down prices, and therefore kept down all profitable employment, by narrowing the market of the producers. Dr. Johnson appears to have had somewhat similar notions of public advantage. In 1784 he visited Mr. Windham, who made a note of his conversations, amongst which we find the following: “Opinion about the effect of turnpike roads. Every place communicating with each other. Before, there were cheap places and dear places. Now, all refuges are destroyed for elegant or genteel poverty. Disunion of families, by furnishing a market to each man's ability, and destroying the dependence of one man upon another.” To have “cheap places and dear places”—to maintain “the dependence of one man upon another”—has been the struggle of class interests up to this hour. Roads and railroads and steamboats have annihilated the one remnant of feudality, local cheapness purchased by general dearness; and the penny-a-mile trains would extinguish all that is unhealthy in “the dependence of one man upon another,” if the other remnant of feudality, the law of parish settlement, were broken up. The extension of turnpike-roads through the country at last brought about the ultimate perfection of coach-travelling, THE MAIL. More than sixty years ago was this great engine of our civilization first set in motion. Before Mr. Palmer suggested his improvements to the Government, letters sent by the post, which left Bath on Monday night, were not delivered in London till Wednesday afternoon.

The London post of Monday night did not reach Worcester, Birmingham, or Norwich, till Wednesday morning, and Exeter on the Thursday morning. A letter from London to Glasgow, before 1788, was five days on the road. The letter-bags were carried by boys on horseback; and the robbery of the mail was, of course, so common an occurrence, that no safety whatever could be secured in the transmission of money. The highwayman was the great hero of the travelling of that day. But on the 2nd of August, 1784, the first mail-coach left London for Bristol; and from that evening, till the general establishment of the railway system, the mail was one of the wonders and glories of our country. The stage-coaches followed the mails in the course of improvement. We remember them when they were not very particular about the pace; and four hours from Windsor to London was pretty well. To be sure, there was a quarter of an hour for breakfast at Longford, and another quarter of an hour for luncheon at Turnham-green; but it was a pleasant ride in days when men were not in a hurry. The pace of our now surviving stage-coaches is, for the first half-hour after the railway, a sort of impertinence. You feel you are crawling when you have mounted the ten-mile-an-hour tortoise that is to take you across the country from the station; but yet the driver presumes to talk of his cattle. Look at him. He has a load of responsibility put upon him which he is little able to bear. He must keep time. He dares not have a snack at the

halfway-house ; he has no messages to deliver ; he sticks gloomily upon the box, while the horses are hurriedly changed; he sleeps not at nights without dreaming of the whistle; he is dependent upon an absolute will; he has a cadaverous melancholy face, as if Time were beating him prematurely. Contrast him with Washington Irving's English coachman of 1820:4" He has commonly a broad full face, curiously mottled with red, as if the blood had been forced by hard feeding into every vessel of the skin ; he is swelled into jolly dimensions by frequent potations of malt liquors, and his bulk is still further increased by a multiplicity of coats, in which he is buried like a cauliflower, the upper one reaching to his heels. He wears a broad-brimmed lowcrowned hat; a huge roll of coloured handkerchief about his neck, knowingly knotted and tucked in at the bosom; and has in summer-time a large bouquet of flowers in his button-hole,– the present, most probably, of some enamoured country lass. His waistcoat is commonly of some bright colour, striped ; and his small-clothes extend far below the knees, to meet a pair of jockey-boots which reach about half-way up his legs.” The portrait belongs to the archæology of England. A sedan, a hackneycoach, and a stuffed stage-coachman of the fat times, should be deposited in the rooms of the Antiquarian Society, while a specimen can be preserved in relic, or made out from description.



[ocr errors][merged small]

THERE has been high revelry in Shrewsbury in 1569. Sir Henry Sidney, Lord President of the Council of the Marches, has made his annual visit, during an interval in his government of Ireland, in which he had returned to his favourite Ludlow Castle. Philip Sidney, his son, is a boy of fifteen, at the Free Grammar School of Shrewsbury. In the same form—of the same age—is his devoted friend, Fulke Greville. The ceremonies are over. Sir Henry has sate in the ancient hall of the Council House, to hear complaints and to dispense justice. He has gone in solemn procession to St. Chad's Church, with bailiffs, and aldermen, and wardens of companies. He has banquetted with the masters of the school in the great library. He has been present at a stage-play in the Guildhall— the Mayor's play. But more welcome than all the pomp of office is a quiet hour with his boy Philip, as they sit in the cool of a May morning on the terrace of the Council House, and look over the bright Severn towards Haughmond Hill, and muse in silence, as they gaze upon one of those unrivalled combinations of natural beauty and careful cultivation, which have been the glory of England during many ages of comparative freedom and security. It is the last of Philip's school years. He is to proceed to Oxford. His friend Greville afterwards wrote of him:—“I lived with him and knew him from a child, yet I never knew him other than a man, with such staidness of mind, lovely and familiar gravity, as carried grace and reverence above greater years.” Proud is the father of his noble son. He is “the light of his family.” They talk as friend to friend. The father—a statesman and soldier—is not displeased to see that, beneath the gravity of the precocious boy, are fiery glances offeeling almost approaching to rashness. They become one who in after years exclaimed, “I am a Dudley in blood– the duke's daughter's son.” The Lord President has departed. There is holiday at the school; and Sidney and Greville walk forth to the fields in that spring-time. Shrewsbury is a place in which the young Sidney lives in the memories of the past. Few of the public buildings and private houses of the town are of the more recent Tudor architecture. The Market Square and Pride Hill are rich in the black oaken timbers, and gabled roofs, and pannelled carvings of the fifteenth century. The deserted Abbey is not yet in ruins. The Castle has a character of crumbling strength. The High Cross is perfect. There, were beheaded the last of the British Princes of Wales; and there, suffered some who had the misfortune not to fall with Hotspur in the battle of Hateley Field. At the Augustine Friars, and the Grey Friars, are still seen the graves of many who had perished in that fight. The Welsh Bridge, with its “great gate to

« VorigeDoorgaan »