|European Letters, by T.W. Patton to
The Asheville Citizen:
Description of the Tour of the North Carolina Teachers, During the Summer of 1889
LIFE IN LONDON. [pages27-32]
|*Note: Copy has been re-formatted. Original two column format has been abandoned and special fonts have been standardized.|
London, england, July 25, 1889.
dear citizen :—Most appropriately our first act in England's capital is to make our devoirs to Britain's Queen; but do not understand us as attending Her Majesty's Drawing Room, to which, no doubt, we would have been urgently invited had H, R. H. been advised of our presence, but we have always had a strong dislike to a pigeon-tail coat, and learning that Her Most Gracious M. preferred that her male guests should be so adorned, we decided to spare her the disappointment she would feel at not seeing us by not sending our card, and begging our professional brethren of the Times, Graphic, etc., etc., to make as little notice as possible of our presence. In this way we trust Her Majesty will be spared the mortification she would otherwise endure.
But we attended court at her royal palace of Windsor, taking advantage of her absence there from to slip in, incog, as it were, and so successful were our efforts that scarcely any of the red coated lackeys recognized us, and those who did, observing our wish, allowed us to pass, with the simple request that we should leave behind our cane, overcoat, etc., etc., that they might inspect them studiously during our call.
The stupendous size of the castle is fully appreciated in the view afforded as we approach by train and as we ascend the hill on which it is located. A description by metes and bound'-, so many feet by so many feet, would give you no idea at all of it. Perhaps, though, you may be interested to hear that from the summit of the central round tower, looking down over the whole expanse of stone buildings we were told, and believe, that below us were the tops of over 900 chimneys, all leading from the various apartments of this palace. (Perhaps this may account
for the extremely smoky state of things which here seems to pervade all nature, physical, political, moral and intellectual. Physical, as evidenced by a London fog which now seems to threaten us; political, as observed in the way in which these people circle around their Queen, very much resembling a swarm of bees; moral, yes, with all the boasted civilization of the established church, its huge chapels, abbeys, cathedrals, we have never seen anything to approach the absolute abandonment to disgusting lewdness which pervades the dimly lighted streets, even under the shadow ot the great St. Paul's; intellectual, musty with all the learning of past ages rather than grasping the problems of to-da3r, and deciding how best to relieve the evils which, on the Strand, so distress and pain us.
The state apartments being open to public inspection, we make a round of them under charge of a policeman, who seemed to imagine that our notebook might be made the vehicle for carrying away one of the royal family's portraits, which no amount of money would tempt us to accept as a gift, and in his dread he hurried us past some things we would fain have examined at leisure, especially a wonderful tapestry, representing the whole history of Queen Esther, and all its lines as distinct and delicate as the painting could be made, and bringing out in most distinct clearness every feature of each character mentioned in the beautiful story.
The architecture and finish of the rooms were, of course, very elaborate and grand, and equally, of course, smacked of royalty at every point, pressing upon the mind of the beholder thoughts of wonder as to how much longer in this enlightened age effete ideas of the past and dark periods would continue to prevail. Sentiment absolutely dominating mind—such to us seems monarchical government.
The most pleasing thing at Windsor is the memorial chapel erected by the Queen in honor of her good husband. This gave evidence that Victoria was not only H, R. H., or the mother of the Prince of Wales, but a pure, true English woman and simple, loving, devoted wife; and we also think that this exquisite tribute was worthily dedicated to the Prince Consort, who as a true man did much in his short day to elevate and improve his people, and had his valuable life been spared
would have till now set an example which we hope, but do not believe, his son may follow. The interior of this chapel is adorned in most excellent design and taste, just enough of statuary to be pleasing, but not wearying to the eye, the walls covered with most exquisite scriptural representations in mosaic and sculptures in bas relief. Altogether we pronounce it a worthy monument to a worthy man, and worthy of the loving wife by whom it was built.
St. George's chapel, of which we have heard so much, did not long detain us. These old churches are 'becoming somewhat monotonous. Our history cannot keep up with the endless lines of tombs of kings and queens, and the dates which so delight our entertainers to us are as dry as their brown bread (of which we will tell you more soon), and we scarcely think a record of them would at all edify you.
Before leaving the town of Windsor we visited the famous Eton school, in which nearly 1,000 boys are being taught. Their playground was especially beautiful, of large expanse, covered with magnificent elms, shading the richest grass which sloped even to the brink of the Thames. It was very sweet, and well adorned by crowds of cheerful English lads, all full of healthful fun. A crowd was engaged in the national game of cricket, and on enquiring the name of one of the brightest we were told he was "The Honorable Robert Ward " Plain "Bob" he would have been in America, and much better that would have been for him. But here, no doubt, 700 years ago some ancestor picked up H. R. M.'s handkerchief, and so this boy must be spoken of by his pla3'mates as "The Honorable."
Many tilings in England do not please
us. (No doubt this announcement will cause much commotion, but we must
speak with candor.) The delightful rolls
Scotland are a thing of the past. The
london, Monday morning, July 29.
dear citizen:—For the past two days your con'espondent has been busily engaged in searching for some London locals to adorn your columns, with a very moderate degree of success, because a continued diet of sour bread and stale water has a tendency to promote rather the moralizing side of his constitution, and to tinge all he sees with a tone of sadness, almost amounting to depression of spirit, so that he feels a hesitation in coming before the Asheville public.
But we have seen many things and thought a great deal, and we must try to tell of the former, even if we are unable to keep out occasionally our own reflections.
A visit to Parliament House was very much a repetition of that to the State apartments in Windsor Castle. A hurried walk through the rooms with a guide in front, pretending to describe the
paintings, in a sing-song kind of a way, and a policeman behind, insisting that we shall "pass hon;'urry up, please." And so we are crowded and jostled through the beautiful corridors and rooms, and come out with mind so confused as to be afraid to attempt a description, even of any one of the really exquisite paintings, statues or tapestries which we have seen but not enjoyed.
Of course our brain holds the same impression ofthe old rascally MormonHenry VIII, who is accompanied by his six wives, and looks very much as if he was considering the propriety of establishing still another church in order to get permission to marry six more, when a merciful providence cut short his beastly existence.
The most interesting part of the buildings to us is Westminster Hall, where we are permitted to linger a few moments, and catch inspiration ofthe scenes which its walls have witnessed and to think with sadness upon the number of good and true men who there have been sentenced to cruel torture and death, even as the martyred Wallace was, "to be hung, drawn and quartered" because he had done deeds most noble, and had dared to hold and express opinions differing from those of the powers that be. Truly, intolerance is not a new thing, nor is it a thing of the past. Many of us know that even in America, and in dear little Asheville, a man is advised to form his mind according to the dictation of the party bosses; but, as the days of "hanging, drawing and quartering" are past, some men decline to do so..
We now enter Westminster Abbey, and truly are astonished at the sight which greets us. Description after description we have read and listened to, and yet we had not the slightest idea of that which we now see as we stand astonished, awe struck, in this wonderful church. How then can we attempt to give you a faint description ? Truly it will be a failure we know, but try to sympathize with us as we enter the north transept and look through the lofty arching columns in all directions, surrounded at its base with statues in white marble of every imaginable shape and design, illustrating the virtues of men and women whose ashes lie beneath, and impressing one with the
remembrance, as stated on the tablet of the poet Gray, that
"Life is a jest, and all things show it: I thought so once, but now I know it."
We can conceive of nothing more absolutely wearisome than an inspection of this tremendous Abbey; perhaps any one of its works of art would delight us, but the tout en semble oppresses us be3'ond measure. Of course we are delighted with a walk through the chapels which contain the royal tombs, although the guide hurries us along all too fast for our wish. Everything we pass, see or touch is reeking with history, and no one can fail to realize in himself a feeling that it is impossible to convey to others, as he stands at the very spot which contains the ashes of poor headless Queen Mary, and not far away those of her cruel persecutor Queen Elizabeth, and sees the royal chair on which the Scottish, Irish and more recently, the English kings, have all been crowned, while seated upon the "King's Stone," of which the legend is that it composed the pillow of Jacob when he dreamed his dream of the ladders reaching up into Heaven, and saw the bright angels ascending and descending on errands of mercy.
Of course geologists tell us that this is impossible; that no such stone can be found in the East, but perhaps they do not know everything yet; and for ourselves, we prefer to hold to the old, old story, and hope that all successive monarchs may see the loveliness of the vision and be inclined to "go and do thou likewise."
A wonderful piece of carving is seen in one of the numerous side chapels, a husband supporting the form of his dying wile, while from the tomb, on which the figures are placed, Death darts out, grim in all the horrors with which he can be imagined, and directs his javelin at the lovely, drooping form.
A few American mementos are found, and our Longfellow is appropriately enshrined among the nobility less noble than he. Also we see with sadness a monument in memory of Maj. Andre, sacrificed to the treachery of Arnold, and we reflect how much we would prefer at this day to have been the victim rather than the rascal who escaped ; truly a few ...
fleeting years make many hard things come all right.
As we before remarked, a sense of extreme weariness attends our visit to Westminster Abbey; it is so far beyond our power of grasping its marvelous beauties and adornments. Very different is the sensation produced by St. Paul's Cathedral. Its wonderfully calm and peaceful magnitude, its lofty airiness unadorned by aught else than its own perfection of proportion; its statues of the very best art, located so as to allow a visitor to see one at a time, and to drink in its beauties; and most appropriately in this grand church we stand, and fain would kneel before the form of John Howard, truly a philanthropist, "who traversed the civilized world to reduce the sum of human misery, from the throne to the dungeon."
Here we could realize the scene in the grand old temple, where King Solomon "spread forth his hands" in prayer to the God who chose his house, and this as his own. In no other place have we ever felt so near the Throne.
What curious people we are, not satisfied with the sweec and holy thoughts engendered by St. Paul's. We hasten thence to the terrible Tower, with all its horrors of murders and cruelties, enough to make the most hardened man shudder at the consideration that they emanated from the brain, if not the heart, called human.
Here we, with the same morbid curiosity which brought the crowd of sightseers, looked into the room in which the innocent young princes were most foully killed, and saw the spot where their bones were recovered years upon years afterwards, and borne to their present resting place in Westminster Abbey, and where innocent Anne Boleyn was cruelly beheaded in order to make room for another Mrs. Henry VIII, and where the gallant knight, who first established our own colony, was confined and doomed to death; and then we painfully climb the narrow winding stair to Beauchamp Tower, whose rugged walls of stone, not so hard as the hearts of the tyrants, are indented with scrolls and emblems, placed there by the poor prisoners who thus beguiled the weary days, of which only too few were allowed them on earth.
At the Traitor's gate, through which the steps lead down to the Thames, we fancy we can see the barge rowed up to deliver its burden, brought from the judgment seat of Westminster Hall, into the cold stern embrace of these massive, frowning walls, from which there could be no escape other than through the gate of death.
Now is it not a marvelous thing that the outcome of all these horrors should be a nation such as this, in which every individual seems to feel a personal interest in his sovereign ? Would we not aiore naturally expect that the people would be roused to indignant rebellion against a government in which it was ever possible for such deeds to be enacted ? And yet the fact faces us that Great Britain is the most powerful nation of the world, and that its chief strength consists in the absolute devotion of the people to their Queen. Oh! if they would only teach their bakers how to make decent bread, and their barbers to give a comfortable shave, what a glorious land this would be!!
london, July 30, 1889.
dear citizen :—This is the day that we longed to have with us all the boys and girls in Buncombe. Of course we thought of our own little ones chiefly, but still we did wish for all the others, when we stood in the centre of the big Zoological Garden, in which there were hundreds of bright children waiting their turn to mount to the back of one of the largest elephants we ever saw, who would walk with dignity up to the scaffold erected for the purpose, allow his precious burden to alight, and wait patiently until his broad back was covered by another score of happy urchins, and then march gravely away along the paths, and between the beds of sweet, bright flowers, until he thought these had received their share of fun, and then go back again to change his load. There was a sort of fascination to watch the huge beast, so gentle towards his little friends and admirers.
There were several elephants employed in this way, but none seemed to give and take the same degree of pleasure as the ...
one that we have described; and there were also some very fine, large camels, with their curious humps, and they too were doing good service in riding the children.
When we entered the monkey house we again exclaimed "Oh! if our children were here" what fun they would have in watching the funny antics of the numerous monkeys, of all kinds and descriptions, who are swinging and climbing, and jumping, and chattering to each other and to all of us. One bright little fellow, like a flash sprang to the side of the cage, thrust out his saucy paw, and plucked a flower from the hat of a young lady, but upon smelling at it and finding it had no perfume he threw it at the rightful owner, in high disgust, and went back to chattering more than before, no doubt telling how he had been taken in.
We are not ourselves so far removed from childhood but that we would have liked to watch the monkeys all day, but many other things are to be seen in the few remaining days of our visit. So away we go to South Kensington Museum, and wander through its lengthy corridors, and see more strange and curious things than our poor brain can possibly contain, and into its gallery of sweet paintings where we enjoy the famous cartoons of Raphael, seven in number, representing scenes in the New Testament. The one which seemed to us the best was "The death of Ananias" and it was certainly not calculated to encourage falsehood. The apostle seemed to speak again "Sold ye the land for so much" and the poor wretched liar seemed at this very moment, to have fallen at thetr feet.
Another most wonderful painting was the death of poor, sweet Amy Robsart, in which her beautiful body is lying prone on the rough stones, at the bottom of the terrible pit into which she had been lured by the wretch Vardrey, imitating her husband's call. Horror and remorse are well depicted in the face of the earl, as he discovers the body of his neglected wife, whose sweet character is so beautifully portrayed in Scott's Kenilworth.
Our next enjoyment is a view of "The Arthur Memorial," a magnificent obelisk, erected in Kensington Gardens in memory of the Prince Consort. We are told that the cost was a half million of pounds
sterling, and can readily believe it. The height is two hundred and seventy-five feet, and it covers a gigantic statue, seated, of Prince Arthur, in burnished brass, while around its base are statues in marble of distinguished men of all professions. We took time to count them, and found them to number one hundred and seventy-two, while at each corner are groups representing agriculture, engineering, commerce, manufactures, and on a lower level Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, each of which cost ten thousand pounds, and looks as if the money had been faithfully expended.
A weary walk through the yast British Museum winds up a fatiguing day, and we can only feel, that we wish we were in a comfortable, papoose-looking concern such as Cleopatra occupies, where we would at last be at rest from aching bones and burning corns. We looked upon the mummy spread out to the gaze of the reckless herd, which is labeled "Cleopatra," and thought can this be the end of the lovely Egyptian Queen ? Truly with King Solomon we cry "Vanity of vanity, all is vanity."
A little bit of moralizing now which you may print or not print, as you like. It will do us good all the same, to relieve our mind of these thoughts. We are traversing some of London's streets, worse than any we ever saw in New York or elsewhere. Abandoned, drunken, dissolute women on every side, men no better; aye, much worse, when we cry out. oh! for a Dickens to write this up, to let these English see the satire of their life, and warn to what it is leading. Do vou remember his opening sentence in "The Tale of Two Cities," how the handsome king and the ugly queen sat upon the throne of France, and the poor boy had his flesh torn with red hot irons because he failed to take off his hat when a company of dirty monks passed at a distance, and how this sowed the seed of the dreadful revolution and the bloody guillotine; how on Saturday last the granddaughter of Queen Victoria was married, as our cabman told us, to the "Hearl of Fife," who was forthwith made "Dook," and the marriage was solemnized by a high official of the established church, and the bridal party all partook of the blessed sacrament, and ...
the chimes rang merrily, merrily, and the big bells pealed, and pealed, and pealed; in short all was done to show what a solemn and holy thing is marriage; and yet before the chimes had ceased, or the bells stopped pealing, under the shadows of every church in London, not excepting Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathedral, can be found
scores of poor forsaken women, Queen Victoria's subjects plying their awful, soul destroying calling. Oh! ye, who today have solemnized a royal marriage so solemnly, so appropriately, cannot you do something to relieve or check this dreadful evil ? If not,
"What will the harvest be ?"