Amazing articles on just about every subject...


Summer Trips To Europe

( Originally Published 1911 )[an error occurred while processing this directive]

ON two occasions I have spent the summer vacation in Europe, chiefly in England. In 1886, my wife and I went abroad, with the purpose of dividing the summer between London and the cathedral towns. In 1891, Mr. Hazard and I went to Lon-don as delegates to the first Pan-Congregational Council, and afterwards went to the Baths at Wildungen in Waldeck, and to the Wagner Festival at Bayreuth.

What I am about to write is rather in confirmation of what Henry James said to me in London in reply to my inquiry how he found so great a charm in the life of that city. His answer was that the charm lies in the fact that there one sees so much life. " In Paris," he remarked, " one finds clever men within their limits. Here one sees more of many men and of very marked character."

Though in both visits I was in London only six weeks, and in midsummer, and in no official capacity, I met or heard discourses from a good number of interesting men. This was in part due to the fact that the American Minister, Edward J. Phelps, and his wife were intimate friends of my wife and myself and were in London in 1886.

At their hospitable table we met Robert Browning. He was a short, rather stout man with a cheery face, and was very simple and cordial in manner. However obscure is some of his writing, he was lucid and animated in conversation. He said his living in Italy was due to the delicate health of his wife. He spoke at some length of the stammering public speech of Englishmen, which he thought was due to an excessive consciousness and pride. He said when he was a boy, speeches were common at ordinary dinner parties. He him-self had a great aversion to making a speech. He gave an interesting anecdote of the effect once of inability to make a speech. A motion was pending in the House of Lords to alter the old law, which for-bade a person charged with murder to have counsel, and so compelled him to defend himself. A venerable peer attempted to advocate allowing such a man to have counsel. He found himself at a loss for words. He could not go on. "You see, my Lords," he said, "my condition. Although I know you are all indulgent to me, you observe I am embarrassed to express myself. Suppose now I were on trial for murder. Any innocent man accused of that crime might be in my plight." The situation was so impressive that his view prevailed.

In answer to our urgent request that he come to our country and meet his many admirers, he gave no encouragement, though he expressed a most grateful appreciation of the favour shown to his works in the United States.

One of the most interesting men I met at the Pan-Congregational Council was Rev. John Brown, D.D., Pastor of the Church of Bedford, in which Bunyan preached, and author of an excellent biography of Bunyan. With him we visited Bunyan's cottage at Elstow. He informed me that Bunyan's family had lived in that village for centuries. He said he knew descendants of Bunyan more than fifty years old, who had never read "Pilgrim's Progress."

Dr. Brown told some stories of the wit of Dr. Magee, the Archbishop of York. Among them were these two. A man, with whom he was discussing, said, "I am not so stupid as I may look." To which the Arch-bishop replied, "For that give God thanks." When he went to York to be consecrated as Archbishop, some woman passing by him, exclaimed, "What an ugly mouth ! " He." overhearing it, said to her, "You are right, madam, but it has made my fortune."

Dr. Brown and other preachers spoke freely of the social disadvantages under which young men and young women in dissenters' families found themselves. He informed me that one Anglican clergyman in his neighbourhood had recently in a sermon or public address declared that persons married by any but an Anglican clergyman were living in adultery. When Dr. Brown called the attention of the clergyman's bishop to this the clergyman was reprimanded.

At a tea given by the Bible Society at their house, I saw what was said to be the largest collection of Bibles in the world, and was told the following story of the origin of that renowned society :

A Welsh girl, named Mary Jones, walked many miles to beg a Bible of a minister. He had none to spare for her. She went home weeping, but on his promise to get one for her, she walked again twenty-five miles to procure it. The minister came to London, told the story, and persuaded men to found the society.

I went one morning at 8 o'clock to break-fast with the directors of the Tract Society at their rooms in Paternoster Row. These directors, busy men, fifteen in number, meet every Tuesday morning at that early hour for breakfast and the transaction of the business of the society. They were criticizing tracts which they had all carefully read. Here, as at the meeting of the directors of the Bible Society, I was deeply impressed by the fidelity of these officers of the societies in the discharge of their duties.

Calling at the Foreign Office on Mr. Henry (afterwards Sir Henry) Bergne who was the English Secretary to the Fisheries Commission on which I served in 1887-8, I was introduced to Sir Edward Herstlet, and was shown by him into the rooms where the Treaties are preserved. I seemed to have a large part of the history of modern Europe in my hands as I held an Official copy of the great Treaty of Vienna of 1815 and one of the Treaty of Paris of 1856.

As an illustration of the remark of Henry James about the life in London; I may say that attending one afternoon a garden party given by Lord and Lady Jersey, I met and was presented to, among others, Mr. and Mrs. Lecky, Lord Sherbrooke, Sir Richard Webster, then Attorney General, now Lord Chief Justice, Prof. Ray Lankester, and Mr. Knowles, editor of the Nineteenth Century Magazine. On the return in the train, an English gentleman, speaking of the peerage just granted to Bass, the brewer, repeated Labouchere's quotation concerning the elevation of Allsop, "Surgit quidquid amarum."

Mr. Ouless, the painter, told a good story in my hearing. Poole, the fashionable tailor, having lent money to some of the nobility, was sometimes invited by them into company. Once, when he had been to Lord 's, he was asked what he thought of the gathering. He replied that it was well enough, but the company was a little mixed. "How," some one said. "What could you ask? You could not expect they would all be tailors."

Perhaps the most striking illustration of freedom of speech in England is witnessed in Hyde Park on Sunday afternoon, when the advocates of every opinion are allowed such unrestrained liberty of utterance in the hearing of any persons they can induce to listen. At various stands on one occasion I heard the following speakers. No. 1: A Spiritualist; No. 2: An atheist; No. 3: Anti-government, anti-rent, anti-everything existing, a French revolutionist in manner and in appearance; No. 4: A lay preacher of the gospel. No. 5: A reformed drunkard; No. 6: An anti-vivisectionist; No. 7: A rabid and radical socialist. The spiritualist and the lay preacher had the largest audiences. But the authorities interfered with none of them. There was no disorder.

In 1891, Mr. Hazard and I made a visit to the Continent after the close of the Council in London. We spent some days in Brussels, where Mr. Hazard had import-ant business relations. I asked prominent men there why Belgium, a neutralized country, charged itself with the expense of an army of a hundred thousand men. Their answer was that the Great Powers virtually require it to prevent any state from taking advantage of a defenceless condition, and furthermore, the officers drawn from the higher classes have influence enough in the government to maintain an effective force.

We spent some time at Wildungen in Waldeck, where are excellent springs with medicinal qualities like the waters at Carlsbad. The waters, however, are cold and most palatable. Some five thousand visitors, mostly German, were there, among them being our friend Carl Schurz. These springs apparently are not widely known in this country, though they deserve to be. From this little state came Bunsen, the historian, Kaulbach, the painter, and Rauch and Drake, the sculptors. I took long walks into the surrounding country, which is inhabited by well-to-do peasants. They have comfortable houses, but the manure heap, apparently the accumulation of months, is often in the front yard. Sometimes the residence is in the second story, the barn occupying the first story.

We went to Bayreuth to attend the Wagner Festival. Knowing that Jean Paul lived in that town for years and died there, I sought to find his house. The cabman had no knowledge where it was. Entering the principal bookshop, I asked a young woman who was in charge, where the house was. She was unable to tell me. Soon strolling down the street, not fifty rods from the bookshop, I came on the house, a fine three-story dwelling with an inscription on it, giving me the information I desired. Verily, I thought, the prophet was without honour in his own country. We found his statue and the grave of Liszt without inquiry.



Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com