Chapter 14: first weeks in London.—June and July, 1838.—Age, 27.
To his brother George, St. Petersburg.
London, June 1, 1838.My dear George,—I write you my first lines from London, and that with the especial object to reclaim sundry letters which the Barings have had the folly to despatch to St. Petersburg after you. . . . Last night I entered London, having passed just five months in Paris; and, when I found myself here, I seemed at home again. Paris is great, vast, magnificent; but London is powerful, mighty, tremendous. The one has the manifestations of taste and art all about it; the other those of wealth and business. Public buildings here seem baby-houses compared with what Paris affords. Go to Paris, you will see art in its most various forms; you will see taste in the dress of everybody, in the arrangement of the shop-windows, and particularly in the glories of the opera. I have been to Drury Lane to-night. I went late; and yet I could not stay through the evening, so dull and tasteless did it seem. The last night I was in Paris I attended the French Opera, and the wonders of that scenic display are yet thrilling my mind. But I have not come abroad to see theatres, though these, as one phase of society, I see with interest always. I was much absorbed while in Paris with observing the administration of justice, and endeavoring to master the system of the French law,—a subject to a foreigner of much difficulty; and I confidently think that I have reaped not a little advantage from the pursuit, and that I may be able to apply my knowledge to some profit hereafter: perhaps I shall write some work on the subject, though I hardly venture to think of it. It is more probable that I shall endeavor to use the knowledge I have acquired and the opinions I have formed in influencing some changes and improvements in the laws of my country. If you conclude to visit Paris, do not fail to let me know beforehand; for I can give you instructions with regard to your management there which are the result of five months study and mingling with a great variety of people. . . .