MoboReader > Literature > Eighty Years and More; Reminiscences 1815-1897

   Chapter 6 HOMEWARD BOUND.

Eighty Years and More; Reminiscences 1815-1897 By Elizabeth Cady Stanton Characters: 25897

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


After taking a view of the wonders and surroundings of London we spent a month in Paris. Fifty years ago there was a greater difference in the general appearance of things between France and England than now. That countries only a few hours' journey apart should differ so widely was to us a great surprise. How changed the sights and sounds! Here was the old diligence, lumbering along with its various compartments and its indefinite number of horses, harnessed with rope and leather, sometimes two, sometimes three abreast, and sometimes one in advance, with an outrider belaboring the poor beasts without cessation, and the driver yelling and cracking his whip. The uproar, confusion, and squabbles at every stopping place are overwhelming; the upper classes, men and women alike, rushing into each other's arms, embrace and kiss, while drivers and hostlers on the slightest provocation hurl at each other all the denunciatory adjectives in the language, and with such vehemence that you expect every moment to see a deadly conflict. But to-day, as fifty years ago, they never arrive at that point. Theirs was and is purely an encounter of words, which they keep up, as they drive off in opposite directions, just as far as they can hear and see each other, with threats of vengeance to come. Such an encounter between two Englishmen would mean the death of one or the other.

All this was in marked contrast with John Bull and his Island. There the people were as silent as if they had been born deaf and dumb. The English stagecoach was compact, clean, and polished from top to bottom, the horses and harness glossy and in order, the well-dressed, dignified coachman, who seldom spoke a loud word or used his whip, kept his seat at the various stages, while hostlers watered or changed the steeds; the postman blew his bugle blast to have the mail in readiness, and the reserved passengers made no remarks on what was passing; for, in those days, Englishmen were afraid to speak to each other for fear of recognizing one not of their class, while to strangers and foreigners they would not speak except in case of dire necessity. The Frenchman was ready enough to talk, but, unfortunately, we were separated by different languages. Thus the Englishman would not talk, the Frenchman could not, and the intelligent, loquacious American driver, who discourses on politics, religion, national institutions, and social gossip was unknown on that side of the Atlantic. What the curious American traveler could find out himself from observation and pertinacious seeking he was welcome to, but the Briton would waste no breath to enlighten Yankees as to the points of interest or customs of his country.

Our party consisted of Miss Pugh, Abby Kimber, Mr. Stanton, and myself. I had many amusing experiences in making my wants known when alone, having forgotten most of my French. For instance, traveling night and day in the diligence to Paris, as the stops were short, one was sometimes in need of something to eat. One night as my companions were all asleep, I went out to get a piece of cake or a cracker, or whatever of that sort I could obtain, but, owing to my clumsy use of the language, I was misunderstood. Just as the diligence was about to start, and the shout for us to get aboard was heard, the waiter came running with a piping hot plate of sweetbreads nicely broiled. I had waited and wondered why it took so long to get a simple piece of cake or biscuit, and lo! a piece of hot meat was offered me. I could not take the frizzling thing in my hand nor eat it without bread, knife, or fork, so I hurried off to the coach, the man pursuing me to the very door. I was vexed and disappointed, while the rest of the party were convulsed with laughter at the parting salute and my attempt to make my way alone. It was some time before I heard the last of the "sweetbreads."

When we reached Paris we secured a courier who could speak English, to show us the sights of that wonderful city. Every morning early he was at the door, rain or shine, to carry out our plans, which, with the aid of our guidebook, we had made the evening before. In this way, going steadily, day after day, we visited all points of interest for miles round and sailed up and down the Seine. The Palace of the Tuileries, with its many associations with a long line of more or less unhappy kings and queens, was then in its glory, and its extensive and beautiful grounds were always gay with crowds of happy people. These gardens were a great resort for nurses and children and were furnished with all manner of novel appliances for their amusement, including beautiful little carriages drawn by four goats with girls or boys driving, boats sailing in the air, seemingly propelled by oars, and hobby horses flying round on whirligigs with boys vainly trying to catch each other. No people have ever taken the trouble to invent so many amusements for children as have the French. The people enjoyed being always in the open air, night and day. The parks are crowded with amusement seekers, some reading and playing games, some sewing, knitting, playing on musical instruments, dancing, sitting around tables in bevies eating, drinking, and gayly chatting. And yet, when they drive in carriages or go to their homes at night, they will shut themselves in as tight as oysters in their shells. They have a theory that night air is very injurious,-in the house,-although they will sit outside until midnight. I found this same superstition prevalent in France fifty years later.

We visited the H?tel des Invalides just as they were preparing the sarcophagus for the reception of the remains of Napoleon. We witnessed the wild excitement of that enthusiastic people, and listened with deep interest to the old soldiers' praises of their great general. The ladies of our party chatted freely with them. They all had interesting anecdotes to relate of their chief. They said he seldom slept over four hours, was an abstemious eater, and rarely changed a servant, as he hated a strange face about him. He was very fond of a game of chess, and snuffed continuously; talked but little, was a light sleeper,-the stirring of a mouse would awaken him,-and always on the watch-tower. They said that, in his great campaigns, he seemed to be omnipresent. A sentinel asleep at his post would sometimes waken to find Napoleon on duty in his place.

The ship that brought back Napoleon's remains was the Belle Poule (the beautiful hen!), which landed at Cherbourg, November 30, 1840. The body was conveyed to the Church of the Invalides, which adjoins the tomb. The Prince de Joinville brought the body from Saint Helena, and Louis Philippe received it.

At that time each soldier had a little patch of land to decorate as he pleased, in which many scenes from their great battles were illustrated. One represented Napoleon crossing the Alps. There were the cannon, the soldiers, Napoleon on horseback, all toiling up the steep ascent, perfect in miniature. In another was Napoleon, flag in hand, leading the charge across the bridge of Lodi. In still another was Napoleon in Egypt, before the Pyramids, seated, impassive, on his horse, gazing at the Sphinx, as if about to utter his immortal words to his soldiers: "Here, forty centuries look down upon us." These object lessons of the past are all gone now and the land used for more prosaic purposes.

I little thought, as I witnessed that great event in France in 1840, that fifty-seven years later I should witness a similar pageant in the American Republic, when our nation paid its last tributes to General Grant. There are many points of similarity in these great events. As men they were alike aggressive and self-reliant. In Napoleon's will he expressed the wish that his last resting place might be in the land and among the people he loved so well. His desire is fulfilled. He rests in the chief city of the French republic, whose shores are washed by the waters of the Seine. General Grant expressed the wish that he might be interred in our metropolis and added: "Wherever I am buried, I desire that there shall be room for my wife by my side." His wishes, too, are fulfilled. He rests in the chief city of the American Republic, whose shores are washed by the waters of the Hudson, and in his magnificent mausoleum there is room for his wife by his side.

Several members of the Society of Friends from Boston and Philadelphia, who had attended the World's Anti-slavery Convention in London, joined our party for a trip on the Continent. Though opposed to war, they all took a deep interest in the national excitement and in the pageants that heralded the expected arrival of the hero from Saint Helena. As they all wore military coats of the time of George Fox, the soldiers, supposing they belonged to the army of some country, gave them the military salute wherever we went, much to their annoyance and our amusement.

In going the rounds, Miss Pugh amused us by reading aloud the description of what we were admiring and the historical events connected with that particular building or locality. We urged her to spend the time taking in all she could see and to read up afterward; but no, a history of France and Galignani's guide she carried everywhere, and, while the rest of us looked until we were fully satisfied, she took a bird's-eye view and read the description. Dear little woman! She was a fine scholar, a good historian, was well informed on all subjects and countries, proved an invaluable traveling companion, and could tell more of what we saw than all the rest of us together.

On several occasions we chanced to meet Louis Philippe dashing by in an open barouche. We felt great satisfaction in remembering that at one time he was an exile in our country, where he earned his living by teaching school. What an honor for Yankee children to have been taught, by a French king, the rudiments of his language.

Having been accustomed to the Puritan Sunday of restraint and solemnity, I found that day in Paris gay and charming. The first time I entered into some of the festivities, I really expected to be struck by lightning. The libraries, art galleries, concert halls, and theaters were all open to the people. Bands of music were playing in the parks, where whole families, with their luncheons, spent the day-husbands, wives, and children, on an excursion together. The boats on the Seine and all public conveyances were crowded. Those who had but this one day for pleasure seemed determined to make the most of it. A wonderful contrast with that gloomy day in London, where all places of amusement were closed and nothing open to the people but the churches and drinking saloons. The streets and houses in which Voltaire, La Fayette, Mme. de Sta?l, Mme. Roland, Charlotte Corday, and other famous men and women lived and died, were pointed out to us. We little thought, then, of all the terrible scenes to be enacted in Paris, nor that France would emerge from the dangers that beset her on every side into a sister republic. It has been a wonderful achievement, with kings and Popes all plotting against her experiment, that she has succeeded in putting kingcraft under her feet and proclaimed liberty, equality, fraternity for her people.

After a few weeks in France, we returned to London, traveling through England, Ireland, and Scotland for several months. We visited the scenes that Shakespeare, Burns, and Dickens had made classic. We spent a few days at Huntingdon, the home of Oliver Cromwell, and visited the estate where he passed his early married life. While there, one of his great admirers read aloud to us a splendid article in one of the reviews, written by Carlyle, giving "The Protector," as his friend said, his true place in history. It was long the fashion of England's historians to represent Cromwell as a fanatic and hypocrite, but his character was vindicated by later writers. "Never," says Macaulay, "was a ruler so conspicuously born for sovereignty. The cup which has intoxicated almost all others sobered him."

We saw the picturesque ruins of Kenilworth Castle, the birthplace of Shakespeare, the homes of Byron and Mary Chaworth, wandered through Newstead Abbey, saw the monument to the faithful dog, and the large dining room where Byron and his boon companions used to shoot at a mark. It was a desolate region. We stopped a day or two at Ayr and drove out to the birthplace of Burns. The old house that had sheltered him was still there, but its walls now echoed to other voices, and the fields where he had toiled were plowed by other hands. We saw the stream and banks where he and Mary sat together, the old stone church where the witches held their midnight revels, the two dogs, and the bridge of Ayr. With Burns, as with Sappho, it was love that awoke his heart to song. A bonny lass who worked with him in the harvest field ins

pired his first attempts at rhyme. Life, with Burns, was one long, hard struggle. With his natural love for the beautiful, the terrible depression of spirits he suffered from his dreary surroundings was inevitable. The interest great men took in him, when they awoke to his genius, came too late for his safety and encouragement. In a glass of whisky he found, at last, the rest and cheer he never knew when sober. Poverty and ignorance are the parents of intemperance, and that vice will never be suppressed until the burdens of life are equally shared by all.

We saw Melrose by moonlight, spent several hours at Abbotsford, and lingered in the little sanctum sanctorum where Scott wrote his immortal works. It was so small that he could reach the bookshelves on every side. We went through the prisons, castles, and narrow streets of Edinburgh, where the houses are seven and eight stories high, each story projecting a few feet until, at the uppermost, opposite neighbors could easily shake hands and chat together. All the intervals from active sight-seeing we spent in reading the lives of historical personages in poetry and prose, until our sympathies flowed out to the real and ideal characters. Lady Jane Grey, Anne Boleyn, Mary Queen of Scots, Ellen Douglas, Jeanie and Effie Deans, Highland Mary, Rebecca the Jewess, Di Vernon, and Rob Roy all alike seemed real men and women, whose shades or descendants we hoped to meet on their native heath.

Here among the Scotch lakes and mountains Mr. Stanton and I were traveling alone for the first time since our marriage, and as we both enjoyed walking, we made many excursions on foot to points that could not be reached in any other way. We spent some time among the Grampian Hills, so familiar to every schoolboy, walking, and riding about on donkeys. We sailed up and down Loch Katrine and Loch Lomond. My husband was writing letters for some New York newspapers on the entire trip, and aimed to get exact knowledge of all we saw; thus I had the advantage of the information he gathered. On these long tramps I wore a short dress, reaching just below the knee, of dark-blue cloth, a military cap of the same material that shaded my eyes, and a pair of long boots, made on the masculine pattern then generally worn-the most easy style for walking, as the pressure is equal on the whole foot and the ankle has free play. Thus equipped, and early trained by my good brother-in-law to long walks, I found no difficulty in keeping pace with my husband.

Being self-reliant and venturesome in our explorations, we occasionally found ourselves involved in grave difficulties by refusing to take a guide. For instance, we decided to go to the top of Ben Nevis alone. It looked to us a straightforward piece of business to walk up a mountain side on a bee line, and so, in the face of repeated warnings by our host, we started. We knew nothing of zigzag paths to avoid the rocks, the springs, and swamps; in fact we supposed all mountains smooth and dry, like our native hills that we were accustomed to climb. The landlord shook his head and smiled when we told him we should return at noon to dinner, and we smiled, too, thinking he placed a low estimate on our capacity for walking. But we had not gone far when we discovered the difficulties ahead. Some places were so steep that I had to hold on to my companion's coat tails, while he held on to rocks and twigs, or braced himself with a heavy cane. By the time we were halfway up we were in a dripping perspiration, our feet were soaking wet, and we were really too tired to proceed. But, after starting with such supreme confidence in ourselves, we were ashamed to confess our fatigue to each other, and much more to return and verify all the prognostications of the host and his guides. So we determined to push on and do what we had proposed. With the prospect of a magnificent view and an hour's delicious rest on the top, we started with renewed courage. A steady climb of six hours brought us to the goal of promise; our ascent was accomplished. But alas! it was impossible to stop there-the cold wind chilled us to the bone in a minute. So we took one glance at the world below and hurried down the south side to get the mountain between us and the cold northeaster.

When your teeth are chattering with the cold, and the wind threatening to make havoc with your raiment, you are not in a favorable condition to appreciate grand scenery. Like the king of France with twice ten thousand men, we marched up the hill and then, marched down again. We found descending still more difficult, as we were in constant fear of slipping, losing our hold, and rolling to the bottom. We were tired, hungry, and disappointed, and the fear of not reaching the valley before nightfall pressed heavily upon us. Neither confessed to the other the fatigue and apprehension each felt, but, with fresh endeavor and words of encouragement, we cautiously went on. We accidentally struck a trail that led us winding down comfortably some distance, but we lost it, and went clambering down as well as we could in our usual way. To add to our misery, a dense Scotch mist soon enveloped us, so that we could see but a short distance ahead, and not knowing the point from which we started, we feared we might be going far out of our way. The coming twilight, too, made the prospect still darker. Fortunately our host, having less faith in us than we had in ourselves, sent a guide to reconnoiter, and, just at the moment when we began to realize our danger of spending the night on the mountain, and to admit it to each other, the welcome guide hailed us in his broad accent. His shepherd dog led the way into the beaten path. As I could hardly stand I took the guide's arm, and when we reached the bottom two donkeys were in readiness to take us to the hotel.

We did not recover from the fatigue of that expedition in several days, and we made no more experiments of exploring strange places without guides. We learned, too, that mountains are not so hospitable as they seem nor so gently undulating as they appear in the distance, and that guides serve other purposes besides extorting money from travelers. If, under their guidance, we had gone up and down easily, we should always have thought we might as well have gone alone. So our experience gave us a good lesson in humility. We had been twelve hours on foot with nothing to eat, when at last we reached the hotel. We were in no mood for boasting of the success of our excursion, and our answers were short to inquiries as to how we had passed the day.

Being tired of traveling and contending about woman's sphere with the Rev. John Scoble, an Englishman, who escorted Mr. Birney and Mr. Stanton on their tour through the country, I decided to spend a month in Dublin; while the gentlemen held meetings in Cork, Belfast, Waterford, Limerick, and other chief towns, finishing the series with a large, enthusiastic gathering in Dublin, at which O'Connell made one of his most withering speeches on American slavery; the inconsistency of such an "institution" with the principles of a republican government giving full play to his powers of sarcasm. On one occasion, when introduced to a slaveholder, he put his hands behind his back, refusing to recognize a man who bought and sold his fellow-beings. The Rev. John Scoble was one of the most conceited men I ever met. His narrow ideas in regard to woman, and the superiority of the royal and noble classes in his own country, were to me so exasperating that I grew more and more bellicose every day we traveled in company. He was terribly seasick crossing the Channel, to my intense satisfaction. As he always boasted of his distinguished countrymen, I suggested, in the midst of one of his most agonizing spasms, that he ought to find consolation in the fact that Lord Nelson was always seasick on the slightest provocation.

The poverty in Ireland was a continual trial to our sensibilities; beggars haunted our footsteps everywhere, in the street and on the highways, crouching on the steps of the front door and on the curbstones, and surrounding our carriage wherever and whenever we stopped to shop or make a visit. The bony hands and sunken eyes and sincere gratitude expressed for every penny proved their suffering real. As my means were limited and I could not pass one by, I got a pound changed into pennies, and put them in a green bag, which I took in the carriage wherever I went. It was but a drop in the ocean, but it was all I could do to relieve that unfathomed misery. The poverty I saw everywhere in the Old World, and especially in Ireland, was a puzzling problem to my mind, but I rejected the idea that it was a necessary link in human experience-that it always had been and always must be.

As we drove, day by day, in that magnificent Phoenix Park, of fifteen hundred acres, one of the largest parks, I believe, in the world, I would often put the question to myself, what right have the few to make a pleasure ground of these acres, while the many have nowhere to lay their heads, crouching under stiles and bridges, clothed in rags, and feeding on sea-weed with no hope, in the slowly passing years, of any change for the better? The despair stamped on every brow told the sad story of their wrongs. Those accustomed to such everyday experiences brush beggars aside as they would so many flies, but those to whom such sights are new cannot so easily quiet their own consciences. Everyone in the full enjoyment of all the blessings of life, in his normal condition, feels some individual responsibility for the poverty of others. When the sympathies are not blunted by any false philosophy, one feels reproached by one's own abundance. I once heard a young girl, about to take her summer outing, when asked by her grandmother if she had all the dresses she needed, reply, "Oh, yes! I was oppressed with a constant sense of guilt, when packing, to see how much I had, while so many girls have nothing decent to wear."

More than half a century has rolled by since I stood on Irish soil, and shed tears of pity for the wretchedness I saw, and no change for the better has as yet come to that unhappy people-yet this was the land of Burke, Grattan, Shiel, and Emmett; the land into which Christianity was introduced in the fifth century, St. Patrick being the chief apostle of the new faith. In the sixth century Ireland sent forth missionaries from her monasteries to convert Great Britain and the nations of Northern Europe. From the eighth to the twelfth century Irish scholars held an enviable reputation. In fact, Ireland was the center of learning at one time. The arts, too, were cultivated by her people; and the round towers, still pointed out to travelers, are believed to be the remains of the architecture of the tenth century. The ruin of Ireland must be traced to other causes than the character of the people or the Catholic religion. Historians give us facts showing English oppressions sufficient to destroy any nation.

The short, dark days of November intensified, in my eyes, the gloomy prospects of that people, and made the change to the Sirius of the Cunard Line, the first regular Atlantic steamship to cross the ocean, most enjoyable. Once on the boundless ocean, one sees no beggars, no signs of human misery, no crumbling ruins of vast cathedral walls, no records of the downfall of mighty nations, no trace, even, of the mortal agony of the innumerable host buried beneath her bosom. Byron truly says:

"Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow-

Such as creation's dawn beheld, thou rollest now."

When we embarked on the Sirius, we had grave doubts as to our safety and the probability of our reaching the other side, as we did not feel that ocean steamers had yet been fairly tried. But, after a passage of eighteen days, eleven hours, and fifteen minutes, we reached Boston, having spent six hours at Halifax. We little thought that the steamer Sirius of fifty years ago would ever develop into the magnificent floating palaces of to-day-three times as large and three times as swift. In spite of the steamer, however, we had a cold, rough, dreary voyage, and I have no pleasant memories connected with it. Our fellow-passengers were all in their staterooms most of the time. Our good friend Mr. Birney had sailed two weeks before us, and as Mr. Stanton was confined to his berth, I was thrown on my own resources. I found my chief amusement in reading novels and playing chess with a British officer on his way to Canada. When it was possible I walked on deck with the captain, or sat in some sheltered corner, watching the waves. We arrived in New York, by rail, the day before Christmas. Everything looked bright and gay in our streets. It seemed to me that the sky was clearer, the air more refreshing, and the sunlight more brilliant than in any other land!

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