, and the speaker of the house of commons, which three should, exclusively, have the right to nominate the different officers of the Museum. The principal ones of these are an upper-librarian, and three sub-librarians; one of these has the care of the manuscripts and the coins, the other that of the natural curiosities, 318 and a third that of the printed books. Every one of them has an assistant; and besides these seven, there is one who superintends the reading room. The three librarians, with their assistants, have their stated days and hours, when they shew to the different companies, generally fourteen or fifteen in number, the Museum for about two hours.
On entering the house, the hall corresponds with the magnificence of the rest. It contains, besides a model of the great quadrant at Greenwich, another which represents Blackfriars-bridge. The shells or coffins, in which Egyptian mummies were included, will, besides some other objects of curiosity, immediately engage the attention of a stranger. After ascending the grand stair-case, which, above and on the sides is ornamented with paintings, the first door which is opened, introduces him to some antiquities found in Herculaneum, which, besides some fine urns, most of them dug out of tombs in Calabria, were bought for 8000 pounds of sir William Hamilton. These antiquities are kept in two different rooms, and an antiquarian will find here many entertaining objects for enquiry. A copious catalogue of them has been drawn up, of which the late Dr. Giffard made a very concise 319 abridgment. This collection is augmented from time to time. A much admired Homer’s head is here also to be seen, which belonged formerly to Dr. Mead, and is said to be of great antiquity; it is well engraved by an eminent artist, and thus multiplied by prints, for the benefit of those who have no opportunity of seeing the original. A third room full of curiosities and antiquities is contiguous to the foregoing. Most of them belonged formerly to sir Hans Sloane. The Egyptian mummies, of which a full description is in print, are likewise here. One of them is ornamented with glass-beads; a proof that the invention of glass, and the manner of staining it, is of great antiquity. The other Egyptian antiquities, which this room contains, are a gift of Mr. Wortley Montagu, the son of the famous lady Mary Wortley Montagu. In different presses, with glass-doors, various Roman, Tuscan, and some Christian antiquities are disposed. Those curiosities, which were brought over from the lately discovered islands in the Pacific ocean, fill another room. Various valuable coins of gold, silver, and inferior metals, remarkable either for their antiquity or their scarcity, are to be seen in a smaller apartment, which, however, is not generally shewn to every company that comes to see the Museum. 320 I have seen here an English crown-piece with a head of Charles II. the dye of which was executed in prison by Simon18, who was a great friend and admirer of Cromwell the protector, and it procured him his liberty of the king restored. Very few impressions were made; but they are, in my opinion, so excellent, that they yield not to the best coins of antiquity. The Sloane manuscripts are deposited in an adjoining room, and relate chiefly to medicine and to travels. Those which are called Harleian fill two rooms. A catalogue, in two volumes, folio, printed in 1759, mentions 7618 of them. A preface, which is prefixed to it, gives an account of this collection of manuscripts, as well as of the manner in which the catalogue is arranged, which concludes with a good index for references to the manuscripts. A good collection of manuscripts of old Latin classics is also here to be met with; but they are not of great antiquity, though many of them are elegantly written. The rest of this collection relates chiefly to genealogy and heraldry; but there are many on the subject of English history. From this room we enter into another, containing those which are distinguished by the appellation of the 321 king’s and the Cottonian manuscripts. Mr. David Casley has composed a very valuable catalogue, in which he gives an account of them, and has adorned it with an hundred and fifty specimens of writings of different ages. It is here, that the famous Alexandrian manuscript is to be seen; the Old Testament of which was published long ago by our countryman Dr. Grabe, and of the New my worthy friend, Dr. Woide, has lately given a splendid impression in fac-simile characters.
We have taken hitherto a view of nine rooms on the eastern side of the Museum, and are entering now into that on the west. Here begins the Sloane collection of natural curiosities; a description of which would fill whole volumes; I, therefore, shall content myself merely by giving a general account of what is to be seen in each room. The first contains a variety of gems and precious stones; likewise various kinds of marble, alabaster, crystal, asbestos, sulphur, and metals. Those fossils and metals, which were given by Mr. Brander to the Museum, are here also19. The next room is filled with various 322 shells, petrified things, such as fish, human bones, herbs, and other substances. On a table, under a glass cover, various curiosities present themselves, and among others some nautili, or fish to be found in the Mediterranean, who practised the art of navigation, by sailing, earlier than men20. Here likewise begins the hortus siccus, or a collection of herbs, preserved on leaves of paper, of which there are no less than 334 volumes in the museum. Many of these herbs are, however, badly dried, and therefore spoiled. Those volumes, which are the gift of the duchess of Beaufort, are the finest and in the best preservation; which cannot be said of those which belonged to sir Hans Sloane. A following room exhibits a collection of vegetables and chemical preparations, a number of polypes, scorpions, spiders, tarantulas, flies, scarabees, and other insects. Great quantities of butterflies are to be seen here, in the various situations of that metamorphosis which they undergo. Many sea-weeds, pearls and corals, are also exposed to the view of the curious. Mr. Ellis was the first, in 323 England, who attempted to remove the corals out of the vegetable into the animal kingdom21. He published a treatise on the subject, with the addition of some copper-plates, and the very originals from which they are taken are here preserved under glass, over the chimney-piece. The contents of this room are arranged according to the Linnean system, as are likewise the birds in the next. It is a pretty collection, but is no ways comparable to that which belonged to the late sir Ashton Lever. A fine orang-outang, the nearest relation to man, resides here among the birds. The last room appropriated to natural history contains several kinds of fish and amphibiums. A number of serpents is here preserved, and among them a rattle-snake. This collection was, for the most part, made in Surinam, and given as a present to the museum, by the late marquis of Rockingham.
We now quit the rooms appropriated to natural curiosities, and descend the stair-case to go into the library. This stair-case is different 324 from that which I have mentioned before. It has no grandeur, but on descending it, various curiosities, such as a stuffed crocodile, various aquatic-animals, some American canoes, and some Greenland fishing-boats, meet the eye. The library occupies no less than twelve very considerable rooms. In the first those books are placed, which are given as presents, and those of which a copy is to be delivered, on their being entered in Stationer’s-hall. The library, which was bequeathed by major Edwards, fills the second. This gentleman left also 7000l. to the Museum, to increase the library with new books by the interest of this fund. The third room contains the library of Dr. Birch, which makes an appearance less considerable than it would have done, because all those books of which the Museum had duplicates, were sold by auction. Sir Hans Sloane’s library, which relates mostly to philosophy, natural history, and medicine, takes up the six following, and the king’s library the three last rooms. Close to the library is a very convenient reading-room, to accommodate those who wish to peruse books or manuscripts, because none are permitted to be taken out of the Museum.325
I shall finish here my short account of this noble institution, and only add this observation, that the whole is costly, worth seeing, and honourable to the nation; that, when taken all together, it has not its equal; but when considered in its separate branches, almost each of them singly, may be surpassed by some other collections, even in England itself, such as that of the late Dr. Hunter, and that of Mr. Parkinson, besides many others. Though I have seen more than one general specification of the various contents of this Museum, yet none is to be relied upon, because the curiosities, as well as the books, increase from year to year.
In giving this account of the British Museum, I have been somewhat the more circumstantial, thinking it an object which cannot but attract the attention of the curious stranger. I am happy that I can speak of it as a national institution still in being; for I almost trembled for its fate, when, in 1780, during those horrid religious riots, the Gothic incendiaries were much inclined to reduce this noble edifice, together with its valuable contents, to ashes.
We shall now direct our way to the north-east, where we see the Foundling Hospital before us. This building, with its neat chapel, resembles more a residence of opulence, than an 326 hospital erected by charity. What I have observed already in another place, that, in such institutions, too much of the money contributed, is laid out in the building, and for the support of those who hold offices in these receptacles of objects of charity, is applicable in this instance also. A building, perhaps, more to the purpose, might have been raised at less expence; and from such saving more children might have been benefited by this institution than now are, when hardly above a hundred are annually received. A concert of sacred music is generally performed once a year in the chapel of this hospital; and I remember when it was well attended, and, therefore, very beneficial to the charity. But, as this attendance was more the offspring of fashion than of true charity and good-will to the institution, it is fallen off very much; and as such things grow old, the hospital, I believe, has of late not received so much benefit by these spiritual concerts as formerly.
Gray’s Inn, which is not at a great distance from hence, may be considered as a kind of college, where gentlemen reside who study or carry on the business of the common law. Lincoln’s Inn is for the same purpose; and has, as well as Gray’s Inn, an agreeable garden. Lincoln’s 327 Inn Fields are an extensive space of ground, laid out by Inigo Jones, who, as it is said, took the area or base of the largest pyramid in Egypt, for the exact dimensions of this elegant square.
The Charter-house, which is more towards the east, was formerly a monastery of the Carthusian order, but was secularised at the time of the Reformation. It is at present a charitable institution, for the support of some poor old tradesmen, who are very comfortably provided for; and contains also a good grammar-school, the head masters of which are generally men who have distinguished themselves by their learning, and several of them are well known from their writings.
Smithfield, not far distant, is a large place where, on certain days in the week, a great market for cattle is kept. It is, perhaps, the greatest in its kind in all Europe. In my opinion, it would be better if such a market-place were not within the city, but rather without. Perhaps it would be well if there were two, one on the north side of London, near Pancras; and another on the south, in the neighbourhood of George’s-fields. Much mischief, which is oftentimes occasioned by driving the cattle through the streets of London to Smithfield, 328 might thus be prevented. Slaughter-houses might be erected near these markets, and humanity should provide reservoirs of water to satisfy the thirst of the poor cattle; for it raises compassion to see these devoted victims, particularly the sheep, drinking eagerly out of the kennels in the street, when they are driven to market, and even not indulged in this by their cruel drivers.
On one side of this market-place, St. Bartholomew’s Hospital presents itself; a noble building, and one of the best charitable institutions, where sick and wounded persons are taken care of. The number of those who receive the benefit of this charity is very great; the afflicted are tenderly nursed, and attended by the most skilful physicians and surgeons; which, indeed, to the honour of the nation, is, besides remarkable cleanliness, the character of most English hospitals.
In the neighbourhood of Moorfields, are two hospitals for lunatics, and people afflicted with madness. That of St. Luke’s designed for incurables, is amply endowed, and lately rebuilt at very great expence. That which is called Bethlehem, or Bedlam, has more the appearance of a palace, than the residence of madness. Here scenes present themselves, which, 329 indeed, may humble human pride, and teach poor mortals to what degradation they are subject. Hardly ever Psychology will account for it, how it happens, that the English, so eminent among other nations for good sense and sound understanding, are so apt to be deprived of their reason; and whence it arises, that madness seems to be more at home in England than in other countries. Not only large hospitals are erected for lunatics, but a number of private mad-houses are necessary to confine people deprived of their senses. Shakespeare himself seems to acknowledge, that in his country more madmen may be met with than any where else, when he introduces Hamlet in a conversation with a clown22. If physiological causes have their share in this evil, moral ones, arising from education and the manner of living, certainly contribute greatly towards it. The opinion of Grosley23 is not supported by much probability, that an abundant and cheap 330 importation of French wines, would greatly lessen the melancholy humour, and the propensity towards madness, among the English, making them at the same time mote pliable subjects, and less averse to passive obedience. He had no reason to recommend to them the doctrine of Solomon: date vinum iis qui amare sunt animo et bibant. They really drink plentifully as it is. French wines are imported cheaper, by the late commercial treaty, than they were before; yet the number of those unhappy persons who labour under madness has not decreased; and if these wines had the quality of making people passively obedient, I hope every true Englishman, who has the full use of his reason, would carefully avoid drinking them. I have seen several strangers, who thought it inconsistent, that so elegant a building as Bedlam, should be inhabited by people deprived of reason, and be appointed for a residence of madness and insanity; but, if all mansions, eminent for their architecture, were to be inhabited only by men of sense and wisdom, how many palaces must either stand empty, or their owners be addressed in the words of the poet, Veteres migrate coloni! On the pillars of the gateway of the hospital, two fine statues, in a reclining posture, are seen; the one representing 331 raving, and the other melancholy madness. They are the work of a countryman of ours, who came from Holsatia, the father of Colley Cibber, and are esteemed valuable pieces of statuary24.
Not far from Whitechapel, on the side of the road, another noble building presents itself which owes its existence to charity, called the London-hospital, and is supported by voluntary contributions. Very near two hundred beds are here to be found, for the reception of the sick, and those poor who are hurt by accidents. The latter are admitted at any time, day or night, without any farther than the misery and misfortune under which they labour. Nay, since the number of those who want assistance, is sometimes greater than the inside of the hospital will admit, those who cannot be accommodated within, are taken care of and cured without. It is said, that since the institution of this charity, which took place in the year 1740, very near 200,000 persons have been dismissed from the hospital, after being cured and restored to health.332
The Tower of London, with its curiosities, is one of those places, which by strangers, who come to see this metropolis, are generally visited among the first. Not only foreigners, but the country people also when they are possessed of any curiosity, flock to the Tower, to stare at the wild beasts, to be agreeably surprised by the strange sight of the horse armoury, and to be dazzled on viewing the crown-jewels by dim candle-light, shewn by a woman behind some rails, who recites her lesson faster than a nun repeats her psalms25. The English money is coined in the Tower, which is done with astonishing expedition. The places and offices of the mint are rather lucrative, and some of them have occasionally been given to men eminent for their learning, because the salaries are considerable, though little is required to be done. I need not mention, that state-prisoners are kept within the Tower, and that many illustrious persons, who have been beheaded, are buried in the church which is there. The keeper of the state-prisoners derives a kind of dignity from the persons he has in his custody; and, therefore, is called not merely goaler, but 333 gentleman-goaler; a kind of title, unknown to us in Germany, which may rather excite wonder, since no nation is more ridiculously fond of titles, and more inclined to invent new ones than ours.
On leaving the Tower, and going up Thames-street, we come to the Custom-house, an extensive building, where thousands of oaths are daily made, with as much indifference and as little concern, as if they were but compliments and empty assurances. Those who have, on account of duties, business to transact here, have the best opportunities of practising self-denial, and improving the virtue of patience.
A little farther on we arrive at Billingsgate, the seat of politeness, the forum of eloquence, and the best market for fish. Hence the proverbial expressions of the English, Billingsgate language, Billingsgate eloquence. Whoever wants to witness natural powers of speech, figures of oratory, well chosen epithets, strong expressions, delivered with an audible voice, in the vulgar English tongue, let him offend one of these fish-women, and he will be astonished to find, that none of them yields to Homer’s Juno, who, incapable of subduing her anger, burst 334 out instantly into a volley of abusive language26.
A little farther from Billingsgate is London bridge, with the water-works. The former is much complained of as being always in want of repairs; and the others are originally the invention of Peter Maurice, a German, but greatly improved by Mr. Hadley. Soon after I had seen these water-works in London, I saw those at Marly near Paris, when they were still in use, but I could not help observing immediately how much superior those in London are, in regard to the simplicity of their construction; for that they are infinitely more useful than those in France needs no proof. An officer at Marly who superintended the water-works informed me that annually about 20,000 pounds sterling were required to keep them in order; and how much smaller is the sum that keeps those in London in repairs, which provide the greatest part of the city with water! It is conducted in leaden pipes into the houses; and, I believe it is from mere necessity that this unwholesome metal is made use of, since it is not conducive to health to keep water in 335 lead; and yet most cisterns in houses, I have observed, are made of the metal. It is said, that the income of the proprietors of these water-works, who are made a company, has suffered since the time the metropolis became provided likewise with water from what is called the New-river. To the latter a kind of preference is given, and it may be had at a time, when the London water-works, on account of a low tide, can furnish none. How beneficial the conducting of the water, in pipes, through all London must be, when fires happen, may easily be conceived. The regulations in regard to extinguishing fires are exceedingly good, and the engines, I believe, are the best ever to be met with. Nevertheless, it will happen, that in winter time, during a hard frost, or when, at low tide, the London water works cannot furnish a supply, the engines can, at least for a time, do no execution for want of water. Large cisterns, placed at proper distances, always kept filled up, might perhaps, prevent such a want, but hitherto nothing of the kind is done.
Near the bridge, is a great column, called the Monument, which was erected as a memorial of the great fire of London. It is the work of sir Christopher Wren. The column 336 of Trajan at Rome, is only 184 feet high27, and this is 202. The monument, though but little more than a hundred years old, is said to be but in an indifferent condition; and it is thought, that, within no great space of time, it must be taken down. Opinions differ, whether this be owing to the shaking of the ground, by numberless waggons and coaches that pass by, or whether it is the fault of the architect; but, in all probability, it is to be attributed to the cause which I first mentioned.
On going from the monument towards the north, we come to the Royal-exchange, which was built in 1566 by sir Thomas Gresham, who, under certain conditions, left it in his will to the Mercers-company, and to the mayor and commonalty of the city of London. But the original exchange being destroyed by the fire of London, an hundred years afterwards, it was rebuilt in that magnificent style in which it now presents itself. In the midst of the area a statue of Charles II. in a Roman dress, is placed within some iron rails. The mean flattery of the Hamburgh merchants, then residing in London28, has engraved, at the bottom of the pedestal, an inscription, which 337 is a satire upon the court it was intended to honour, and a monument of meanness for those who paid for it. Charles II is called deliciæ generis humani, pacis Europæ arbiter, marium dominus ac vindex, at a time when the court did every thing to encroach upon the liberty of the people, and manifested a great ill will to the city of London.
Formerly the merchants used to assemble on change between one and two o’clock, to transact business, but at present it is delayed till half after two, nay even later. Almost every nation and every branch of trade, has its own walk upon the exchange, where they may be looked for, and where their different languages are spoken. On viewing from a window, or a balcony within the area, the crowd below at full exchange time, it excites pleasure to see such a number of people busy below, and hearing the confused sound of so many voices, and so many different languages, ascending like the humming of bees. Without paying any regard to the distinctions of sects, or religious opinions, every one pretends to honesty, every one claims the character of doing justice to others, as a certain proof that this society in which we live, subsist without virtue. The man of twenty thousand pounds is pushed 338 here against another of forty thousand, and he perhaps against one of an hundred and more thousands. None of them thinks he has enough; no one is satisfied; and amongst them may, perhaps, be seen a man, who, after having appeared in the gazette, and just got a certificate, yet struts along with so much confidence, that a stranger might be inclined to take him for the richest man there. Not many years elapse before an almost entire new set of faces appear on the exchange. The great gulf of London swallows all, and the burying grounds in this great metropolis, together with the churchyards of the neighbouring villages, are stored with the bones of the rich as well as of the poor. The generality of them are soon forgotten, sometimes even by their heirs, when they have rested hardly eight days under ground. The revenues of the Royal-Exchange are pretty considerable; and were, perhaps, formerly still more so, when the upper part of the building was fitted up as shops, in which various sorts of merchandises were exposed for sale.
The founder of the exchange, sir Thomas Gresham, ordered also in his will, that his extensive mansion should be sacred to the Muses, and lectures be read, at stated times, on divinity, 339 astronomy, music, geometry, law, medicine, and rhetoric. Salaries were likewise provided by him for those who were appointed as professors for this purpose. But though, after his death, the house was changed into a college which came into some repute, and lectures were read, yet all this is changed at present. Minerva has been obliged to make room for Mercury, and the Excise-office is built on the spot where formerly the college stood; the lectures are, for form sake, read in a room over the Royal-Exchange, by persons, who, as it is said, are not always qualified for such a function, merely to qualify themselves for receiving the salaries. It is no wonder, if the abuse of such institutions, and the perversion of the intentions of deceased donors, should prevent others from disposing of their property by their wills, in purposes beneficial to the public.
Not far from the Royal-Exchange is the General Post-office, which, on account of the business transacted there, is, perhaps, the greatest in the world. The revenues belong to the state, and amounted, in the middle of the last century, to about 5000l. but are risen, at present, to not less than 450,000l. Correspondence has, on account of commerce, and for various other reasons, not only greatly increased; 340 but government has raised the postage to a high degree, and every cover of a letter, every inclosure, some few in the mercantile way only excepted, are to be paid for as single letters, and according to the weight at a pretty high rate. For the convenience of the inhabitants of London and its environs, a Penny-post is instituted, and by means of seventy-four messengers, letters may be sent, daily, at different hours, to any part within the bills of mortality. There are no less than 334 houses appointed for the reception of Penny-post letters; and great as this number may appear to foreigners, yet I believe that not one of them is unemployed; for I am of opinion, that no nation is more given to letter-writing than the English. Besides people of business, both sexes seem to be fond of an epistolary intercourse.
The buildings of the Bank have been greatly enlarged, within my time. The new wing, which has been added, is in the inside very well adapted to its purpose; but the outside, on account of the light being only admitted from the top, has some resemblance to the prison of Newgate; so that Plutus who is here confined, may complain like the other of 341 Lucian, that he suffers great hardship, by being restrained from seeing day-light. I have reason, however, to think, that he sometimes circulates in free and open air, when the wants of government incline the bank to set him at liberty, on granting a proper acknowledgment for such a favour.
The house of the lord-mayor, which goes under the denomination of the Mansion-house, is in the neighbourhood of the Royal-Exchange; a clumsy, heavy building, but not wholly without an appearance of magnificence. It lies, hid almost, in a corner, and is well blackened by smoke. The habitation of the lord-mayor, and his state-coach, bear some proportion and resemblance, in regard to taste, to each other; yet the latter never makes its appearance in public, but it is admired and crowded about by the London populace. How slightly lord Burlington thought of the Mansion-house appears from the answer he gave, to a citizen who consulted him about a proper person to carve the bas-relief in the pediment of that edifice: “Any body, he replied, may do well enough for such a building”. But how credulous must the man be, who could believe, that a gentleman came on purpose, every year, from the North of England, to London, 342 for no other reason, but merely to stand up against the wall of the mansion-house to shew his contempt for its architecture29.
Almost close to the mansion-house stands the church of St. Stephen’s, Wallbrook, which is looked upon as the master-piece of sir Christopher Wren. The English are of opinion, that all Italy has comparable to the inside of it, in regard to taste, proportion, and beauty. The church, however, seems, at least in some parts, to be much in want of light, which, perhaps, is owing to its being so closely surrounded by buildings.
The East-India-house in Leadenhall-street is well constructed for its purpose, and has, behind, large convenient warehouses with a garden.
Sion-College, formerly a monastery, I mention merely, because there is a kind of public library. A copy of every book entered in Stationers-hall, should be delivered to this library, and every clergyman of the church of England, who is promoted to a living within London, should present the library with a book, worth at least ten shillings: but, notwithstanding these regulations, the library is not very rich 343 in good, well-chosen modern books, and much less so in those printed abroad in foreign languages.
Not far from hence is the famous Grub-street, where poor authors and scriblers have been said to live in their garrets somewhat like the wretched Codrus of Juvenal:
. . . . Quem tegula sola tuetur
A pluvia, molles ubi reddunt ova columbæ;
Nil habuit Codrus.
English authors frequently make use of the expressions of a Grub-street writer or a production of Grub-street; and I have seen foreigners, just coming from abroad to England, who, from mistaken notions, thought Grub-street to be inhabited by a great part of the London literati and some eminent booksellers; but there are few, if any, authors who live there now, whatever may have been the case formerly.
Guildhall is, as we should say in Germany, the Senate-house of London. It is an old Gothic structure. Within the hall several courts of judicature are kept, and some good monuments are to be seen. But a foreigner will be, at first sight, much struck with the enormous figures of two giants, with which those who live in the neighbourhood frighten their perverse 344 children, in the same manner as the Romans did, in the time of Martial, with the ridiculous production of the potter:
Sum figuli lusus rufi persona Batavi:
Quæ tu derides, hæc timet ora puer.
Here, at Guildhall, the state-lotteries are drawn. The spirit of gaming, which is already so prevalent among the English, is greatly encouraged by them; and it is hardly credible, how much mischief is done by these annual lotteries and the gambling by which it is attended. It is to be regretted, that the morals of the people should be hazarded, merely to procure a small addition to the revenues of the state.
Not far from hence, Bow-church presents itself. It is the work of sir Christopher Wren, and the steeple with which it is ornamented, is pronounced to be the finest in England. In this church eight sermons, known by the denomination of Boyle’s Lectures, are annually preached. Having heard much in praise of these learned lectures, before I came to England, I made it a point the first opportunity to go and hear them; but how great was my astonishment, when, instead of a crowded congregation, intermixed with numbers of learned men and divines, I found very few people, and mostly old 345 women in the church, to profit and to be edified by these philosophical and theological discourses! They were, formerly, few instances excepted, printed and published, which, perhaps, was the reason that they were not much attended, when they were preached; but at present, they are neither more attended, nor so frequently printed. The subject seems to be exhausted, and the fifty pounds, which are to be paid to the preacher, are, as I have been informed, not seldom given to a clergyman whose circumstances may require the aid of such a small sum, though he may not be equal to the task which he is desired to undertake.
Christ’s Hospital, or, as it is often called, the Blue-coat Hospital, is a charitable and useful institution. Perhaps more than a thousand children of both sexes are here educated at the same time, under the care of different masters, though never sufficient in number for such a quantity of children, which is a fault most English schools labour under. The girls are instructed by women, in those things, which are intended to make them useful for domestic
At the west-end of Newgate-street a gate and a prison were to be seen, when I first came to London, but both have been since pulled 346 down. The prison is erected in a street, close by, called the Old-Bailey, and is thought to be one of the strongest and securest which could be planned by modern architecture; yet, in the year 1780, during the famous riots, it was set on fire; but has since been perfectly restored. Public executions, which some years past took place at Tyburn, are now performed in the above mentioned street, before one of the doors of the prison, where the gallows, on such, occasions, are erected. This new regulation has, at least, the preference so far to the former custom, that it prevents a numerous populace from being idle a whole hanging-day, which, was generally the case, when the long processions of the malefactors, from Newgate to Tyburn, subsisted; and all the streets, through which they passed, were in a kind of uproar. I have said something more on this subject in another place30. The burning of women, who, according to law, for some crimes are condemned to the stake, being likewise performed in the Old Bailey, is complained of as a great nuisance, and not without reason. In the same street the Session-house and Surgeons-hall are to be seen. The former has lately been rebuilt on a much better plan than before.347
On going from Newgate-street towards the south, we meet with the monuments of true architecture, the College of Physicians in Warwick-lane, and the cathedral of St. Paul’s. The former was built after the united designs of sir Christopher Wren and Inigo Jones. The hall of the college, where the members of it meet, is spacious, and well ornamented with paintings and works of sculpture; it has also an anatomical theatre and a library. Even in the time of king Henry VIII. the physicians belonging to this college, were formed into a corporation, consisting of a president and thirty fellows. According to the charter, which they then obtained, no person is to be permitted to practise physic in London, and within seven miles of its environs, unless first properly licensed by the college; but, I believe, there are in no place in the world, notwithstanding good and necessary regulations, more quacks and mountebanks who, unlicensed, murder with greater impunity than in London.
The cathedral of St. Paul’s, that noble piece of architecture by sir Christopher Wren, would appear to infinitely more advantage, if it stood less surrounded with other buildings, and had better avenues. The bare walls of the inside make it, likewise, greatly inferior to that of 348 St. Peter at Rome, which, in some respects has served for its model: for the latter is decorated with paintings, very magnificent monuments, and other works of statuary and sculpture. Some very eminent painters have offered to decorate the cathedral with paintings, without demanding any reward for their labours; but from Gothic prejudices, and bigotted principles, some people have refused accepting such kind and liberal offers. The cupola only is painted in the inside by sir James Thornhill, and has all the advantages of the descending light. Under this cupola runs a gallery round, where a person whispering or speaking in a very low voice against the wall, is heard, very distinctly and very loudly, by another who stands opposite him on the other side; though the distance between the person that speaks, and the other that hears, is no less than 143 feet. The principles of this kind of architecture were well known to the ancients. The famous ear of Dionysius of Syracuse is, among others, a proof of it; and there is no doubt, but that the priests in heathen temples, where oracles were given, used arts like this to carry on their imposture, and to promote superstition. On the outside of the cupola runs a spacious gallery, from which there is the finest view of 349 London, and the country adjacent, on a clear day, when the town is not too much covered with smoke. Above this another gallery is built, which bears the name of the golden gallery; and the whole height of the church is said to be 440 feet31. There are many and very minute accounts of this separately printed, or in books to be met with, to which I must refer the curious.
The grammar school, which is commonly called St. Paul’s-school, is in good repute; but I cannot persuade myself, that the number of those who instruct is adequate to the number of them who are to be instructed.
Apothecaries-hall is not far from St. Paul’s. Here two excellent laboratories are to be found, and what belongs to the materia medica is no where to be had more genuine than here. A room is built, within the hall, for a library, but hitherto it is without books. I have here, however, met with a small collection of books relating to botany, though it was not in the room designed for the library. Here also have 350 I seen an excellent, and pretty complete collection, of samples of seeds, drugs, spices, and other such things, which are used in medicine. The fine botanical garden at Chelsea belongs likewise to the Apothecaries company; but it is said that they intend to dispose of it.
Blackfriars-bridge has been built within my time, and though it has cost a great sum of money, yet it is said that it will be soon in want of repairs. It commands a fine prospect; but it is justly remarked, that the balustrade on each side, should be either higher or lower, not to intercept the view of the foot-passengers, which it does at present. I remember, that the Surry-side of this bridge, which is now covered with a number of houses on the side of an excellent road, was a mere swamp when I first came to London; but in its present improved state it shews what English industry, ingenuity, and English money, can effect within a few years. Almost at the foot of the south side of this bridge, the Albion-mills, and Mr. Parkinson’s Museum, formerly sir Ashton Lever’s, highly deserve the notice of the curious stranger32.351
At the end of Fleet-street, a kind of gate is erected, which is called Temple-bar. It has been praised as a fine piece of architecture; but it is in fact an obstruction of a great thoroughfare; and it were to be wished, that the several attempts which have been made to remove it, had been successful. Close by this gate is the Temple, a very extensive building, formerly the residence of the knights Templars, but now a kind of college for gentlemen who study or prastice the law. The situation of the Temple is very agreeable, with a garden that borders on the Thames. The church which is here, is an did Gothic structure, and was saved with difficulty from the fire of London in 1666. The clergyman, who has the living, is called Master of the Temple, and his place is not only respectable, but also endowed with a pretty good income. Men of eminence and learning such as a Sherlock, a Gregory Sharpe, and others, have enjoyed it.
Somerset-house, in the Strand, was an old ruinous, Gothic building, when I first came to London, but it is now one of the finest in regard to architecture, and one of the costliest, considering the expences it has required, though yet unfinished. The Royal Society, the 352 Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Academy for painting, sculpture, and architecture, have here suitable apartments for their meetings, and the latter for their annual exhibitions; but the greatest part of this extensive building is appropriated to different offices, belonging to different departments of government.
On taking a boat, at the stairs near Somerset-house, a stranger, who wishes to get acquainted with the situation of London, may go on the river to Lambeth. During this little water excursion, he will have a view of the Adelphi Buildings, and the terrace before them; he will see Whitehall, and pass under Westminster-bridge. This bridge is without doubt, in all respects, the best in London. It was built by Charles Labelye, a foreigner, now almost forgotten, and who published, in 1751, a description of it. The palace of the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth has nothing extraordinary, and looks more like an old monastery, or an old castle, than a palace. It has, however, received some additional erections of a more modern date, which make it rather a convenient mansion. Within the palace is a library, which contains good books, and a number of manuscripts, chiefly relating 353 to English church affairs. The famous gardens of Vauxhall, so celebrated on the continent, and of which there are so many feeble imitations, are within the parish of Lambeth. Various classes of people resort thither in the evening during the summer; for different kinds of amusements; but, even a philosopher may spend there agreeable hours at a small expence. He may hear good music and singing; he may refresh himself in the cool of the evening; he may make observations on men and manners, retire in good time, and rise the next morning without in the least repenting the pleasures of the last evening. This, indeed, may not be the case with a great number of those who frequent these gardens, and derive from thence causes for a long repentance.
Ranelagh, with its garden, is a place for evening’s amusement, like Vauxhall; but the company here is more select, and upon the whole of greater rank. More decency is likewise observable; for only tea and coffee are served. Those who choose to drink wine, cannot do it within the rotunda, where the company is assembled, but must go, if they it, to other apartments. This rotunda is reckoned to be an elegant piece of architecture, 354 and the company walk round in a perpetual circle; so that it would be no wonder if many heads grew giddy. The music and the orchestra are very good; but the garden, though agreeable, is by no means equal to that at Vauxhall.
Not far from Ranelagh is Chelsea-hospital, a noble building, which forms three different squares. It is for invalids of the army, as that of Greenwich is for those of the navy. This latter attracts the attention of foreigners more than the former; and I really believe, that no building of the kind is to be met with any where, which could pretend to so much magnificence, order, and cleanliness, as this hospital. The chapel, and the hall which belong to it, are worth seeing; the latter has paintings by sir James Thornhill, which are much esteemed, particularly those on the ceiling. Not far from the hospital is a very fine park, which belongs to the king, but is open to the public. Some high grounds in it, command the most beautiful prospects over London and the Thames. In this park is likewise the Royal Observatory, or as it is called, after the celebrated astronomer, Flamsteed-house. It is not to be seen, without particular recommendation to the royal professor of astronomy, 355 who is to reside here. The prospects from this house are extremely fine, and the room which is particularly appropriated to astronomical observations, is on the flat ground, where the two quadrants are fixed, and where the principal telescopes and other mathematical instruments are to be seen. Here every day, and every night, the heavens are observed, and the observations properly minuted33.
18 The truth of this story, however, has been questioned.
19 The late Dr. Solander has published a description of them, with some copper-plates, under the title of Fossilia Hantoniensia, for the greatest part of them is from Hampshire.
20 Pliny mentions this fish, Hist. Nat. lib. ix. c. 29. and Oppianus in the first book of his Halieutica, gives an entertaining description of the manner in which he navigates on the surface of the sea.
21 Before Mr. Ellis, Mr. Peysonnel, a Frenchman, did the same; and lately another Frenchman, Mr. Durande, has restored them, apparently with very strong arguments, to the vegetables again. See Nouveaux Memoires de l’ Academie de Dijon, Partie ii. de l’an. 1783. Memoir xi.
22 Hamlet. Ay, marry, why was he sent into England?
Clown. Why, he was mad; he shall recover his wits there; or if he do not, it is no great matter there.
Clown. It will not be seen in him; there the men are as mad as he.
Hamlet, Act v. sc. 1.
23 Londres, vol. ii. p. 22.
24 In the German original, a more ample account of this famous hospital is given, which, however, as being well known in this country, is here omitted.
25 There is a printed Historical Description of the Tower of London and its Curiosities, which will serve as a guide to the inquisitive.
Ἥρῃ δ’ οὐκ ἔχαδε στηθος χόλον, ἀλλα προσηυδα
27 Keysler’s Travels, p. 717. Germ. Edit.
28 Rapin, tom. ii. fol. 734.
29 Pour se donner le plaisir de pisser contre ce ridicule edifice. Grosley’s Londres, vol. iii. p. 69.
31 The cathedral church at Strasburg, in Alsace, is 574 geometrical feet high, and consequently exceeds that of St. Paul’s considerably; but the prospect of the country, when I had taken the trouble to ascend it, I found by no means equal to that from St. Paul’s.
32 In the German original an ample account of this Museum is given; but a large and satisfactory catalogue of its contents having been published since, it is omitted in this translation.
33 In the original German, a short account of Deptford, Woolwich, Kensington, Kew, Windsor, Roehampton, and Sion-house, is added, merely with a view to give a foreigner an idea of those places; it is, therefore, as unnecessary for an English reader, not translated.
I would advise a foreigner or stranger
[In the German original, this is again a new chapter, Von den Merkwürdigkeiten in und nahe um London (loosely, “Sights in and around London”).]
to shew gratitude and respect to the manes of the dead
[It could have been an error for “names”, but the Dublin edition also has manes.]
Carleton-house . . . in all probability, this will be in future times the residence of British kings
[When George IV finally became king, he decided that neither Carlton House—no “e”—nor St. James’s Palace could be made grand enough. In 1825, Carlton House was demolished; the site was eventually used for a set of posh terrace houses whose rents helped pay for a greatly expanded Buckingham
la Seur, the artist who made it, hung himself
[HANGED himself, Gebhard. Paintings are hung; people are hanged.]
in hopes, as it is said, of great profits, which, however, if it be true, have not answered the expectation
[The original Pantheon burned in 1792 and was promptly rebuilt, though it never really “answered the expectation”. As a public building it hung on in various forms until 1867, when it was repurposed for businesses. In fact there is still a “Pantheon” on the site, but the name is purely historical; the current building only dates back to 1938.]
A fine orang-outang, the nearest relation to man
[A striking admission, coming from an 18th-century clergyman. Based on other writings of similar vintage, the “orang-outang” may really be be a chimpanzee or gorilla.]
the whole is costly, worth seeing, and honourable to the nation
[It probably is, at that, but there are a lot of other translations of kostbar: splendid, sumptuous, valuable and so on.]
that of Mr. Parkinson
[That would be James Parkinson, who acquired the Leverian collection in 1786.]
it would be better if such a market-place were not within the city
[The Smithfield cattle market was not relocated until 1855; the original site is still in use as a wholesale (“dead meat”) market.]
lunatics, and people afflicted with madness
[How I wish he would explain the distinction!]
Veteres migrate coloni!
[Virgil, Eclogue 9. “Haec mea sunt; veteres migrate coloni!” Loosely, “These are my fields; get lost, you former settlers!”]
without any farther recommendation than the misery and misfortune
text has reccommendation
[Spelling corrected from Dublin edition.]
not merely goaler, but gentleman-goaler
[All right then. The spelling is definitely intentional.]
a great column, called the Monument . . . the work of sir Christopher Wren
[Also of Sir Christopher’s less-famous friend Robert Hooke, who did most of the work. Though our author has some cause for concern about the Monument’s condition, he is overly pessimistic. It was repaired and remodeled in 1888 and again in 2007-2009. (Although sources tend to say “approximately every hundred years”, I can’t find any mention of repairs earlier than 1888, other than installing a cage at mid-century to deter suicides.)]
cannot subsist without virtue
text has cannnot
The founder of the exchange, sir Thomas Gresham
[Namesake of Gresham’s Law, “bad money drives out good”.]
merely to stand up against the wall of the mansion-house
[The footnote gives the original French, making it plain that “stand up against” is a euphemism.]
all Italy has nothing comparable
text has nothig
Quem tegula sola tuetur
[The translation conflates two passages, printed separately in the German: III.201-202
. . . . Quem tegula sola tuetur
A pluvia, molles ubi reddunt ova columbæ,
. . . . Opici rodebant carmina mures.
Nil habuit Codrus. ]
in those things, which are intended to make them useful for domestic business.
final . missing
The burning of women . . . is complained of as a great nuisance
[I am not absolutely certain that “nuisance” is the right word. Perhaps it was a nuisance for the executioner, who effectively had to stage two executions, since the burning was customarily preceded by hanging or strangling. The law was changed in 1790, a few years after Wendeborn’s German original, though before the English translation; the punishment was last carried out in 1789. That final woman’s offense was coining. In the 18th century, coining—which counted as treason—was the second-most common burning offense, after killing one’s husband.]
There are many and very minute accounts of this cathedral
text has cathredral
but it is said that they intend to dispose of it
[No worries; the Apothecaries’ Garden, now the Chelsea Physic Garden, is still there.]
a kind of gate is erected, which is called Temple-bar
[For an alternative account of Temple Bar, see Chapter X of The Amenities of Book-Collecting.]
The Royal Society, the Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Academy for painting, sculpture, and architecture
[There will be more about these in the first half of Volume II.]
but must go, if they choose it, to other apartments
corrected by author from chose
[Footnote] The truth of this story, however, has been questioned.
[Footnote] Αὐτικα κερτομιοισι
[I don’t know if Wendeborn is paraphrasing, quoting from memory, or working from an entirely different reading. In today’s standard text, αὐτίκα and κερτομίοις are the opening words of lines Δ.5 and 6; lines 25ff. are the actual words Hera uses with Zeus:
αἰνότατε Κρονίδη ποῖον τὸν μῦθον ἔειπες
and so on.]
[Footnote] In the German original, a more ample account of this famous hospital is given
[At this point, it belatedly occurred to me that the author’s motives for omitting certain passages from the English translation may not have been exactly as stated. Perhaps, instead, he judiciously left out selected descriptions for fear of provoking arguments with his English readers.]
[Footnote] it is, therefore, as unnecessary for an English reader, not translated
[“This is boring. I’ll make up an excuse for not translating it.” —The Author.]
IT requires great knowledge and great sincerity, to delineate the character of single persons according to truth, and to mark those striking features by which they distinguish themselves from others; but, much more is necessary to draw the character of a whole nation, and to point out its true characteristic traits. The difficulty increases with respect to the English, since there is hardly a people on the globe, among whom more singular, more eccentric, and more opposite characters, are to be met with than among them. Liberty, which this island is blessed with, permits every man, if he chooses it, to appear as he really is, and consequently there is less necessity for dissimulation. Human nature is in every corner of the earth the same; and, in fact, there is a similarity of men in all climates. Accidental things, among which education, government, established customs and manners stand first, are the principal causes of the distinctions among nations. The spirit of the Greeks remained a 357 long time in their colonies; and the English manners, as well as the English way of thinking, have preserved themselves longer than a century, with very little alteration, in the American colonies, which were formerly the habitation of what are called savages. The impressions made by the climate on its new inhabitants are slow, and of no great significance. If air and weather, as is so positively asserted by some, and, without examining, adopted by others, were the chief causes of the manners, the ways of thinking, and of the national character of a people, the ancient Britons, in the time of Cæsar, should have been something like the modern English; but, whoever will examine, with some attention, the Commentaries of Cæsar, or read the Life of Agricola, written by Tacitus, will soon be better informed. If I except the inhabitants of Wales, very little old British blood and customs1 will be found in the rest of England.358
Some, perhaps, will think it not very difficult to make a complete drawing of the English character, when so many have already written on this subject. They will say, As you have resided so long in this country, you need only point out, from the observations of others, what is true, and reject that which is not; you may tell us where there is a likeness, and where there is none. I confess, however, that after some investigation, this reasoning will not be found altogether just. I have read what many have written on the subject, both foreigners and English; but several things, which they have advanced, as truly characteristical, did not appear to me to be so, and others I thought by no means satisfactory. Most of the foreigners, who have written on the English nation, did, a few only excepted, reside but a short time in London, oftentimes without being sufficiently acquainted with the language of the country; they frequented besides companies of no great note, coffee-houses and play-houses, and thought themselves, afterwards, qualified to draw the picture of a nation, 359 with whose manners, genius, and modes of thinking, they were not much better acquainted than with those of a people, whose habitations they had seen merely on a geographical map. There is no trusting to this class of travellers, who take the much corrupted manners of the metropolis for those of the whole country. The farther off from London, the more, in general, the air as well as the manners grow purer. The people appear more civil, and tractable, more sociable and frugal, and more given to cleanliness. Riches and luxury are less visible, but the generality of the inhabitants of the country seem to enjoy contentment, and the blessings of liberty. This, probably, was formerly the case in a higher degree, before London became so extensive; and when the people who live at a distance, were not so much infected with the mad desire of coming to the metropolis, and of establishing themselves there. The roads were formerly bad, and travelling tedious and expensive; nor did the great and the rich so frequently and expeditiously, as they now do, go into the most distant parts of the kingdom with their servants and attendants, who carry the follies and vices of the capital, so successfully 360 among the people who live remote from it.
I have read sketches of the English national character, drawn by Englishmen themselves; but few of them are remarkable for their impartiality. Some represent it in a very gloomy light, as if the nation were infected with every vice and immorality; as if it were in a desponding state, and every virtue, and all kind of happiness, on the point of departing from the island. These moral painters are generally over-pious enthusiasts, who lose sight of human nature, and are ready to sacrifice to their unreasonable zeal all those, whose blood is not as thick and as heavy as their own. But they are no more to be credited than those who extol their nation and their country so far above all others in the universe, as if no sense, no virtue, no happiness were to be met with, but in their own island. Such prejudices and such idle pride, betray only, how unacquainted with foreign countries those are who adopt them. In my opinion, the English, of all cultivated nations, approach the nearest to the character of what man, in reality, ought to be; and this, I think, is their chief characteristic. It is, likewise, a very just observation of Mr. Hume, 361 that “the English, of any people in the universe, have the least of a national character; unless this very singularity may pass for one2.” In former times, the resemblance between the English and other nations was stronger, and the singularities now so observable and striking to foreigners, are, principally, to be dated from that period when the Revolution established liberty and the constitution on surer ground, and gave, to the manners and the way of thinking among the people a greater air of freedom, and consequently to their character and government, a different colouring from what it had before.
Education forms in all countries the manners of the inhabitants, and that in England is something different from all others. I cannot help thinking, that the taste of the English in regard to their modern gardening resembles that which is generally shewn in their manner of education. Nature is preferred to every thing; it is frequently assisted with a helping hand; but care is taken lest art should spoil it. This I take, partly, to be the reason, why the number of those who approach nearest to the dignity and the destination of man, is greater 362 among the English than among other nations. To study to find out, as Montesquieu has done, a system, which, when followed, will form by rules, slaves for tyrants, is repugnant to humanity. Are we, if it were possible, to alter human nature by education, that it may fit an artificial form of government; or are we rather to adapt our governments to the nature of man? In England, both the inhabitants and the constitution are formed for freedom. That servile respect for those who are called people of quality, or for those possessed of riches, which is inculcated into children, by example as well as precept, in other countries3, is not very common in England. The poorest man will be heard to say, that his shilling is as good as that of the rich; and I have known instances, where patriotic schoolmasters would not punish a boy who had transgressed, before he was found guilty by twelve of his school-fellows, to make them early sensible of the privilege of a Briton, not to be judged in an arbitrary or a despotical way, but by his peers, or equals. In general the children of both sexes in England, are educated with a much greater degree of indulgence than in other countries. In some eminent 363 grammar-schools, a kind of severe punishment, called flogging, is still in use; but it is supposed, that it rather hardens than reforms.
An indulgent education, though it will sometimes be productive of evils, has, notwithstanding, great advantages. A hard and tyrannical treatment of children not only irritates their temper, but it forms them frequently for exercising tyranny on others afterwards. This is too visible on the continent, where many in their sphere, from the prince and his subordinate tyrants down to the father of a family, and the master of a school, will play, if they can, the despot, and talk in a dictatorial and a decisive way, without regarding reason and arguments. This is not the case in England. The king cannot act in an arbitrary manner, and much less his ministers. The nobility, the gentry, and they who are proud on account of their riches, know very well, that those whom they look upon as their inferiors, are notwithstanding as free as themselves. The clergy of the established church must conform to the act of toleration, and persecutions cannot be carried on as in former times. Parents, particularly the mothers, behave, in common, very tenderly towards their children, and provocations to irritate their temper, are 364 not frequent. Yet when I speak of an indulgent education as much prevalent in England, and that it has an influence on the command of temper, I do by no means make this a general assertion. There are exceptions to both. Hot-headed people are often enough to be met with; and even among the members of the British senate. Foreigners, some of whom call the English the wild nation of Europe, will frequently ascribe this pretended wildness to their mode of education; but I have, in more instances than one, made this observation, that many a young Englishman, with all his apparent wildness and uncouthness, when he arrives at the age of twenty-five, becomes more sedate, and conducts himself with a propriety and freedom, not frequently to be met with among young people of the same age, among other nations. He mostly hits the proper medium between the empty complaisance and over-acted vivacity of a Frenchman, and that stiff and formal conduct, which betrays many of my countrymen, though they think themselves people of education. Even a sensible foreigner, who has resided some years in England, will be struck with the contrast, between an Englishman and a lately arrived stranger. Should a more refined education, which begins 365 to make progress in England, overcome that kind of wildness of which I have been speaking, and which is so natural to those who feel themselves to be freeborn men, it may then happen, that the spirit of liberty, which hitherto characterises the English, may become weaker; for it requires a kind of ferocity, though not barbarity, for a people to maintain their liberty.
The little coercion which is used in English education, appears to me to be one of the principal causes, why a free way of thinking and acting, joined to what the French call bon sens, or good common sense, is more conspicuous among the generality of the English than among other nations. Parents and teachers can bear contradiction from the young, and, as I remarked before, it is not so common to talk in a decisive tone as it is abroad. The various opinions, which are entertained in religious and political matters; the many different sects in religion, and the parties in state, originate, in some respects, from the little restraint to the freedom of thinking of children during their education. Hence, however, it does not follow, that all the English have properly reflected, and thought justly; or that this island, according to the expression of baron Bielfeld, is a country of philosophers. 366 The want of true philosophy, indeed, is sometimes very visible. There are in the colleges of the English universities learned and liberal minded men, but there are arch-pedants also; the church can boast of enlightened divines, fully actuated by principles of toleration, but arch-orthodox men are frequently to be met with, as well as arch-enthusiasts among all other sects. There are zealous tories, well-wishers and promoters of arbitrary power, as well as patriotic defenders of liberty. But, though in some instances bodily infirmities are the cause of such deviations from good sense, yet I think the errors of education are still more frequently the source of them.
After these general remarks, I shall endeavour to enquire more minutely into the character of the English. The vestiges of the manners of the old Romans and Saxons, are among the modern inhabitants of this island, by no means totally effaced. The constitution, and that liberty which it has for its foundation, as I have already observed in another place, is derived from the ancient Germans. Our ancestors, whom we style barbarians, understood the rights of mankind better than their more enlightened posterity! The Danes rendered themselves 367 too odious in England, for many of their customs to have been adopted. When I compare the Roman history and that of England, I am often surprized at their similarity in many respects; and I cannot help wishing, that the character of the modern English did not so much resemble that of the Romans during the triumvirates. It has been remarked by many, that it seems as if the former had inherited their love for plays, public exhibitions, entertainments or spectacula, from the latter. The present exhibitions of this kind, are divested of that cruelty which disgraced those of the Romans, notwithstanding the presence of female spectators, who beheld barbarities, and murders, in cold blood; but the boxing matches in England, the bull-baitings, the cock-fightings, and the numerous attendance of both sexes, at public executions, indicate that there is at least a remnant of Roman manners, and of the taste of those times, still left in England. All nations on the globe find their pleasure in public shews and entertainments, according to the taste of their different countries; but I believe that the English are more fond of them than any other people. Whoever will only go to those places where they are exhibited, 368 may easily convince himself of the truth of what I have said. And as the high minded plebeian Romans of old, thought themselves above their superiors, when they gave their votes, either freely, from patriotism, or through bribery, or guided by party-spirit, to those who solicited them for the consulate, or other dignities in the republic; so an Englishman thinks himself great, when on parliamentary or other elections he can either from his own accord, or seduced by bribery, flattery, persuasion, or party-spirit, give his vote. What Lucan says4 of the Romans, who sold annually their liberty, at the elections of consuls, is somewhat applicable to the English, at their septennial elections; and on reading a description of electioneering, given by Seneca5, it brings always to my mind similar transactions that I have seen in England. The picture which is drawn by Juvenal of ancient Rome, in his third satire, resembles London more than any other great city that I have seen.369
There are certain features in the character of the English, that are thought to be remarkable and striking, which I shall now relate. One of the first, which may be looked upon as general, is a national pride. All nations love their respective countries; but the English, I believe, shew it in the highest, and the Germans, perhaps, in the lowest degree. I should point out the Swiss, as those who entertain the greatest affection for their mountainous soil, if I had not met with some of them, who preferred England, nay even came back to it, when they had left it before, with a resolution to end their days in their native country. The great preference which an Englishman gives to his island is, in my opinion, owing to the education he has received, so different from that in other countries; to the diet and manners he is used to, peculiar to his native soil; and above all, because he is told from his infancy, that England is superior to all other countries, and that none are comparable to it. An inhabitant of Chili or Lapland, of which we have proofs, will, without knowing better, be as much attached to the land of his nativity, as an Englishman to his; and I reckon this attachment among those blessings of the Creator, which are but little known, and therefore so little valued. A young Esquimau, 370 who was educated from his tenth year at an English fort in Hudson’s-bay, and always used to the English way of living, took, at the age of twenty, when they were filling casks with train-oil, an opportunity, when he was alone, and as he thought unobserved, to drink very heartily of this nauseous liquid, turning his face towards the region he came from, and calling out afterwards very emphatically: O how happy is that country, where they enjoy such delicious drink! This, indeed, is by no means surprising to him who has made mankind his study; no more than the fact, so well authenticated, of a Hottentot who returned from Holland to the Cape of Good-hope6.
The predilection of the English for their own country, and their high opinion of it, is not of a very modern date, but was recorded centuries ago, as the following anecdote will prove: Don Louis, count of Claramonte, being created by pope Clement VI. king of the then newly discovered Canaries, which were called the Fortunate Islands; the English ambassador at Rome, thinking these islands could be no 371 other than the British, was so terrified, that he set off, in great haste, to carry this news over to England. I cannot, however, in justice to Englishmen, particularly when they are abroad, avoid observing, that, if they are, even but tolerably well bred, they will not betray so much pride on account of their own persons, as they will because they were born Britons. This is just the reverse of my own countrymen, who generally value their own dear selves most, and pride themselves on it, without regarding their country, or the honour which, perhaps, they might derive from it. A sensible Englishman speaks of himself, his rank, and his dignity, with modesty; but he talks of his country with pride, and a kind of enthusiasm; whilst, on the contrary, a German fine gentleman seems to be only enamoured with his person, his rank, his pretended merits, and his titles, not caring any thing for his nation or his country. How sincerely do I, in this instance, wish, that my countrymen were possessed of a little more patriotism!
From this high opinion which the English entertain of their country, and of their nation, it may be explained, why they adhere so much to their old customs, and to certain habits; perhaps, for no other reason, but because they have been told, from their infancy, that nothing 372 is so good and so perfect as Old England. Hence many think their constitution, and their government, which, notwithstanding all its pre-eminence and merits, has visible defects, the most perfect of all governments, and above all improvement. Hence the bulk of the people are fully persuaded, that nothing is so delicious and so excellent, as an enormous piece of beef, half roasted, and a plum-pudding of ten pounds weight. Hence an Englishman, will, during the severest weather, rather shiver at the side of a chimney, which consumes a deal of coals, produces clouds of ashes, and blackens the room, than make use of the better sort of stoves, or ovens, which we use in our country7: for his ancestors styled a fire a sort of company; they spoiled their eyes by looking thoughtfully at it; and he must do the same. I could mention many more things of this kind, which are transmitted from generation to generation, 373 and have, thereby, acquired such an authority, that a foreigner, who, guided merely by good sense, is surprized at it, will be regarded in much the same light as an heretic would by a stickler for orthodoxy. In regard, however, to changes of ministers of state, and of fashions in dress and furniture, the English are variable enough.
From the high opinion which they entertain of themselves, it may easily be supposed, that they look upon foreigners as much inferior. This fault in their national character, was visible many centuries ago. I have quoted before a passage of Horace, which has a reference to it, and I could relate a number of instances, that have happened within my own time and experience, to confirm this remark, to which so many foreigners, who frequent England, are witnesses. When I, more than twenty years ago, was, for the first time, at Oxford, much kindness and civility were shewn to me by several gentlemen of the university; but I was given to understand, that I was a foreigner; and a very worthy and learned professor, since deceased, who did me the honour to invite me, during my stay at Oxford, to his house, paid me once, after an agreeable conversation of several hours, the following 374 compliment: “Sir, you look and think like an Englishman; it is a pity you were not born in our country.” Though this was said, with great kindness and good intention, yet, it convinced me, that learning and good nature do not wholly remove the influence of early imbibed national prejudices. It is, likewise, rather curious, that the English, who pride themselves on the name of Britons, which they bear in common with the Scotch, are, notwithstanding, rather more averse to them, than even to a foreigner8; nor do the Irish seem to be much more in favour; for an Irish bog-trotter or an Irish fortune-hunter, are very common expressions in England; and they are not seldom ridiculed in the public prints, and on the stage; nay, even among the English themselves, a kind of reserve is visible, for the Episcopalians look upon the Dissenters in an inferior light and 375 the different sects keep at a distance from each other.
The French used to be the great object of English national dislike and jealousy; but this seems now to be greatly abated, especially since the late revolution in France has given the English rather a more respectful opinion of the French nation. When I first came to London the appellation of French dog was a compliment, paid by the populace in every street, to a stranger not dressed in the English manner; but at present French customs and fashions are introduced and by some eagerly adopted. Plays either translated, or taken in part from the French, are also very common, and generally well received. The lower class of the people in London, are indeed, within these twenty years, much civilized and altered for the better; though I have reason to believe, that even an English beggar, at the sight of a well-dressed Frenchman or an other stranger, still thinks himself superior, and says within himself, I am glad that I am not a foreigner. There are many Englishmen, who by traveling abroad have greatly laid aside these prejudices; but there are numbers who visit the continent and different countries, and do not return with more liberal opinions than 376 they carried with them when they left home. The reason is, because they are frequently averse to the company of the natives of the country; they despise or neglect learning foreign languages, and when they are in numbers, they keep together, live in their own way, and ridicule the manners of the people with whom they should endeavour to get acquainted, that they might judge of them according to truth and justice. It is no wonder, therefore, that, after having spent even years abroad, they should return exactly as they went, if not worse; and instead of having divested themselves of prejudices, and increased their knowledge, should rather have confirmed the former, and entirely neglected the latter. The late lord Chesterfield, who was perfectly well acquainted with this subject, expresses himself in a much stronger manner than I have done: “They set out upon their travels,” he says “unlicked cubs, and in their travels they only lick one another; for they seldom go into other company. They know nothing but the world, and the worst part of that too, and generally very little of any but the English language; and they come home, at three or four and twenty, refined and polished (as is said in one of Congreve’s plays) like Dutch skippers from a 377 whale-fishing9.” He, therefore, desires his son to form no connections with them, because he will get little knowledge, no languages, and no manners among them10. That distance which Englishmen are too apt to keep in regard to foreigners, he wishes his son not to adopt, but rather to familiarize himself with them: “Domesticate yourself,” he says, “at Naples, and lay aside the English coldness and formality11.” I own, I myself have seen Englishmen in Germany, in Switzerland, in France, and in the Netherlands, who came exactly under the description of lord Chesterfield; but, I will add, in justice, that I have met with some, though not a great number, who did honour to themselves and to their country, by their affability, their unaffected but polite manners, their knowledge of foreign languages, their prudent conduct, far from haughtiness and national conceit, and by the inquisitive spirit which they shewed, as sensible and observing travellers; but, as I have said, such as are of this character are somewhat scarce. As for those of the opposite description, it is a pity that they ever should spend so much money abroad as 378 they generally do. They squander it away; and, suffering themselves to be shamefully imposed upon, they are flattered, and treated with great civility, which they oftentimes mistake for a tribute to their personal merits, though in reality it is not so intended. When they afterwards return home, it is not to be expected, that they should give a just account to their untravelled countrymen, of the countries and the people which they have seen. They will rather state the respect with which they have been treated, and the high estimation in which Englishmen are held by foreigners, together with the cheapness of living abroad, though they have found it sufficiently expensive; and, by ridiculing or laughing at what they have seen, they will rather increase the English contempt for foreigners, and feed the national pride, than be the means of lessening either.
It is no wonder, considering the dislike and the reserve which the generality of the English manifest to foreigners, both on their own island, and when they are on the continent, that in return, most foreign nations are far from wishing them well, and seem to rejoice at their misfortunes, thinking it will humble their pride, at which they are offended. I have found this in many instances, and it was eminently 379 visible during the late war, which has cost England so much blood and treasure. All European countries sided with the Americans, and were pleased to hear of the disasters which befel the English; not from political principles and connections with, or predilections for the former, but from dislike to the latter. It is much to be regretted, that a nation like the British, which in so many views deserves the respect, nay, I will say the admiration, of those by which it is surrounded, should not endeavour to look into its own prejudices, and humour in some degree those by which others are infected, and that the English should not lay aside that indifference, or rather contempt, which they so readily shew for manners, customs, and sentiments, which are different from those of their own country; though it may sometimes happen that they despise what is preferable to their own, and worthy of being adopted. If education, which I have been speaking of before, is, in some respects, one of the causes of this blemish in the English character, there are, at the same time, others, which contribute towards it also. They are islanders, who always are supposed to have something peculiar from the inhabitants of a continent. William the Conqueror provided for his Normans, which 380 he brought over, very amply at the expence of the English, who certainly could not be pleased to see many of their lands, and their lucrative places in church and state, given to foreigners; forgetting very naturally, by length of time, that they themselves, as Anglo-Saxons, had driven away the Britons before. The best and the highest places, when England was subject to the see of Rome, were frequently given to foreigners; and in the time of king Henry VIII. no less than 15,000 Flemings were resident in London, who had engrossed almost all trade and commerce, to the detriment of the natives. Is it a wonder then, that the English took a dislike to foreigners, and that its effects should still be visible, though the causes have ceased? Monarchs, who in modern times ascended the British throne, would also naturally have given the preference to their own countrymen, in many instances, and listened to their solicitations for places of honour and emolument, if English jealousy had not justly prevented it. Yet all this, which, from justice and impartiality, I have mentioned, cannot justify that overbearing national pride, and contempt for other nations, with which numbers are infected. Even some expressions used in English laws, and law opinions, relative to 381 foreigners12, many of which are of a modern date, seem to imply their degradation; and I believe in all countries, a person who lends money in a legal way, upon landed estates, though not a native of the land, would be secure of his property, and under the protection of the law; but in England his security would be very precarious, if he were either not naturalized, or denizised. His freehold security may be disputed, and his money lost, merely because he is an alien, and his property thus lent, not under the protection of a law-court; which, according to generally received opinion, should be open to justice for every one, native or foreigner.
A generous disposition is said to be one of the traits of the English national character; and, I think, very justly. It is likewise true, that they are much inclined to make known their acts of generosity, and to preserve the memory of their good deeds. But supposing this to arise from vanity, or from other causes, it has, nevertheless its advantages. The exertions of humanity and compassion are, among the English, frequently sudden, and very strong. 382 Great indulgence is shown to faults and human imbecilities, because hypocrisy and arrogant assumption are not so common here, and every body seems to know and to feel what man is. Yet there are despicable characters enough, who laugh at the dictates of humanity, and seem to be destitute of liberal and generous sentiments; but the majority of the nation are against them, and treat with contempt and detestation, those who appear to be devoid of the feelings of humanity and generosity. The conduct of the English in India, and the poor inhabitants of that country, oppressed, plundered, and even sacrificed to avarice, will never add to their fame for liberal and humane dispositions; but rather remain as an indelible stain. Many bailiffs, who arrest debtors, many attorneys, many church-wardens, many overseers of the poor, many clergymen, when they collect their tythes and their income, seem to have humanity and generosity no more in the catalogue of their virtues, than the members of the holy inquisition have in theirs; or the tax-gatherers in Germany, who, by the gracious order of their illustrious superiors, strip the poor subjects of the last mite which they have earned by the sweat of their brow. A 383 modern German writer13 praises the English highly on account of their humane treatment of the brute creation; but, I am apprehensive, that, whoever has been somewhat more acquainted with England, and particularly London, will consider first, before he concurs with him. A few examples are not sufficient to characterize a whole nation. Whoever has seen the driving of the cattle to the London markets, the usage of the poor horses in carts, before post-chaises, and hackney-coaches, the riding of them at horse-races, and on the public roads; whoever has been a spectator at cock-fightings, bull-baitings, and similar exhibitions, will certainly hesitate a long while, before he pronounces encomiums on English generosity towards poor animals.
The liberality of the nation is praised, and very justly. There are instances of the kind, which, on account of their magnitude, and the manner in which they were done, deserve admiration. Subscriptions towards the support of the poor and the necessitous, are no where more common, nor more liberal than in England. Hospitals of every kind, institutions to alleviate human miseries, charity-schools, dispensaries, and such monuments as witness the 384 noblest feelings of humanity, are no where more frequent than here. I am, likewise, of opinion, that, when popery was the religion of the kingdom, the incomes of the monasteries, and other charitable institutions, did not equal, even in those superstitious times, the sums which now, by acts of parliament, or by generous and voluntary contributions, are annually raised for charitable uses: they amount to several millions. Nevertheless, in no country are more poor to be seen than in England, and in no city a greater number of beggars than in London. The fault seems manifestly to be in the disposal of the money collected for the poor, and the regulations made for the maintenance of them. A foreigner, who hears of many millions annually raised for the benefit of the poor; and, wandering through London and its environs, sees so many hospitals and so many noble buildings, erected by the bountiful contributions of charity, will justly entertain the highest notions of the liberality of the nation; but, at the same time, he will find himself unable to explain how it happens, that in his walks, he is, almost every hundred yards, disturbed by the lamentations of unfortunate persons, who demand his charity. He should, however, remember, great as the sums are, 385 which, by authority of acts of parliament, are annually raised for the necessitous poor; and, splendid as the appearance of the hospitals may be, there is still reason to temper his admiration and his readiness to draw inferences from thence, in favour of a boundless charity. A great part of the nation pays the poor-rate reluctantly, and some hospitals, as it is said, owe their existence more to vanity, or even to less commendable motives, than to a true spirit of liberality and generosity. Be this, however, as it may, it redounds, notwithstanding, to the honour of the English, that parliament has made such a provision for the poor, and that hospitals, though they were even an offspring of vanity, are nevertheless, when they once get into existence, supported by a generous public. Several new hospitals have been raised during my residence in London; and, to the honour of the nation I must say, that I have not heard of any charitable institution being given up again for want of due support by the band of charity. Certain, however, as it is, that England outdoes all other countries in acts of this kind, it ought to be kept in mind, that she is supposed to be richer than they, and that her inhabitants are possessed of a greater share of national ambition than other nations. There 386 is room for asking the question, Whether they could not do a great deal more? An Englishman is generally very well acquainted with the value of money, and those who are possessed of riches calculate frequently with more anxious œconomy than liberality demands, or even will permit. This virtue, in particular, is not to be sought for among the crowd which is daily to be seen on the Royal-Exchange; there are some worthy men intermixed here and there with the rest, who, with generous hearts, and liberal hands, perform acts for which humanity blesses them; but the majority find neither time nor inclination to follow their example. When many of our Germans pride themselves on pedigrees, drawn up on parchments two or three yards long, an Englishman laughs at their folly, because he knows the value of the things of this world better, and thinks, as the Romans did, in the time of Juvenal, that the money a man is possessed of, fixes his worth and his credit14. About a hundred and sixty years ago, according to Mr. Hume15, this was not the character of the English, when high pride of family prevailed, and 387 the nobility and gentry distinguished themselves, by a dignity and stateliness of behaviour, from the common people; when great riches, acquired by commerce, were more rare, and had not yet been able to confound all ranks of men, and render money the chief foundation of distinction.
Those acts of the British government, which foreigners look upon as monuments of the generosity and liberality of the nation, are to be judged of with caution. The money granted by a majority of the house of commons, from whatever motives or influence, always comes out of the pockets of the people; and if it once happens, that ten thousand pounds are granted to purposes which do honour to the nation, a hundred thousand are, perhaps, voted immediately after, which cannot be placed either to the account of national reputation, or to that of the good of the public. I have before observed, that the two hospitals at Greenwich and at Chelsea, are generally the first and principal objects, which strike a foreigner with high notions of a liberal and generous way of thinking. They, indeed, raise the attention on account of their grandeur; but I have already made some remarks on this outward appearance, which is common to almost all English 388 charitable institutions, and which rather prevents their being so extensively useful as they might be. It may be observed, that the British armies, in war-time, together with their auxiliaries, amount sometimes to almost a hundred thousand men, and the navy, perhaps, requires almost as many; and it should also be remembered, that the at Greenwich contains only about two thousand invalids, and that of Chelsea, perhaps, six hundred. This certainly will lessen the admiration of these two structures, generally regarded as the most magnificent monuments ever erected by a generous national spirit. It is very true, that besides those who are maintained within these hospitals, a number of invalids, particularly after a war, to the amount of several thousands, are supported as out-pensioners, either from the revenues of the hospital, or from those sums which are granted by parliament to make up the deficiencies; but the sum which the poor maimed and crippled invalids receive as out-pensioners is, in fact, but a trifle; for it amounts annually to little more than eight pounds. Indeed, those who are styled the great on earth, and who are so ready to expose the lives of the poor and the ignorant, to serve their ambition or their other purposes, may easily hold out such a small allurement 389 as hospitals are, where an old decrepid warrior, who remains after the many who were killed or died of their wounds, may conclude his wretched days in peace. Notwithstanding these provisions are made, a stranger will be surprised to see many poor crippled sailors, in the streets of London, who go about begging, or sing ballads to excite compassion. These people, however, when they are not impostors, but real sailors, have not served in king’s ships, but chiefly on board privateers; and, therefore, cannot, by right, claim the benefit of the national hospitals for invalids. Yet as the letters of marque are made out, and given under the authority of government, it might be asked, why those who fit out , to enrich themselves by robbing, are not obliged by government, or by act of parliament, to pay so much out of their plunder, as might be required to erect and support hospitals for those who are maimed and disabled in their service? The sight, and the miserable situation of these poor people in the street, during or soon after a war, certainly does not increase the high notions which foreigners generally entertain of British generosity and liberality, when they first arrive in England.390
Sincerity and honesty are reckoned to be another trait in the English character; and I can confirm the truth of it from my own experience. Very few assertions are so general as not to be liable to many exceptions; and, therefore, numbers of impostors, and bad people are to be found in England as well as in other countries; but it is, nevertheless certain, that the bulk of the nation is good and honest, and not given to deceit. I may say, that of this the very spirit of the British constitution and laws is a proof. The riches and dignities which a person may be possessed of, will avail but very little in a court of justice, even if the plaintiff were a poor man; on the contrary, a good private character of a person accused, will be of great service, if the case is in the least doubtful. No people, I believe, shew, as it stems from a natural disposition, more lenity and indulgence to those who are guilty of human failings, or have committed transgressions, than the English. There is none that treats the unfortunate with more compassion, and regulates its conduct towards them more according to the saying of Seneca, that the unfortunate are sacred objects16. There are some reigns, recorded in English history, wherein deeds of despotism, and transactions against the constitution 391 and the laws, seem to darken this trait of the national character; but it is evident, that the bulk of the nation has always detested such a way of acting, and has, if possible, inflicted such punishments on the miscreants as they deserved. It would, therefore, be wrong to judge by the conduct of particular persons; or from the wicked disposition and the ambitious views of bad ministers, at the head of the , or from modern transactions in the East-Indies, of the majority of the people. How many anecdotes of honesty, equity, and disinterestedness might be quoted from private life. Even the manners of true Englishmen, and their conversation, mark their sincerity and upright intentions. They are not so full of words, of compliments, and protestations of friendship towards a stranger, as is common among some other nations; but they are by no means rude, uncivil, or like the character of a John Bull, as it is absurdly represented abroad and on the French stage. The reserved and grave behaviour, which they manifest at the commencement of a new acquaintance, may rather serve as a pledge of their sincerity to him, who has afterwards obtained their confidence, and convince him, that their subsequent more open and more cordial way of conversing, does not arise from hypocrisy, but 392 from sincerity of heart. There are in England, as I have before observed, numbers of hypocrites, of impostors, of villains, sharpers, thieves, and house-breakers; but, nevertheless, the generality of the nation is good and honest, and yields in this respect to no nation whatever; nay, I am almost inclined to say, it is superior to any. Those who mistrust or envy one another in trade or in their different professions, are here out of the question; for, though many honest men, together with such who are not so, may be seen on the Royal-Exchange, the merchant and the tradesman, will, almost always, shrug up his shoulders, and very significantly say: “There are very few honest people to be found; very few that can be trusted.” These are opinions and decisions too much influenced by interest, and by ideas, acquired by means of the business which a person is daily transacting, and the occupations which are become habitual to him. An unprejudiced observer will draw the national character of a people from the generality, not from the dregs of a metropolis, and not from those few who move, as it were mechanically, in the narrow circle of their professions.
Frankness and freedom are likewise a characteristic of English manners. In many countries 393 even thoughts are not free; and a person suspected of heresy, either in matters of state or religion, cannot always avoid persecution. In England, thank heavens! not only thoughts, but even the tongue, the pen, and the press, are free. An Englishman has no reason to be an hypocrite; he may speak as he thinks, and act as it appears to him to be just and proper. Since neither education, nor laws and constitution, form him for a slave; he exhibits himself as a free man, partly from habit, and partly because he has no reason to be afraid, so long as he conforms to the laws of his country. The number of newspapers, which are printed daily, and the freedom which is so predominant in them, shew the character of the nation, in this respect, in a striking light. I will, by no means, be a defender of the abuse of the freedom of the press; I disapprove of its being made a vehicle of calumny, or of productions calculated to mislead and to pervert good principles; but, after many years observation, I am confident, that the advantage of the liberty of the press greatly out-weighs the abuses to which it is sometimes liable. The whole public is here made the tribunal, at whose bar judgment is given; every man is heard, and every one is free, to justify his conduct, or clear his character. If 394 in all countries such heralds were to be found, whose loud and dread voice could awaken shame and fear; were the common people every where as eager to read public papers, conducted in the manner as in England, tyranny and insolence, superstition and oppression, would soon be banished by the majority of voices; and people who could read, and had learnt to express their thoughts in writing, would soon cease to be slaves. With how much frankness does a patriot speak in parliament, or publish his sentiments on national affairs, as a sensible spectator, by means of the press. People who are only used to write edicts, and arbitrary proclamations, by order of their despotical princes; and those who, as pretended politicians, regard them with a mysterious air, will, perhaps, on reading this, shake their heads: but it proves only, with what superiority an Englishman thinks, when compared to such creeping mortals, and that he knows the natural rights of men better, and how to maintain them with dignity. There are, indeed, in England, people enough, whose subsistence, ostentation, and outward splendor, depend on the mercy of their superiours, and their sometimes arbitrary masters; who, therefore, talk the language of simulation and hypocrisy, when they appear before their deities. 395 But the greater part of the nation is not in such a situation, and they consequently speak out, and open their minds freely, on all kinds of subjects of conversation. Even Deists, Socinians, Baptists, Quakers, and numbers of other sects, profess their tenets and opinions as freely as the most orthodox episcopalian, or the most rigid puritan; and no party blames the other for this freedom. How singular must this appear to foreign zealots, who, without the least knowledge of the world, stare at every thing, thorough spectacles furnished and applied by prejudices!
Courage marks the English character, and though they have this in common with other nations, yet I think that they maintain a kind of superiority in being the least fearful of death. Battles fought by the English, by sea and land, afford sufficient proof of this assertion; and, perhaps, they would be more numerous, if naval and military promotions were not bought, or obtained by interest, but bestowed according to merit. Among those who suffer for capital crimes, many examples of contempt of death are to be met with. The old and the infirm, when they see dissolution almost before their eyes, will talk of it with the greatest composure, as if they possessed a soul like that described 396 by Juvenal, which, far from being terrified by death, reckons the moment of its dissolution among the gifts of heaven.17
I will here insert a few words on suicide, which is so common in this country. Whether it may be considered as a proof of courage, I will not now discuss. In my opinion self-murder is always an act highly unnatural, and men who do not live in a state of civil society, will never be guilty of it. Various causes have been assigned, to account for this propensity of the English to suicide. Sometimes the blame is laid upon the climate, sometimes upon the melancholy disposition peculiar to them, and sometimes upon their eating too much animal food, besides an hundred other reasons. But I believe it to be a natural consequence of that education which prevails in this country, and of which I have said so much before. The passions are in youth little controuled, much less subdued; and when, in years of more maturity, they cannot be gratified in their vehemence, they will sometimes produce that fatal resolution to finish a disagreeable life, by violent means; which, in a hundred instances, is more easily taken, because 397 religion, that support of the unhappy in adversity, is too often totally neglected. The Quakers in England, are a plain proof of the truth of the opinion here advanced; for they have the same climate and diet as the rest of the English, and yet suicide is unheard of among them, or at least extremely seldom. The reason of this must undoubtedly be looked for in the difference of the education which the Quakers receive, when compared with that of the rest of the English. The passions and obstinacy of the children of the former are broken very early, though not by violent means; for a Quaker denies, with a firm composure, satisfying the impetuous desires of his children; and gains, by these means, infinitely over them. He thereby promotes his own ease of mind and tranquillity as well as theirs; he accustoms them, without knowing the name of philosophy, to act in time like philosophers, by fulfilling the duties of society, and bearing with fortitude the adversities of life. Whoever is educated in this manner, and has learned to conquer himself, will never, either from despair, or from disappointments in life and adversity, shorten his days by his own hands. Others on the contrary, who place the enjoyment of life in gratifying their passions, which at a very early 398 age is generally the case with Englishmen, will at last be slaves to the violence and power of their desires. Disappointments in life, the weakness and infirmities of an advancing age, increasing impatience and confirmed ill-humour, excite now and then the unhappy thought of getting rid of these evils by shortening the duration of life. There are people who make away with themselves from reasons of a religious melancholy; others, whose nervous system is so irritable, that the least sensation of offended ambition, or a shame carried too far on account of moral transgressions, and fear of losing credit and character, induces them to lay violent hands on themselves. But even here, if we examine the causes of suicide, we shall find, that they arise from too far stretched notions of honour, which are imbibed from the present state of society; from some absurd ideas in regard to religion, relative to the present state and that of futurity, which were instilled into the mind by modes of education, and connexions in life formed afterwards. Poverty, arising from the dearness of living, and numberless taxes in England, I have frequently found to induce the unfortunate to suicide. If these moral causes, in conjunction with thick blood, and a tender nervous system, 399 too frequently to be met with among the English, begin to operate, suicide may be accounted for, without giving such ridiculous reasons for it as some French writers have done. They ascribe the propensity of the English to destroy themselves, to ambition and the love of singularity; to a desire of the honour of furnishing a newspaper paragraph after their death, relating their making away with themselves18; and some have thought that auricular confession, which in the Romish church is used, would ease the minds of the people, who are in a melancholy and desponding way, or who labour under anxieties, and thus prevent them from putting an end to their existence. During my stay in England, many persons of quality, and numbers of lower extraction, both rich and poor, have made away with themselves; and their history, particularly that part of their leaving 400 this world, would confirm all that I have said on this subject.
It is a laudable custom in England, that nobody is interred, before proper enquiry is made about the death, whether it was natural or unnatural. In case of suicide, the coroner’s inquest sits on the body, to decide the question, whether the person who committed it, was, at the time when the deed was performed, insane, or not? Generally the verdict given, is in favour of the former, and the act committed charged to lunacy; though it is, perhaps, in nine instances out of ten, very well known, that the deceased was in full possession of his senses, and knew very well what he was about when he destroyed himself. Should the coroner’s inquest bring in a verdict of felo de se, the goods and chattels of the deceased are forfeited to the king, and the body receives, as it is called, an ignominious burial in the highway, and a stake is to be driven through the heart. This, however, is very seldom done; and whenever it takes place, such a strange kind of punishment falls upon very poor people; the relations of a person in good circumstances, who has committed self-murder, knowing how to avoid an unfavourable verdict. It is rather surprising that a law, ordering such an inconsistent punishment, 401 was ever made, or that, since it exists, it is not, in these more enlightened times, abolished. The English laws suffer a man who was executed on the gallows, for murder and robberies, to be buried in a church-yard, or even in a church itself, with the usual funeral pomp; and why should an unfortunate person, who voluntarily finished his days, under a load of miseries and troubles, which he thought unsupportable, not meet with the same indulgence? The number of those who make away with themselves in London, annually, is considerable; and if this sort of punishment were to take place, where, according to law, it should, there would be no end of such exhibitions. It is besides against reason, to attempt the punishment of a dead body; and were it to be done, as is said, to deter others from committing suicide, it would, in my opinion, have but little effect: for those who take the resolution to renounce life, and voluntarily put a stop to its farther enjoyment, will certainly little regard in what manner their senseless body is treated, when they have done for ever with this world. As to the effect, which a law made against self-murder, had upon the Milesian maidens19, 402 this would afford ground for many observations.
It is said of the inhabitants of England, that they are much addicted to melancholy and gloominess, and I believe there is some truth in this. They seem, however, to be friends to pleasure, though every one creates his own, according to his fancy and his whims. They have a proverb, “A short life and a merry one;” which many, to their detriment, put into practice. No people on earth have, upon the whole, more reason to be satisfied with their lot than the English; but, fortunatos si sua bona norint! thousands of them do not know it, or are not inclined to believe it. Many ramble over the whole globe in pursuit of happiness and ease of mind; but they are soon convinced, when they are remote from their own island, that they had better have staid at home, to enjoy there what they in vain sought for in foreign countries. I have seen, however, many English, who are really happy, and seem to be conscious of it; but their number, I presume, is not very great. Most of the inhabitants of this island might be contented mortals, if they were not too extravagant in their desires, and too indulgent in gratifying their passions, which too often have acquired a complete ascendency over reason. It 403 is said of the English, that they have great predilection for tragedy, and that they prefer the softer feelings of humanity, and the tear of compassion, to the laughter of the comic Muse, when she exposes the follies of life; and that, from thence, it is clear, that they are no friends to mirth. I have my doubts about this pretended preference given to tragedy, and it is certainly not the case at present. The inferior class of people, in the upper-gallery of the play-house, laugh as loud at the silly pranks of Harlequin, who is not yet banished from the English stage, as ever our German populace can do, at similar exhibitions. The intelligent spectator yawns as little over the lively representations, which the comic Muse, accompanied by satire, gives of the ridiculous follies of the higher and lower classes of people, of clergy and laity. So far are the English from denying themselves a hearty laugh, or regarding the declamations of the late lord Chesterfield, against loud laughing, that even the house of commons will sometimes shake with peals of laughter. There are likewise numbers of people, among both sexes, who are exceedingly fond of trifles, and make them their greatest amusements. Whoever wants to see the French saying, Que les Anglois ont peu de goût pour la bagatelle, 404 refuted, let him only cast his eyes upon the thousands of fine gentlemen, as they call themselves, who are to be seen in the streets of London; upon the continual changes of fashion, particularly among the female sex; upon the ostentatious display of gaudy equipages; and he will soon convince himself, that these Britons so celebrated for seriousness and gravity, do not yield to any of their neighbours, in the south or in the east, as to taste for levities and trifles. The English have greatly changed within this century; they are grown more gay, and for that very reason more civil and polished in their manners. It, therefore, cannot be said, as I have frequently heard abroad, that their blood, by nature, is blacker and thicker than that of other nations. If we consider, that clear and sun-shine days, have a great influence upon the serenity of the mind, it is no wonder that an Englishman should look more chearful in May than in November; though even in this month there is, at least in London, no want of a display of gaiety. A smart Parisian marquis, when he came to Naples, was so full of animal spirits that the people thought him mad. He skipped about with such amazing elasticity, that the Italians swore he had got springs in his shoes; but, when the 405 sirocc wind had blown a few days, without intermission, he walked with the step of a philosopher, complained of being low-spirited to an extreme, and swore he should hang himself, if that execrable wind continued to blow two days longer20: why then is it surprising, that an Englishman should discover the effects which the cold damps and fogs, that cover his island during the winter months, produce upon his mind and body. In some English companies as much cheerfulness and hilarity may be seen as in those of any other nation; and, to my great satisfaction, I have found, that they are more free from stiff formality, low wit, and that spirit of disputation and wrangling, which in companies of other countries too much prevails. In societies of inferior classes, and their conversations, more good sense properly expressed, may sometimes be heard, than in those among people in other countries, who think themselves of no small consequence.
It now and then happens in English companies, that after much conversation and pleasantry, a sudden pause is made for some minutes, during which they look at one another with serious attention. They know that this is peculiar to them, and 406 call therefore this short silence, an English conversation. While they wonder at the formality, which so much distinguishes strangers, coming from Northern countries, they are not less surprized at the noisy and frivolous chat of the French. Grotius, even a Dutchman, whose reputation, before he visited England, about the year 1613, was very high, lost a great deal of it, because he talked more than the English thought proper. In a letter written by Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury, to sir Ralph Winwood, he is spoken of as tedious in conversation and full of tittle-tattle; and it is added, in the same letter, as the opinion of king James I. of him, that he was a “pedant, full of words, and of no great judgment21.” His majesty, however, seems not to have been aware, that he was more than suspected to be very much of a pedant himself.
An Englishman, in conversation, is far from being so lively, noisy, and insinuating as some other nations are; yet, I think his behaviour is, in the eye of reason and good sense, the most to be approved, and the most pleasing. If he talks but little, he will often say more to the purpose in ten words than others in an hundred. If he assures me, with a 407 few words, and a squeeze by the hand, that he is my friend, I may rely on this simple assurance more than on twenty protestations, and numberless unmeaning compliments. An Englishman, when he comes to some maturity of years, and has received a tolerably good education, generally has thought more, and acted with more freedom, than is customary among people of the same age, in other countries. He, therefore, is not much addicted to empty talk, or fond of reasoning on things and actions, from false principles and wrong points of view; though, indeed, I must confess, I have heard and seen many who may justly be considered as exceptions. Those, however, who attend to facts and experience, taking proper time for enquiry, will not often speak in a decisive manner; and being not unacquainted with the nature and true state of human things, will exhibit a proper reservedness and seriousness; they will attend to argument, and dislike idle dispute. It is, therefore, not surprising, that persons, who, during their whole life-time, have not much thought, or made much observation themselves, but, on the contrary, have, without enquiry, adopted and eagerly defended the opinions of others, should find an Englishman reserved in conversation, cool and gloomy in 408 friendship, and silent in company. Towards true friends, he is open-hearted, cheerful, obliging, and will discover his sentiments, whenever he thinks it necessary, with the utmost freedom.
It is said of the English, that they think for themselves, and I believe, nobody, who is acquainted with them, will dispute this. There are, indeed, people enough here too, who let others think instead of themselves; but they are, comparatively speaking, not so numerous as in other nations. Some, no doubt, follow implicitly the maxims of the court, and adopt its creed without examination, because they live by court-favour; but, I am persuaded, that but few of them are either so ignorant, or so obstinate, as to believe, that the manner in which they talk and act is just and right, unless they have been educated in the most rigid Tory principles. The common plain man thinks, and reasons frequently, on things relating to moral duties, equity, and those which influence the happiness of life, as justly as some in other countries, who, on account of their rank and education, think themselves learned and wise. For this very reason, that prejudice which rests itself on pretended authority, is not so common in England, except it be in matters 409 of religion, or when a man in his profession, as an artist, or a mechanic, has once, by some means, acquired fame; in which case, even his very indifferent productions will be thought valuable, merely because he has obtained a name. The respect paid to people of rank, or to such who occupy high offices, in church or state, is not carried so far in England as it is elsewhere; every one seems to know, that those, who, on account of their station, or employment in life, wear a rich, or a singular dress, are and remain but men. It excites, therefore, no extraordinary surprize if they commit crimes, and are punished for them according to law. At the execution of such persons, even the mob, which is very numerous, will generally observe a certain decorum towards the criminal, arising from compassion; though there are no military present on such occasions, as in other countries, to keep the populace in awe. This consciousness, which most English people possess, that they are men as well as those who are elevated and distinguished by the institutions of society, prevents that slavish veneration of princes, of dignitaries of the church, of magistrates and others, which is so visible in many countries, and which proves the influence that a despotical government has over 410 the mind, by means of education. He would be thought a vain fool, indeed, in England, who should exclaim, as is frequently done abroad, when family or titled pride is supposed to be offended: such a rich or great, such an honourable or right-honourable, such a reverend or right-reverend person as I am! No; an Englishman, even in high station, knows that his countrymen are free men, and that they have sense to make use of as well as himself. A general, when he returns to his own island, crowned with laurels, does not presume himself to be superior to his fellow-citizens; and lord Clive, who had seen Indian princes and nabobs humbling themselves before him, and who had acted in India like an eastern despot, knew, when he came back to his own country, that he was no more than another Englishman; and though Indian princes had prostrated themselves before him, he was humble among his own countrymen, because he was well aware, that they did not think like East Indians.
Whether active industry be a characteristic of the nation, may be doubted; in Holland they seem to be more bustling in their trading towns; but, perhaps, they are so only in appearance. Those who must and who have a mind to work, do it with spirit and assiduity; 411 but the majority, I believe, are inclined to live in ease and indolence. No people are more fond of holy-days than their workmen and apprentices. Perhaps, they would sooner admit of despotical laws, than be deprived of their stated seasons for idleness, drunkenness, and debauchery. The streets in London are continually crouded with people, pushing along, and most of them with countenances as serious as if their heads were full of the most weighty affairs. This will strike a foreigner, who has met on the continent many more chearful faces than he will meet with when he perambulates the metropolis, or other places in England; and seeing the streets of London so full, he will be apt to think that most of them are intent upon business; in which, however, he is mistaken; for numbers of those he meets are employed in nothing but idleness. Almost the same may be said of those who are seen on the public roads; all is in motion, and has the appearance of activity and diligence, though many are engaged in no profitable business. Numbers of horsemen pass along, of whom six out of ten are idlers, who ride merely for diversion, and yet go on, without the least necessity, at such a rate, as if they were hastening to see a friend, whom they believed to be at the last gasp, and 412 were in fear of his expiring before their arrival. The coaches are mostly filled with loungers of both sexes, who to get rid of themselves, and to enjoy the fresh air, look at each other in silence, and have drawn up the glasses for protection against the dust in summer, and the cold in the winter. Even the stage-coaches are continually crouded with passengers, and the female ones make generally the majority, most of whom travel, to be absent from home, to pay some unnecessary visits, and to endeavour to get rid of ill-humour, and to go out of town that they may have an opportunity of returning to it again. In short, there seems to be a great degree of restlessness among the English, though labour is not what pleases many. Those who must work do it in hopes of living at last in indolence, and of enjoying, as it is called, life, though their increased years tell them, that they are too old for it.
To this prevalent inclination to get rich as soon as possible, and to lead an indolent life, I greatly ascribe that spirit of gaming, which is more predominant, and exerts itself more powerfully among the English, than among any other nation. Hence that madness, which takes possession of the London populace, during the time when the annual state-lotteries are 413 drawn. Hence the success of those numerous advertisements of lotteries and insurance-offices, though it is well-known, that many of them take advantage of the credulous, and make them repent of their folly in trusting them. Hence the tricks which are daily played, to raise or to lower the public funds. And where is there any people so fond of frequent and oftentimes high betting, not seldom about extreme trifles, as the English? What will you lay? is the first question frequently asked by high and low, when the smallest dispute arises on subjects of little consequence. Some of the richer class, after dinner over a bottle, feel, perhaps, an inclination for betting; the one opens a nut with a maggot in it, another does the same, and a third immediately proposes a bet, which of the two worms will crawl first over a given distance, on the table. Betting now takes place with warmth and spirit, in such a manner that, hundreds, nay, perhaps, thousands of pounds depend on the activity or idleness of two poor maggots! Parallels to this manner of gaming may be met with, in proportion, in all towns and villages over England. This predominant passion of the nation for gaming is likewise remarkable for the preparations, the zeal, and care, with which a wager is carried 414 on, if it has excited some attention, or is publicly announced. Hundreds of other bets are laid besides, and thousands of pounds depend on the issue of the wager which gave rise to the rest. Nay, the impetuosity of this gaming spirit, will sometimes overcome that humanity and generosity, which, as I have said before, distinguishes the English character. It has been related to me as a fact, that a person fell into the Thames, and among some of the spectators, bets were immediately laid, Whether the unfortunate man would be drowned or not? One was violently for maintaining the first, and laid a bet accordingly, but at seeing that moment a boat setting off to save him, he called out: “Stop! that is not fair, for if that be the case I shall lose my wager.” I could mention many other instances of the vehemence of this spirit of gaming, and relate many other anecdotes relative to this subject.
An extreme degree of curiosity, and great credulity, are likewise said to be traits of the English character; and, perhaps, not without foundation. It is very true, that in other countries, enough of a similar nature is to be met with also; but, I believe, it is more striking among the English, because they are, in other respects, remarkable for superiority of good 415 sense. The abbé Du Bos asserts, that the love of novelty, disquietude, and audacity have, for centuries together, marked the English character. As to the two first qualities, I think, the abbé might with more propriety have fixed them upon his own countrymen; though, I believe, that their love for novelty, their changeableness and inconstancy, arises more from their fickleness, volatility, and vanity, than from an uneasy and discontented mind, which is generally the case with the English. The contentment and happiness of a Frenchman suffers, therefore, little or nothing by such a disposition; but the reverse is the case of an Englishman. That incredible eagerness and consummate credulity, with which the French swallowed the Missisippi plan of Mr. Law, is a sufficient proof, that they, by no means, yield to the English in the love of novelty and incredulity. The story of the Cock-lane ghost, besides many others, and above all, that of the bottle-conjurer, as he is called, are well known on the continent. But, as to this last, I hardly can persuade myself, that any person, whose senses were arrived at maturity, could go and pay money to see a full-grown man creep into a quart bottle through the neck, because he believed it actually to be possible. I am rather 416 inclined to think, that many went there merely to see how such a daring impostor would be able to extricate himself, from the resentment of the crowd he had drawn together, by publicly announcing such a palpable absurdity; and this I look upon as the best apology which can be made, to lessen the laugh which this story cannot but excite. It is certain, however, that credulity is an ingredient of the national character, and that from thence, as well as from the love of novelty, many events in English history, and many daily occurrences, can only be accounted for. Hence that incredible number of newspapers which are printed and eagerly read. Hence the implicit faith that is given by the generality to the accounts, published in the Gazette in war-time, about battles, sieges, and other military transactions, which are reckoned to be infallibly true. Hence the effects of the false news propagated at the Stock-Exchange, and the success of all the rogueries practised in Exchange-Alley, to impose upon the credulous, by ridiculous news, fabricated there. Hence the most bombastic and most impudent puffs in newspapers and advertisements, which are far more successful than a man of sense could easily be brought to believe. Hence the encouragement which 417 quack-doctors, and their infallible medicines for the cure of all disorders meet with. The English laugh at the invocation of saints, and the confidence and faith which the Romish church places in them; but, certainly, the invocation of quack-doctors, and the faith given to their nostrums, are equally inexcusable; and the saints, at least, are harmless, which cannot always be said of the quack and his nostrums. The great number of religious sects, which are in England, and new ones starting up from time to time, is owing in many respects to the love of novelty; and that the strangest doctrines, which seem to revolt against common sense, find, notwithstanding, people who adopt and attempt to defend them, must be greatly ascribed to an uncommon share of credulity. A foreigner, who passes an open place before Bedlam, called Moorfields, will at first not be able to comprehend what is meant by the crouds, that generally there throng about persons raised from the ground, the one, perhaps, on a kind of pulpit, the other on a scaffolding, till, at last, he finds, after some enquiry, that the one is a charlatan, or a quack-doctor, and the other an enthusiast, or an inspired preacher. He will be surprized to see how the generality of those who listen to such persons, do it 418 with attention and great patience. Many, indeed, go soon away, and shrug up their shoulders from compassion; and there are only few who either laugh or smile. Some will stay a good while, and say, The man seems very earnest; others, suspending their judgment, will complain that they cannot very well tell what he he is about. It is seldom that the populace abuse such people, who thus expose themselves, or break their rostrums, which would soon be the fate of similar exhibitions abroad. Here every one likes novel sights, and wants to hear something new, even if it were nonsense that appeared in the shape of devotion, in open air.
In no country do poverty and old age seem to be considered as greater evils than here. To be young and poor is, perhaps, not so much minded, because there is a possibility of becoming rich; but old age, though accompanied with sufficient fortune, is, notwithstanding, too often neglected. With us in Germany, the appellations of ein alter Mann, an old man, ein Greiss, a grey head, and in France, un Viellard, carry something venerable along with them; but this is not the case in England, where an old man and an old woman, are expressions that seem to imply something disgusting, and 419 are almost synonymous with those of old fellow, old square-toes, or old witch; words that are more significantly and more frequently pronounced with an air of contempt, than denominations of the same kind, now and then used, in other languages. At Sparta, old age was held in great veneration; and Plutarch says: “that it was a pleasure to grow old at Lacedæmon.” The contrary might be said of England, and Lysander certainly would not have bestowed upon London that encomium, which, according to Tully, he pronounced on Sparta: “that it was the most respectable habitation of old age22.” In China, by wise regulations of government, it is the same23. The fault, in England, lies, without doubt, principally in education. Fathers and mothers seem to be governed by their children as they grow up, who laugh at the old ones along with the servants. It has even the appearance with some parents, as if they really believed, that they must give way, and not contradict the younger ones, who, indeed, are generally ready enough, not only to give hints to those who are older, but even to tell them to their faces, that the 420 times, since their younger days, have greatly altered, and that it would better become them, not to adopt the tone of morose admonitors. It is true, that some parents will keep their children in better subordination; but it will soon lessen, when they get acquainted at school, or elsewhere, with youth educated in the manner before mentioned. They will think themselves not so well used, and with a kind of unjust indignation, will claim the privileges to which they presume to be entitled, as well as others. In England the young people, from twenty to eight and twenty, who think themselves not of the lower class, will give the ton to what is styled chearful or even brilliant company, and prescribe, what the French call bon ton; though the latter expect this to be done by people of thirty, when the understanding is arrived at more maturity, when experience is enlarged, and good manners are become more habitual. It may be easily accounted for, why the generality of both sexes, in that state of society wherein we live, wish to conceal as much as possible the ravages that old age commits upon the body and the constitution; but it is somewhat singular, that the anxiety about this decay, from which no mortal can be exempted, should be greater among the English 421 than among other nations, particularly, when the generality of them, as I have before observed, do not seem to be afraid of dying. Yet from this aversion to the appearance of being burdened with years, every one almost wishes to be thought young, and does what is in his power to conceal wrinkles and grey hair. Females are displeased with the glass that tells them the truth, and some even seek to stifle their chagrin by the cordial dram. Among the men, numbers, without considering the absurdity, will clothe themselves in advanced years, as if they still enjoyed their youthful days; and when elderly people, with us in Germany, appear abroad, on cold wintry days, in cloaks or furs, here many are ashamed of wearing a light great coat, for fear they should betray the number of their years, or be suspected that their constitution was impaired, and that their blood did not run with youthful warmth and velocity through their veins. Colds, rheumatism, and gout, seem to be at home in England, and to be favoured by the climate; but people of a tender habit of body, or advanced in years, will rather suffer these great evils, and conceal, if possible, that they are tormented by them, than dress suitably to their years or their constitution. In the mean time, when 422 they appear among the younger ones in a light dress, and affecting the vivacity of former days, they are laughed at; and whilst they increase the vain pride of youth in preferring its dress and manners to a becoming attire, and the decent gravity of advanced years, they lessen the respect due to old age, which they might, undoubtedly, enjoy, to their great satisfaction, if they would adopt the proper means to obtain it. Some years ago, I met an acquaintance, an English gentleman, settled in the mercantile business at Petersburgh, who came upon a visit to London. I was pleased to find that his health, which, before he went to Russia, was but very indifferent, had greatly mended; and on asking him, How the cold climate agreed with him? he answered, “I do not much perceive the cold at Petersburgh; but here, though it is but the month of October, I find myself always chilly. In Russia we secure ourselves against the raw season, by furs and a warm dress, which we find very comfortable and conducive to health; but here they laugh at me, even when I put on a thin great coat; and I cannot, in my turn, help smiling at them again, when I am upon the Exchange, and see how many there are shivering with cold, because they fear that 423 appearing in a warmer dress, they should look old, or impress the women with a notion as if they were not of a strong constitution.” I know very well that what I have said is liable to exceptions; but, I believe, they are not very numerous. A general dislike to the character of old age seems to prevail, though every one entertains a desire to prolong his years, and those who come under that description, cannot but be miserable, if, distanced by time from the younger world, they are incapable of indemnifying themselves by domestic and mental pleasures, joined to a recollection of such former days as have not been productive of remorse. There are instances, that some of both sexes among the English, have found the load of years, the tediousness of retirement, and the necessity of renouncing sensual pleasures, so burdensome, that they have rid themselves of a displeasing existence as soon as possible.
After all these observations on the character of English men, it might perhaps be expected that I should say something upon that of the other sex. I shall endeavour to be as impartial as possible, and adhere, as strictly as it is in my power, to the motto which I have prefixed on the title-page.
The English laws are, in many respects, very 424 favourable to women. Nobility among them is acquired either by birth, or marriage, or royal creation. Titles and estates, when the male-line is extinct will, sometimes, devolve to the female. Marriage places them, except in the case of the wives of bishops, in the same rank with their husbands. A lady of quality, when, after the decease of her first husband, she marries a second, inferior in rank to the former, loses, according to law, her title, but, cases of divorce excepted, custom continues it notwithstanding. If she has the title in her own right, she keeps the same, even when she marries a person of very inferior extraction, and the new husband, can lay no claim to the titles and dignities of his wife. The English law says: Uxor fulget radiis mariti, which assertion cannot be inverted; and though, there are, perhaps, instances enough where it might be said, fulget maritus radiis uxoris, yet the satirical world will not regard such rays as signs of honour or glory. The wife is supposed to be the whole and sole property of her husband; but there are instances, where this supposition is contradicted by facts and experience. It sometimes happens, however, that a husband sells his wife, as his property, with a rope about her neck, to another, who chooses to buy her at a small price. 425 I need not to mention that such a sale is neither allowed, nor countenanced by law, though foreigners, even of late, have asserted it in their accounts of England.
As a married woman is looked upon as the property of her husband, it makes him answerable for her actions. According to the English law, the wife has no will of her own. It is very true that such a position is contradicted, too frequently, by daily experience, and that in England, perhaps, in eight families out ten, the will is fallen to the lot of the wife, when the husband has left but little or none of his own; it might be, therefore, supposed, that this doctrine of the law, is one of those that are supported by faith and not by sight. Among the privileges of a married woman is this, that her husband must pay her debts, though contracted without his knowledge. As long as he is alive, the wife cannot be imprisoned, on account of debts, but her husband may. I know of instances, where widows have married men, who, before the wedding, knew nothing of the debts of their spouses, and were obliged either to pay them or to go, soon after the marriage rites were performed, to goal, to save their new help-mates from confinement. For this reason, advertisements are not unfrequently 426 seen in the newspapers, by which husbands caution the public not to trust their wives with goods or money, because they are resolved not to pay their debts; yet it will happen, that the good-natured husband is obliged to do it, notwithstanding the public notice he has given. Another privilege is, that if a woman very soon after the wedding, should be brought to bed, the child is according to law legitimate, though the husband disclaims the title of father to it, and the public thinks him to be in the right. With us in Germany, this would be a sufficient foundation for a man to sue for a divorce; but the English law is in favour of the woman, and declares downright, Pater est nuptiæ demonstrant; he has married her, and, therefore, he is the father of her children. Likewise, if a husband should, for several years, be absent from his wife, and she should, a twelvemonth and upwards, after his departure, be delivered of a child, it is in the eye of the law legitimate, and if it should be the first born son, he is the legitimate heir of all the estate of which his supposed father might be possessed. In such cases, however, it is required, that the husband, during his absence, should not be out of the kingdom, but within the four seas, inter quatuor maria, as the law expresses 427 it. In one instance only, women seem to be rather severely used by the law, and that is in crimes of petit-treason. If a woman murders her husband, she is, according to the letter of the law, to be burnt alive; though at present, this latter part of the sentence, is not executed, as I have mentioned already, in another place24. Should, however, the ladies of the members of parliament, agree among themselves, to prevail upon their husbands to abolish this Gothic law, I have no doubt but it would soon be done.
The sex in England is praised for its beauty; and I really believe, that in no country are so many fine women to be met with as in England. It has been said, that their dress has a considerable share in this praise; and, perhaps, it may be so. The inoculation of the small-pox has, within these late years, greatly contributed to increase the number of handsome faces. The opinion of the generality of the English, that in no part of the globe such handsome women are to be met with as in that part of Great Britain called England, is rather a proof of their national pride. The Moorish princes prefer the beauties of their own country to all the women 428 in the world, and think, that they are no where handsomer than in Africa. The opinions about beauty, and the judgments so differently given upon it, depend much on fancy, on first impressions made on the mind in younger days, and on circumstances; which variety of opinions, in fact, is very beneficial to the state of society.
Muralt, in his Letters on the English25, says of the women in England, “that they made little impression upon his heart; that most of them are fair, with handsome, but inanimated faces; that among a hundred such handsome ones, not ten are entertaining or agreeable; that they want broad shoulders and hips; that all, even the old ladies, adorn themselves with patches, which might be observed behind their spectacles; that they are easily put out of humour, and addicted to laziness, leaving all the drudgery to their husbands, who very readily submit to it”. Indeed, I do not know what to think of this French writer, and I must say, that this character of the English women is unfairly drawn. When he acknowledges, that they have made but little impression upon his heart, it is certain that not their charms, but his own 429 were in fault; and though inanimated faces are to be seen in private companies, and in public places; yet there are others who bespeak liveliness by their countenance, and animation by their eyes. Had our French author been more acquainted with the better educated women in England, he would have found more than ten among a hundred, both entertaining and agreeable. Patches are now out of fashion among English ladies, and, to their honour be it said, the generality of them, even at present, are not much given to rouge and painting, though there are many who are ashamed of shewing their faces as they really are. The want of broad shoulders and hips, will, I am pretty confident, not be generally regretted by English women; nor have they any reason for it. Muralt being a native of Switzerland, he took his idea of the standard of female beauty from the women of his own country; but had his taste been a little more refined, he would have resigned the ideas which he had formed of beauty in his earlier days, and acknowledged that no where a greater number of fine shapes, among women, are to be found than in England. He is, perhaps, more in the right when he asserts, that they are easily put out of humour: but this is a weakness, not particular to 430 English women; it is the nature of those in all countries. A celebrated modern British writer26, comparing the manners of handsome English, French, and German women, says of the former, that “even among the loveliest features, something of a sulky air often appears.” This is a very just remark, though, perhaps, in five instances out of ten, this sulkiness will soon change into a good-natured smile, when the parties get a little better acquainted. The charge of laziness, which our French author brings against the English women, cannot be admitted without great limitations. The Mohamedan women, I believe, outdo all the rest of their sex in idleness; and, though in England, those who think they have money enough, without the necessity of any useful labour, will resemble them; yet there are many good wives and mothers to be found, who manage their domestic affairs with great care and application; and who bring their families up in such an exemplary manner, as is well worthy of imitation. Laziness appears no where more, and to a higher degree among the females, than in London; yet, even there are very many exceptions to be found.431
In no country is more attention and regard paid to women, particularly the younger ones, than in England, and no where they are oftener, among men, the topic of conversation. It is a proverb, that England is the paradise of women; and I really think that there is no country where their situation is more advantageous. All the civility and deference shewn to them, by men, they look upon as an homage due to them; all encomiums bestowed on them, on account of beauty and accomplishments, they are very apt to take as literally true; though many ordinary faces are to be met with, and though the praise of accomplishments is offered by flattery, without any foundation. It is said that in France the women give the ton in all things, and have the sway; but I am convinced, that in England their power is still greater, though they obtain it in a very different manner from those of France. The government of the house is generally left to the wife, by the husband, who readily submits to her administration; deference to the sex being inculcated into his mind from his infancy, both by his mother and even his father, who, in nine cases out of ten, has set the example, finding that by these means, it was most easy to preserve domestic peace.432
Many enchanting descriptions of female love and of ardent attachment to their lovers, are given in numberless English romances; but it is said, notwithstanding, that true love is not so well known, nor so frequently to be met with, among the fair ones of this island, as might be supposed from such romantic representations. I neither can, nor will, decide any thing in regard to this assertion, though I have often heard it made. This, I believe to be true, that originals of those heroines, drawn by a Richardson and others, under the guidance of a warm imagination, are as scarce in England as in any other country; and more so among the modern ladies of fortune and quality, and those who are inhabitants of London. I also think, that what may be called condescending, pleasing, engaging, fascinating manners, together with those little attentions, called by the French petites soins, so powerful in their effect, are things not much to be expected by English husbands of their wives, at least the instances of the kind are not very frequent. This want, however, in order to render the married state happy, is not confined to England; it is more or less visible in all countries; and, in justice to English women, I will say, that the generality of them make excellent 433 mothers; that most of them are very fond of cleanliness; that many of them are domestic, and mind the affairs of their houses, and the concerns of their families; that they have not that stiffness and affectation about them, which is too often to be seen in women of other countries, particularly the northern; they are more natural, and consequently more pleasing. Yet, such is the contradiction and inconsistency in the human character, that it is to be wondered at, that notwithstanding English women are in general very compassionate and tender-hearted, they should be so numerous and frequent at public executions, and have the appearance, as if they were fond of seeing a fellow-creature in the agonies of an unnatural death. It will excite, perhaps, surprize, when I mention, that during the trial of the Frenchman, de la Motte, who, not many years ago, was executed as a spy or traitor, numbers of ladies in London, some of the first rank in the city, were then sitting at the Old Bailey, as composedly as if they had been at a playhouse, and even in those awful moments, when the jury were consulting, Whether they should find the prisoner guilty or not, stared the unfortunate man as unconcernedly in the face, and took refreshments with as much indifference, as if they, the play being 434 finished, were only waiting for the entertainment. However, this is of very little significance, when compared to what the Roman ladies did, when they were present at the most cruel murders, committed before thousands of spectators in their amphitheatres. These ladies had their slaves sometimes fixed on the cross without their having committed any thing; they had them frequently, and most severely whipped in their presence, for the sake of amusement, or being capricious, and in an ill humour27; a thing, as I have been informed, practised sometimes even now, in the same way, in the West Indies. I believe that English women, with very few exceptions, would not be capable of such acts, but the French have given in our days proofs that they are. A friend of mine, who, some years ago, returned from France, assured me, that he was witness to the following fact: at Orleans, where he made some stay, a criminal was broken upon the wheel, in the market place. The wretch lived, after the executioner had done his business, till the evening. Neither his groans, nor the horrid spectacle he offered, prevented 435 ladies and gentlemen from taking their usual evening promenade on the market place; and when he, dying, begged very hard for a little water to quench his excessive thirst, a lady, who passed, and heard him, said indignantly: “Taisez vous, coquin!” hold your tongue, scoundrel! Mercier28 relates, that some years ago, when a young man, who had killed his father, and shewed himself extremely hardened on the place of execution, received the first stroke on the scaffold, which breaking and smashing his legs, made him give a shriek, all the spectators, among whom was a great number of women, clapped their hands, and loudly encouraged the executioner. I am really of opinion, that English women could never be guilty of such conduct, or shew themselves so destitute of compassionate feelings.
Most of those who have written on this subject, of the female sex in England, talk too generally. Their observations are commonly taken from persons in genteel life, or of rank, and from the inhabitants of London. But certainly a distinction should be made between the higher classes and the lower; between those who live in great cities, and those who pass 436 their days in the country. The latter, who constitute the greatest number, have undoubtedly, in a hundred instances, the preference, in regard to moral character, above the former. They are more modest, more domestic, more industrious; they are cleanly in their persons and their houses, and even in cottages, which is not so much the case in large cities, and particularly in London. The generality of those who are styled persons of quality, or who think themselves opulent, lead an idle life, useless, and tiresome even to themselves; they are, in the present age, so little domestic, that they find it very disagreeable to stay at home; they hasten from one engagement to another, from company to company, and from card-table to card-table. Some French and German writers have asserted, that they are very fond of talking politics; but I have the best reason to think that this is not generally true. The news of the neighbourhood, the latest advices from the scandalous chronicle, accounts of new fashions and new plays, constitute, in most instances, the topics of their conversation, particularly at the tea-table. A modern French author complains, that they look always grave and melancholy, when seen in company, in church, or in the streets, and at public places; and that they 437 never look, much less stare, at any man, their eyes being always downcast. I suspect this French traveller to have been very short-sighted, or else he could never have advanced such an assertion. There are, indeed, most amiable modesty, and downcast looks of innocence, often to be met with, even in London; but whoever has frequented the playhouses, and observed the attention and smiles visible on the countenances of many ladies, when very expressive double enliven the stage and the audience, or when they, with piercing glasses and eyes, examine the company present, will hardly think that they are so grave and so melancholy as is pretended. Even in churches their eyes, the very old ones excepted, are not filled with mere devotion; and they will sometimes cast a friendly glance upon other objects around them. It is also frequently observed, and even mentioned in public papers, that courts of judicature, when criminal cases are tried, where female virtue and modesty must be put to the blush, have been crowded by those, who, as it was supposed, would wish to be absent from motives of modesty and prudence; nay, even when the judges have cautioned and intreated them to retire, they have rather remained immoveable, and thought the covering their faces with a fan 438 or a handkerchief, sufficient to declare their pudicity, and to hide tittering and laughter.
In boarding-schools, where the daughters of those are educated who can afford the expence, they frequently corrupt each other. A certain affected vivacity, liveliness, a smartness, and false wit, sometimes bordering upon pertness, a vanity in dress and fashions, are at present the principal ingredients of an education given to young ladies, whose parents think themselves not of the lowest class of people. Romances, which in London spring up weekly, like mushrooms, are too often their principal reading; by which means, perhaps, in six instances out of ten, both the head and the heart are corrupted. Most young girls, particularly in London, when they are twelve years old, are well informed of those things which they would know early enough at the age of nineteen or twenty. What Horace says of the young females at Rome, fits exactly those in England: “they think on love from their tenderest years29;” and, indeed, where is there a country where they do not!439
Dress is carried to the very utmost, and the changes it undergoes are more frequent than those of the moon: all is governed by novelty, and taste is entirely out of the question, if it be but the fashion. Neither caricatures exhibited at the windows of printshops, nor satirical paragraphs in newspapers, against ridiculous fashions, prove of any effect. The former are stared and laughed at, on passing them in the streets, and the others produce merely some merriment for those who read the papers, without effecting the least reformation in them whom they particularly concern. This rage for finery and fashion spreads from the highest to the lowest; and in public places, where numbers appear elegantly dressed, it is very difficult to guess at their rank in society, or at the heaviness of their purse. The tradesman’s daughter, whose father can hardly earn the necessary expences of life, will do all that is in her power to dress when she goes abroad, as if she were in easy circumstances; and many, who might by their outside appearance be taken for such as are in affluence, will be found, upon enquiry, in a state of very precarious dependence, or even of servitude.
All, however, that I have said on this subject is not peculiar to English women, who have 440 not changed the nature of their sex. What Homer says of the fair in his time, is in many instances still applicable to those of our days, Virgil contends, that nothing is so changeable and fickle as a woman; and I have met with people who think that even now there is some truth in this assertion. Juvenal inveighs against the head-dress30 of the Roman ladies in his time, as being against all taste and cleanliness, and laughs at the high heels to raise pigmies31, which were then perhaps more in use than now.
Notwithstanding all such strictures, passed upon the fair sex, by ancient and modern writers, it will always remain true, that they are adorned with many pleasing qualities, and that their foibles arise too often from an education and from refinements, which are inconsistent with nature. The late lord Chesterfield is acknowledged to have been well skilled in the human heart, and in the manners of mankind; but, I think, he is rather too severe, in the character 441 which he has drawn of women, when he says: “They are only children of a larger growth; they have an entertaining tattle, and sometimes wit; but for solid reasoning, good sense, I never in my life knew one that had it, or who reasoned or acted consequentially for four and twenty hours together. Some little passion or humour always breaks in upon their best resolutions. Their beauty neglected or controverted, their age increased, or their supposed understanding depreciated, instantly kindles their little passions, and overturns any system of consequential conduct, that in their most reasonable moments they might have been capable of forming.—No flattery is either too high or too low for them. They will greedily swallow the highest and gratefully accept of the lowest, and you may safely flatter any woman from her understanding, down to the exquisite taste of her fan.” I repeat, that I think his lordship judged rather too severely; and exceptions, I believe, might be found.
The fame of English women, for modesty and virtue, is of long standing, and though it has been, perhaps, in some instances, tarnished and lost in its credit in these modern times, yet what the rev. Mr. Madan has advanced on 442 this point, in his book written in favour of polygamy, seems to be liable to great limitation. “Most certain it is,” he says, “that the crime of adultery daily increases amongst us, insomuch that one would think many of the British ladies, once famed for their modesty, chastity, and sobriety, either never read their Bibles at all, or else only that edition of it, which was printed by the company of stationers, in the reign of Charles the First, (and for which archbishop Laud fined them severely in the Star-chamber), wherein they printed the seventh commandment without the word not, so that it stood, Thou shalt commit adultery32.” Far be it from me to examine such assertions; I leave it to those, who advance opinions of this kind to defend themselves. I am rather inclined to side with those who think more favourably.
1 There is, however, an assertion of Tacitus, in regard to the old Britons, still applicable to those of modern times, that they readily comply with the levies of men, and with the imposition of taxes: Britanni delectum et tributa, et injuncta imperii munera impigre obeunt. Tac. Vit. Agr. c. 13. There is likewise still remaining some evidence of the truth of Horace’s observation, that the Britons had a dislike to foreigners:
Visam Britannos hospitibus feros.
2 Hume’s Essays, vol. i. p. 215.
3 The states of America are to be excepted, and also France, if the Revolution is completed.
Hinc rapti pretio fasces, sectorque favoris
Ipse sui populus; letalisque ambitus urbi;
Annua venali referens certamina campo.
5 Epist. ad Lucil. 118. Quam putas esse jucundum, tribubus vocatis; &c.
6 Rousseau relates it from good authority, in his Origine de l’inegalité parmi les hommes. Oeuvres de Rousseau, tom. ii. p. 158.
7 Lady Wortley Montague, when she had resided a little while in Germany, found our stoves extremely convenient, and wrote thus to one of her acquaintance in London: “This reflection leads me to consider our obstinacy in shaking with cold, five months in the year, rather than making use of stoves, which are certainly one of the greatest conveniencies of life. . . . . If ever I return, in defiance of fashion, you shall certainly see one in my chamber.” Vol. i. Letter xix. p. 90.
8 The Scots, who generally are successful when they come into England, because they keep together, and assist one another, ascribe the dislike the English have to them, to national pride; and a Scotch clergyman, expressed himself, not long ago, in the following manner: “Our good neighbours have been always pretty remarkable for the modest virtue of self-applause, and considering their own country, at all times, and in all things, the standard of perfection.” Remarks on Dr. Sam. Johnson’s Journey to the Hebrides, by the rev. Donald M‘Nicol. London 1780.
9 Letters to his Son, vol. iv. p. 18. Let. 264.
10 Vol. ii. p. 161. Let. 150.
11 Vol. iii. p. 2. Let. 189.
12 Perhaps I may be mistaken; but, I own, this thought struck me, on reading Blackstone’s Commentaries. Vol. i. ch. x. p. 369, 379, &c. Vol. ii. p. 249, 250.
13 Alberti, in his Letters, Let. iii. in German.
Quantum quisque sua nummorum servat in arca,
Tantum habet et fidei.
15 Hist. of England, vol. vi. p. 167.
16 Res sacra miser est.
. . . . Animum mortis terrore carentem.
Qui spatium vitæ extremum inter munera ponat
18 The author of the French book, Londres, tom. i. p. 398. gives this reason among others; nay, he adds, that the borders of the Thames were built to the edge with houses, and the balustrades of the bridges raised so high, from no other motives, but that the melancholy English might have fewer opportunities to jump into the river, and drown themselves. If Mr. Grosley, the author, had never been in London, he might be forgiven for writing in this manner; but having seen himself the river, and the bridges, it is rather unaccountable.
19 A. Gellius, in Noct. Attic. lib. xv. c. 10.
20 Brydone’s Tour through Sicily and Malta, vol. i. p. 7, 8.
21 Biographia Britannica, art. Abbot, note [L].
22 Cicero de Senectute, cap. 18.
23 Raynal Histoire philosophique et politique, &c. tom. i. p. 141.
24 p. 80
25 Lettres sur les Anglois et les François; a Cologne, 1727. p. 13.
26 Dr. Moore, in his View of Society and Manners in France, &c. vol. ii. p. 22.
O demens, ita servus homo est? nil fecerit, esto.
Hoc volo, sic jubeo, sit pro ratione voluntas.
28 Tableau de Paris, tom. iii. p. 252.
De tenero meditatur ungui.
Tanta est quærendi cura decoris
Tot premit ordinibus, tot adhuc compagibus altum
Ædificat caput. Andromachen a fronte videbis, etc.
—— Adjuta cothurnis
Et levis erecta consurgit ad oscula planta.
32 Thelypthora, vol. i. p. 68.
“the English, of any people in the universe, have the least of a national character”
[Interesting observation, Mr. Hume. To this day, an over-the-top cultural modesty remains a British, and especially English, trait. If there is a perceived difference between how a thing is done in Great Britain, and how it is done in the rest of the world—or even between how it is done in England and how it is done in the rest of the island—it is invariably assumed that it is the non-English way that is the aberration. Hume, incidentally, was not English but Scottish. Our author doesn’t seem to have noticed.]
O how happy is that country, where they enjoy such delicious drink!
[Doubly impressive when you consider that northern Canada is one of the very few places in the world whose indigenous cuisine would generally be considered inferior to that of England.]
the late revolution in France has given the English rather a more respectful opinion of the French nation
[“The Frogs chopped off their king’s head? I guess they’re not so different from us after all.”]
The late lord Chesterfield
[Lord Chesterfield was nothing if not persevering. His Letters to his Natural Son (most editions omit the adjective) were written over a period of several decades, ending only when the son died. There’s little evidence they were greeted with anything other than “Oh, dammit, another slab of advice from Dad; he’d better have enclosed some money too”. The ones that weren’t used to start fires were eventually collected and published by the son’s mother.]
They know nothing but the English world
text has Englsh
I have already made some remarks on this outward appearance
[He talked about it in the context of the Foundling Hospital.]
the hospital at Greenwich contains only about two thousand invalids
text has hospitals
[Corrected from Dublin edition.]
those who fit out privateers, to enrich themselves by robbing
text has priva-/vateers at line break
bad ministers, at the head of the administration,
text has adminstration
suicide, which is so common in this country
[It helps that in Wendeborn’s England, there was no such thing as an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Since suicide was a capital crime, you were going to die, one way or the other.]
fortunatos si sua bona norint!
[The full citation (Virgil, Georgics 2.458-59) is “O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint, / agricolas!”. Messrs. Gildersleeve and Lodge remind me that this is the Exclamatory Accusative, as in “Me miseram!”]
it is no wonder that an Englishman should look more chearful in May than in November
[That would be the gloomy month of November, when the people of England hang and drown themselves. (I have never found the locus classicus for this line. Predictably it is attributed to Voltaire, but it definitely predates him; in English it goes back to Addison in the Spectator, No. 387, 1712.)]
the French swallowed the Missisippi plan of Mr. Law
[It is never easy to look things up when a personal name is also a word (Young, Still, Grant). This time I will not even try.]
according to Tully / Cicero de Senectute
[It is funny that the body text calls him “Tully” while the footnote has “Cicero”. It would take many more decades before English writers decisively settled on his cognomen rather than his nomen. (In the German he is “Cicero” in the body text, with no footnote.)]
every one almost wishes to be thought young
[This entire long paragraph could well have been written by Miss Manners, more than two centuries later.]
the new husband, can lay no claim to the titles and dignities of his wife
[Title and dignities, no. Property, yes.]
According to the English law, the wife has no will of her own.
[As we all know, the law—at least with reference to this particular supposition—is a ass, a idiot.]
Pater est quem nuptiæ demonstrant
corrected by author from quam
not their charms, but his own feelings were in fault
text has feeelings
the praise of accomplishments is frequently offered by flattery
text has fre-/frequently at line break
originals of those heroines, drawn by a Richardson and others, under the guidance of a warm imagination
[If “warm” is a euphemism for “fevered”, I’ll buy it.]
the Frenchman, de la Motte
[François Henri de la Motte was executed for treason in July 1781 as one of the very last people in England to be drawn and quartered. But by this late date, drawing and quartering—like burning for women—was done only after the subject had been hanged by the neck until dead.]
very expressive double énténdres enliven the stage and the audience
[The Dublin edition has éntendres, which is hardly an improvement. I don’t think the sequence “én” (within a syllable) is even orthographically permissible in French.]
that edition of it . . . wherein they printed the seventh commandment without the word not
[This is really true. Printed in 1631, it became known as the Wicked Bible. One of ten known copies sold at auction just a few years ago for a modest £31,250.]
[Footnotes] Hume’s Essays, vol. i. p. 215. . . . The states of America
[Trivia: In the printed book, the first footnote is numbered 3 while its in-text marker is 4; for the second footnote (on a different page, referring to a different paragraph) it is the other way around. Oops.]
[Footnote] p. 80
[Where did he get “p. 80”? In the present text (London edition of the English translation) the discussion of burning is on page 346. The German has no footnote—and the subject is not on page 80 of the current volume (of four).]
The German original winds up this volume with 19 pages of Anweisungen für Fremde.
The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.