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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. . . . [313]

I have been here one day; have seen much already; have been proposed as an honorary member of one of the clubs, and cordially received by Earl Fitzwilliam,—one of the first peers of the realm. As yet, however, I have not presented one of my letters of introduction; that I shall not do till I have selected lodgings. After these I am in full chase; but I wish my letters even more than lodgings, though I despair of comfort until I have both. Send back my letters, then, my dear George; send back my letters, and believe me

As ever, affectionately yours,

To Judge Story, Cambridge.

Garrick Club,1 London, June 4, 1838.
my dear Judge,—. . . My pulses beat quick as I first drove from London Bridge to the tavern, and, with my head reaching far out of the window, caught the different names of streets, so familiar by sound, but now first presented to the eye. As I passed the Inns, those chosen seats of ancient Themis, and caught the sight of ‘Chancery Lane,’ I felt—but you will understand it all.

I send now my memoir of your life and writings, which I have prepared to be laid before the Institute with an accompanying letter. Of course, I was very much cramped by writing in a foreign language; but yet I have contrived to say one or two things which, I hope, are as just in fact as they are appositely introduced. Writing in the country of Cujas and D'Aguesseau, I could not forbear making an allusion to those great minds.

As ever, my affectionate recollections to all your family and to yourself.

C. S.
P. S. London teeming with interest will naturally form the subject of many letters.

To George S. Hillard, Boston.

Garrick Club, June 4, 1838.
Zzz [314] born of Paris. I have a sense of oppression as I walk these various streets, see the thronging thousands, catch the hum of business, and feel the plethora of life about me. The charm of antiquity, so subtle and commanding,—at least I confess to its power,—the charm of taste, and then the excitement produced by a constant consciousness that one is in a foreign land: these belong to Paris. Here I seem again at home; I start as I catch English sounds in the streets; and for the moment believe that I am in New York or more loved Boston when I see the signs over shop-doors staring me in the face. The style of building is American; or rather ours is English. Everywhere I see brick. I do not remember a house in Paris of that material. If I enter a house, I find the furniture like ours; and then, over and above all, is the common language, which, like the broad and ‘casing air,’ seems to be perpetually about me.

I left Paris, May 29, in the diligence, early in the morning; rode all day and night and all the next day, when, at six o'clock in the evening, I entered the old fortifications of Calais. Here I gave my French a considerable ‘airing,’—the last it will receive for some time,—in scolding at the twenty servants and agents of different inns, who, as I alighted, besieged me and my luggage in a style of importunity which I think you cannot conceive. Sharp-set, indeed, are these European tide-waiters; those of New York might take some lessons in this school. From Calais I sailed at three o'clock the next morning, bound direct for London. My friends, English and American, advised me to take this route, and enter London by the gate of the sea; and I feel that the advice was good. I waked up in the morning on board the small steamer, and found her scudding along the shores of Kent. There were England's chalky cliffs full in sight,—steep, beetling, inaccessible, and white. Point after point was turned, and Godwin's Sands —where was buried the fat demesne of old Duke Godwin, the father of Harold—were left on the right. We entered the Thames; passed smiling villages, attractive seats, and a neat country on the banks, and thousands of vessels floating on the river. For eighty miles there was a continuous stream of vessels; and as we gradually approached the city, then did the magnitude, the mightiness, of this place become evident. For five miles on either side, the banks were literally lined with ships, their black hulls in gloomy array, and their masts in lengthening forests. We were landed at London Bridge, and my eve<*> [315] liament; here Poole takes his cheese and salad, and tells stories which would do well in ‘Paul Pry,’ and redeem the degenerate numbers of ‘Little Peddlington.’ I have also been nominated for another club. All this is well, as it opens to me various ways of meeting society. I must tell you more at large of London club-life. The two nights that I have been at my club, I have been all unconscious of the progress of time, and midnight has been far advanced before I thought of retiring. Such are London hours!

What was my disappointment on arriving at London, when I found no letter from you! The Barings had sent all my letters, except one or two, to my brother at St. Petersburg. Do thank Longfellow for his capital letter, which by good luck stayed behind; also Lawrence, for his hearty, friendly lines; and Greenleaf for his lamentation over the changing spirit of the times. I shall write them all in due time; but at present my hands and time are so full that I cannot.

I find, as I get into the atmosphere of the wits of London, that I see many literary characters in different lights from those in which we view them at a distance. In the short time that I have been here I have heard a flood of anecdote and gossip, but must reserve all these things for conversation in future years. No, I will forget it; for you will have the Ticknors with you, to whom all things have been revealed: I can only hope to follow humbly in their wake. I assure you, they have seen the prime of England; and I promise you a treat in the reminiscences which they can pour out: their autographs and little memorials of that kind alone would not be of slight consequence; but above all these is the living spring of knowledge and of actual experience of London life, and of all the wits that sparkle in its deep waters.

I have not time to write; and so I say, Good-by. I am startled by the expenses here; but, prudence. Nullum numen abest, &c.

Yours affectionately,

To Judge Story, Cambridge.

London, June 14, 1838.
my dear Judge,—Three places have I seen which you would like to see, and which I have longed to see,—the House of Commons, Doctors' Commons, <*> I can assure you,

my dear Hillard,—From Paris to London is but commons was on the globe, and yet what spaces separate them when we regard <*> eleven morals, character, and external appearances! thought that five<*> study of one great city teeming with life, animation, and gayety would take off the edge of my wonder, and throw over all other places that I may visit a secondary character. But here I am in ‘famous London town,’ and my wonder still attends me; but it is of an entirely different quality from that

1 Established in 1831, in King Street, Covent Garden, for literary men, and particularly for those who were by profession or tastes specially interested in the drama. Its collection of pictures contain several painted by Sir Peter Lely, Gainsborough, and Reynolds. The club was frequented by Theodore Hook and Albert Smith. [316] June, during the discussion of the

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