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companion and think with him." 15 He had discovered Carlyle in the reviews and the two men warmed to each other immediately. They went out together, says Emerson, to "walk over long hills," and finally "sat down, and talked of the immortality of the soul; " 16 while Carlyle testifies that the only American who had sought him out at dreary Craigenputtock had talked and heard talk to his heart's content, and left them all really sad to part with him.17
Similarly Ticknor and Willis were among the few who looked upon Charles Lamb and his friends as people of any real distinction, and neither of them shows any too great a degree of reverence or admiration. Ticknor visited Hazlitt in the room which had been previously occupied by Milton and found its walls whitewashed and scribbled over with short scraps of poetry and brilliant thoughts Later he met in the nature of a commonplace book. 66 'these people" at a dinner at Godwin's and makes note of "Lamb's gentle humor, Hunt's passion, and Curran's volubility, Hazlitt's sharpness and point, and Godwin's great head full of cold brains, all coming into contact and conflict, and agreeing in nothing but their common hatred of everything that has been more successful than their own works." 18
The picture which Willis draws is more sympathetic. At breakfast with a lawyer friend in the Temple, he was introduced to Elia and Bridget a short time before Lamb's death. There was a rap on the door at last," he says, "and enter a gentleman in black small-clothes and gaiters, short and very slight in his person, his head set on his shoulders with a thoughtful, forward bent, his hair just sprinkled with gray, a beautiful deepset eye, aquiline nose, and a very indescribable mouth. Whether it expressed most humor or feeling, good nature or a kind of whimsical peevishness, or twenty other things which passed over it by turns, I can not in the least be certain." He was followed by the "small, bent figure” of his sister. The subsequent conversation was full of trifles, although in it Lamb answered the famous question, "Who reads an American book?" by confessing that Mary devoured Cooper's
15 English Traits, Chap. I.
10 Journal, XXIV, 180.
17 Froude, J. A., Thomas Carlyle, II, 290-1.
18 Life, Letters and Journals, 1, 24.
novels with a ravenous appetite and that Woolman's Journal was the only American book he had ever read twice.19
But most of Willis's time was spent in the brilliant circle of Lady Blessington, where he met literary notables who were socially inaccessible to the average American. His Pencillings are crowded with anecdotes of Bulwer, Disraeli, Proctor, Tom Moore, and Campbell, as well as many others. For Moore and Campbell he had great sympathy, although he was not uncritical. On one occasion he breakfasted with Proctor, and when the latter was out of the room, he copied from an edition of his poems some comments scribbled on the fly-leaf by Coleridge, inscribed "a map of the road to Paradise drawn in Purgatory on the confines of Hell, by S. T. C. July 30, 1819." The note began, "Barry Cornwall is a poet, me saltem judice, and in that sense of the word in which I apply it to Charles Lamb and W. Wordsworth," and it proceeded with some admonitions to the author and to authors in general on the subject of writing poetry.20
Much of Willis's most entertaining gossip concerns Tom Moore. One of his best pictures is of a group around the piano after a dinner at Lady Blessington's when the poet played and sang his own songs "with a pathos that beggar's description," and then rose and disappeared from the room before his hearers could collect their feelings enough for speech.21
Like Willis, Cooper met only a restricted group of British litterati and hence had opportunities not open to the average American for forming a judgment of English literary society. There was some confusion as to just who he was, and both Godwin and Samuel Rogers called on him shortly after his settlement in London under the impression that he was the son of a former friend. He was strongly impressed with Godwin's sincerity in his philosophy but scornful of his ignorance of America, while in Rogers he found a sympathetic friend and later a cordial host. He took dinner with him a number of times and attended many of his petits déjeûners, which then had "deservedly a reputation in London." It was principally through Rogers, a certain Mr. Sotheby, and Sir
19 Pencillings, 1844, pp. 184-5.
20 Ibid., p. 189.
21 Ibid., p. 193.
James Mackintosh that he met those literary and political figures who so cordially entertained him during his stay and from whom he derived that impression of the English character which later formed the basis of his adverse criticism in his Gleanings in England and elsewhere.
Irving had one very important point in common with Willis and Cooper. After the publication of the Sketch Book in 1820 he was recognized as a literary man himself and was welcomed to exclusive circles which were closed to others. One of the most remarkable facts about the visits of these three Americans is the British lionizing of them at a time when the sting of a second military defeat at the hands of the United States was still fresh. It only proves what a slight effect the American wars had upon English society. Cooper's novels were being read almost as widely as Scott's, Willis was well armed with letters which told of his native importance in no uncertain terms, and Irving wrote two books on England which flattered and idealized her in irresistible terms. In circles where Byron was mentioned with horror and Lamb ignored, these three Americans found themselves altogether at home.
Irving's shyness before he became famous and his later willingness to accept what favors were extended to him makes his literary judgment of England entirely different from that of the average American. He was never a traveler in England in the ordinary sense. He was a stranger until he became practically a native. His first visit to Europe in 1804 was planned by his brothers, who feared for his health; and he reached London only after a tour of the Continent, in which, he confesses, he shifted from city to city and laid countries aside like books after giving them a hasty perusal.22
His visit of 1815 was with similarly unliterary intentions. He arrived in Liverpool as the agent of a company which was trembling on the verge of bankruptcy, and his closest associations were with his brother, Peter, then an invalid, and with his sister, Sarah Van Wart, and her family at Birmingham. His chief concerns, apart from his business cares, were in touring places of historical interest and in attending the theatres, always of first importance with him.
22 Life and Letters, 1, 120.
Little by little, however, and without previous intention, he gained a foothold in literary England. He called upon Campbell at Sydenham, only to find him away; but a conversation with Mrs. Campbell laid the foundations for one of his major literary associations.23 On another excursion he visited Scott at Abbotsford and was urged to extend his stay to several days. Through the publisher, Murray, he met the elder Disraeli, but his contacts extended no further at the time. Later he became more or less intimate with Moore, Rogers, and some others; still his closest friendships were with the American artists Allston, Morse, Leslie, Stuart Newton and their associates.
The reason for this was that Irving's literary mind lived in an England of the past, an England that never was. He sought out the places made famous by literary and historical associations. He would go far to see Stratford, but experienced no unusual excitement at a first meeting with Coleridge. It was this quality which made him so valuable in uniting the feelings of the two countries, but of little worth as a judge of contemporary literature or literary people.
Of Scott and Campbell he has written at some length. His account of Abbotsford and its owner is full of personal admiration and kindly remembrance of the time spent there; while in his estimate of Campbell, he merely voices the opinion so generally held at the time that the poet was sacrificing a delicate but undoubted genius in critical work because of his despair of ever sustaining his early reputation.24
Irving's literary interest in England's past was, however, shared by many of his fellow visitors from America. The most universally appealing association was, of course, that of Stratford and Shakespeare. On the high road to London, not a traveler failed to pay it a visit, and its honors were almost equally shared by the English poet born there and the American essayist who had immortalized it. Irving was not the first to visit the Red Lion, but the charm of his essay in the Sketch Book cast a glamour over places and sights already sacred and started that reverence for old world shrines which has ever since been the dominant interest of the American
23 Ibid., p. 253.
24 Miscellanies, pp. 141-173.
abroad. The old landlady showed Willis the poker on which she had inscribed the words "Geoffrey Crayon's Sceptre" and recounted the story of the evening when she had tried to persuade the American to wake from his reveries by the fire and go to bed. The house where Shakespeare was born, Ann Hathaway's cottage, the site of the once famous mulberry tree, the little church and the tomb of the poet, as well as the forbidding estate of Sir Thomas Lucy, were all the objects of pilgrimages. The traveler scrawled his name on the visitor's books and took coach again on his way to London.
Next to those of Shakespeare, the former haunts of Samuel Johnson were principal objects for the tourist. Litchfield is mentioned many times; few stopped to visit it, although the very name suggested to Dewey a "sort of home." Many, however, shone in the reflected glory of the memory of their contacts with the old doctor, and Dr. Parr, that curious and ponderous replica of the literary dictator, was the object of a visit from Ticknor chiefly for this reason.
The picture of literary England thus afforded by the records of American travelers is curious in its inequalities and its eccentricities. Irving and Willis were right in their assumption that three thousand miles of water would make for a different perspective, but they were wrong in their hope that this perspective would coincide with the judgments of posterity. Rather it coincided more nearly with those of the age immediately preceding. The English authors most sought after by the Americans were those of established reputation, either gentlemen and ladies who were enjoying in their latter years the results of their previous work, or writers who had won contemporary favor, as did Scott, by producing exactly what the public wanted. The American observer had learned his English literature from the same sources as the average Englishman. His own magazines copied generously from those of England, and his own publishers found greater profit in reprinting the novels of Disraeli or Scott without copyright royalties than in venturing to put forth the work of native Americans. His literary fads had, therefore, a marked tendency to follow those of England, and if he was free of one prejudice, he usually substituted another for it. Where he was uninfluenced by the curse of domestic politics, which so controlled the criticism of