• made acquaintance, I remember, at Cincinnati, with Mr. Longworth, 성남오피 who was, or became well{175} known throughout America for his successful efforts in viticulture. He was one of those men who, being by no means entertaining companions on any other subject, become so, if you will talk to them upon their own. I have often thought that the “sink the shop” maxim is a great mistake. If I had to pass an hour with a chimney-sweep, I should probably find him very good company if he would talk exclusively about sweeping chimneys. Mr. Longworth was extremely willing to talk exclusively on schemes for the introduction of the vine into the western states, and on that subject was well worth listening to. I find a note in a diary, written by me at that time, to the effect that he was then (1828) employing a large number of Germans on his estate at Columbia near Cincinnati at a little less than one shilling a day and their food. I remarked that this seemed scarcely in accord with the current accounts of the high price of labour in the states, and was answered that his—Mr. Longworth’s—bailiff had said to him the other day, “If those men get to Cincinnati they will be spoiled”—a little touch which rather vividly illustrates one phase of the difference made in all things by railway communication.

But the most remarkable acquaintance we made at Cincinnati was Hiram Powers, the subsequently well-known sculptor, with whom I again fell in many years afterwards at Florence, when he was living there with his large family, having just acquired a large and lucrative degree of celebrity by his statue{176} of “The Greek Slave,” purchased by an Englishman whom my mother had taken to visit his studio. I do not know by what chance she had first become acquainted with him at Cincinnati.

He was at that time about eighteen years old, much about my own contemporary; and my mother at once remarked him as a young man of exceptional talent and promise. He was at that time seeking to live by his wits, with every prospect of finding that capital abundantly sufficient for the purpose. There was a Frenchman named Dorfeuille at Cincinnati, who had established what he called a “museum,”—a show, in fact, in which he collected anything and everything that he thought would excite the curiosity of the people and induce them to pay their quarter dollars for admission. And this M. Dorfeuille, cleverly enough appreciating young Powers’s capabilities of being useful to him, had engaged him as factotum and general manager of his establishment. Powers, casting about for some new “attraction” for the museum, chanced one evening to talk over the matter with my mother. And it occurred to her to suggest to him to get up a representation of one of Dante’s bolgias as described in the Inferno, The nascent sculptor, with his imaginative brain, artistic eye, and clever fingers, caught at the idea on the instant. And forthwith they set to work, my mother explaining the poet’s conceptions, suggesting the composition of “tableaux,” and supplying details, while Powers designed and executed the figures and the necessary mise en scène.{177}

Some months of preparation were needed before the work could be accomplished, and Dorfeuille, I remember, began to have misgivings as to recouping himself for the not inconsiderable cost. But at last all was ready. A vast amount of curiosity had been excited in the place by preliminary announcements, and the result was an immense success. I have preserved for nearly sixty years, and have now before me, the programme and bill of the exhibition as it was drawn up by my mother. It is truly a curiosity in its kind, and I am tempted to reproduce it here. But it is too long, occupying four pages of a folio sheet. There are quotations from the Inferno, translated by my mother (no copy of any published translation being then and there procurable), explanations of the author’s meaning, and descriptions in very bugaboo style, and in every variety of type with capitals of every sort of size, of all the horrors of the supposed scene.

The success was so great, and the curiosity, not only of the Cincinnati world but of the farmers round about and their families, was so eager, that the press of spectators was inconveniently great, and M. Dorfeuille began to fear that his properties might be damaged by indiscreet desires to touch as well as see. So Powers arranged a slight metal rod as a barrier between the show and the spectators, and contrived to charge it with electricity, while an announcement, couched in terrible and mystic terms and in verse, by my mother, to the effect that an awful doom awaited any mortal rash enough to approach{178} the mysteries of the nether world too nearly, was appended to the doors and walls. The astonishment and dismay felt, and the laughter provoked, by those who were rash enough to do so, may be imagined!

Upon the whole those autumn and winter months passed pleasantly, and have left pleasant recollections in my memory. Doubtless there were many causes of anxiety for my elders; but to the best of my remembrance they touched us young people very lightly. We had many more or less agreeable acquaintances, and I have a vivid recollection of the pleasure I received from the fact that they all belonged to types that were altogether new to me—if indeed it could be said of people, to me so apparently unclassifiable, that they belonged to any type at all. The cleverest among them was a Dr. Price, a very competent physician with a large practice, a foolish friendly little wife and a pair of pretty daughters. He was a jovial, florid, rotund little man who professed, more even, as I remember, to my astonishment than my horror, perfect Atheism. His wife and daughters used to go to church without apparently producing the slightest interruption of domestic harmony. “La! the Doctor don’t think anything more of the Bible than of an old newspaper!” Mrs. Price would say; “but then doctors, you know, they have their own opinions!” And the girls used to say, “Papa is an Atheist,” just as they would have said of the multiform persuasions of their acquaintances, “Mr. This is a Baptist,” and “Mrs.{179} That is a Methodist.” And I remember well the confusion and displacement occasioned in my mind by finding that Dr. Price did not seem on the whole to be an abandoned man, and enjoyed to a high degree the respect of his townsmen.

The two pretty daughters, girls of eighteen or nineteen, used to have at their house frequent dances. We were constant and welcome guests, but alas! I was not—either then or ever since—a dancer; the reason being precisely the same as that which prevented my fighting at Winchester, as above recorded. I was too shy! In other words I had too low an opinion of myself, of my performance as a dancer, should I attempt it, and above all of my acceptability as a partner, ever to overcome my diffidence.

I was, as I have said when speaking of my earliest years, by no means a prepossessing child, and as a young man I was probably less so. I had never any sort of pretension to good looks, or to elegance of figure. I was five feet eight in height, and thick, sturdy, and ungainly in make, healthy and pure in complexion and skin as a baby, but with an “abbreviated nose”—as George Eliot says of me in finding me like a portrait of Galileo—and pale coloured lanky hair. All which would not have signified a button, if I could have been as ignorant of the facts in question as hundreds of my contemporaries, labouring under equal disadvantages, were in their own case; but I was not ignorant of these facts, and the consciousness of them constituted a most mischievous{180} and disqualifying little repast off the tree of knowledge. It has, among many other results, prevented me from ever dancing. I should have liked much, very much to do so. I was abundantly well disposed to seek the society of the other sex. Though I never had a very perfect ear for tune, I had a markedly strong perception of time, and feeling for rhythm, and therefore should probably have danced well. But the persuasion that any girl, whom I might have induced to dance with me, would have far rather been dancing with somebody else, was too much for me!

I should unquestionably have been a far happier young fellow, if I had 성남오피 undoubtingly believed myself to have been adapted in all respects to attract the favourable attention and conciliate the liking of all I met. But can I even now, looking back over the vista of sixty years, regret that I was able to see myself as others saw me, and wish that I had inhabited that fool’s paradise, which is planted with conceits in place of insights?

So I got no dancing with the Cincinnati girls. But there were theatricals, also at the house of Dr. and Mrs. Price, and in those I did not refuse to join. It may seem that this would have been at least as great a trial to a shy man as any other form of self-exhibition; but it was not so. I think, so far as I am able at this distance of time to examine my mind upon the subject, it would have been impossible for me to attempt the representation of any personage intended to be attractive to the spectator, or{181} such as to be confounded in his mind with my own personality. But it was proposed that I should act Falstaff in the Merry Wives of Windsor, and to this the difficulties referred to did not apply. I played Falstaff with immense success to an assuredly not very critical audience. My own impression however is, that I did it well. I think that I had reason to flatter myself, as I did flatter myself at the time, that all those, who heard me, understood the play, and enjoyed the humour of the situations better than they had done before.

I have played many parts since on various stages in different parts of the world, but that, I think, was my sole Shakesperian attempt. And the members of that merry and kindly theatrical company! They have made their last exit from the larger boards we are all treading, every man and woman, every lad and lass of them. Not one but the old Falstaff of the company remains to write this chronicle of sixty years since!

There were very few formal meetings among the notabilities of the little Cincinnati world of that time, but there was an amount of homely friendliness that impressed me very favourably; and there was plenty of that generous and abounding hospitality which subsequent experience has taught me to consider an especially American characteristic. I have since that time shared the splendid hospitality of splendid American hosts, and I have been under American roofs where there was little save a heartfelt welcome to offer. But the heart{182}warming effect produced by the latter was the same in both cases. How often have we all sat at magnificent boards where the host’s too evident delight consisted in giving you what you could not give him, and in the exulting manifestation of his magnificence. This is very rarely the feeling of an American host. He is thinking not of himself, but of you; and the object he is striving at when giving you of his best is that you should enjoy yourself while under his roof; that you should have, as he would phrase it, “a good time.” And upon my word he almost invariably succeeds.

Nor were the Cincinnati girls in 1829 like the New York belles of 1887. But there was much of the same charm about them, which arises from unaffected and unself-regarding desire to please. American girls are accused of being desperate flirts. But many an Englishman has been deceived by imagining that the smiles and cheerfulness and laughing chatter of some charming girl new to Europe were intended for his special benefit, when they were in truth only the perfectly natural and unaffected outcome of a desire to do her duty in that state of life to which it had pleased God to call her! Only beams falling, like those of the sun, upon the just and the unjust alike!

There is another point on which Americans, both men and women, are very generally called over the coals by English people, as I think somewhat unreasonably. They are, it is said, everlastingly talking about the greatness and grandeur of their{183} country, and never easy without extorting admissions of this. All this is to a great extent true—at least to this extent, that an American is always pleased to hear the greatness of his country recognised. But when I remember the thoroughness with which that cardinal article of an Englishman’s faith (sixty years ago!), that every Englishman could thrash three Frenchmen, was enforced with entire success on my youthful mind, I can hardly find it in my conscience to blame an American’s pride in his country. Why, good heavens! what an insensible block he would be if he was not proud of his country, to whose greatness, it is to be observed, each individual American now extant has contributed in a greater degree than can be said to be the case as regards England and every extant Englishman; inasmuch as our position has been won by the work of, say, a thousand years, and his by that of less than a century. Surely the creation of the United States as they now exist within that time is such a feat of human intelligence and energy as the world has never before seen, and is scarcely likely to see again. I confess that the expression of American patriotism is never offensive to me. I feel somewhat as the old Cornish wrestler felt, who said with immense pride, when he was told that his son had “whopped” the whole parish, “Ay, I should think so! Why, he has whopped me afore now!”

Yes! I liked the Americans as I first made acquaintance with them almost among the back{184}woods at Cincinnati sixty years ago; and I like them as I have since known them better. For I have seen a great deal of them; far more than an Englishman living at home would be likely to do, during my many years’ residence in Italy. The American “colony,” to use the common though incorrect phrase, is large both at Florence and in Rome—of late years fully as large, I think, as that from England. And not only do the two bodies associate indiscriminately with each other in perfect neighbourliness and good fellowship, but they do so, forming one single oasis in the midst of the surrounding continental life, in a manner which makes one constantly feel how infinitely nearer an American is to an Englishman in ideas, habits, ways, and civilisation, than either of them are to any other denizen of earth’s surface.

I was sorry when the time came for us to leave Cincinnati, though as usual with me, the prospect of the journey, which we were to make by a different route from that by which we had travelled westward, was a joy and a consolation. My father and I returned, leaving my mother, my two sisters still quite children, and my brother Henry at Cincinnati. The proposed institution—bazaar, athenæum, lecture-hall, or whatever it was to be, or to be called—had been determined on, and the site, to the best of my recollection, selected and purchased; but nothing had yet been done towards raising the building. Contracts had been entered into, and my father was on his return to London{185} to send out a quantity of goods for the carrying out of the commercial part of the scheme.

He did so. But I had no share in or knowledge of the operations undertaken for this purpose, and may therefore as well relate here the upshot of the ill-fated enterprise. I learned subsequently that very large quantities of goods were sent out, of kinds and qualities totally unfitted for the purpose. The building was duly raised, and I have been told by Americans who had seen it, that it was a handsome and imposing one. But the net result was disaster and ruin. My father having been educated to be a Chancery barrister, was a good one. He became a farmer with no training or knowledge necessary for the calling, and it proved ruinous to him. He then embarked on this commercial speculation, which, inasmuch as he was still more ignorant of all such matters, than he was even of farming, turned out still more entirely disastrous.

My father and I, as I have said, did not return from Cincinnati to New York by성남오피
  • the same route by which we had travelled westward. We went by the lakes and Niagara, visiting also Trenton Falls en route. Had I written this page immediately after my journey, instead of sixty years after, I might have been justified in attempting—and no doubt should in any case have attempted—some description of the great “water privilege,” which I saw as it will never be seen again. The two great cataclysms which have occurred since that time, have entirely changed, and in a great measure{186} spoiled, the great sight. And now, I am told, this “so-called nineteenth century” (as I read the other day in the fervid discourse of some pessimist orator) intends before it closes to utilise the lake as a milldam and the fall as so much “power.”

I remember that I enjoyed Trenton most. It appealed much less, of course, to 성남오피 the imagination and the sense of wonder, but far more to one’s, appreciation of the beautiful.

Our Niagara visit was in great measure spoiled by my father’s illness. He was suffering from one of his worst sick headaches. He dragged himself painfully to the usual spot near the hotel whence the fall is commanded, and, having looked, got back to his bed. I had plenty of hours at my disposal for rambling in all directions, but, as usual with me, had not a coin of any sort in my pocket. The fall and its environs were not as jealously locked and gated and guarded as has been the case since; but I was assured that I should be very unwise to attempt to penetrate below and behind the fall without a guide, and I should have been most willing to employ one had I possessed the means. But to lose the opportunity of enjoying a sight to which I had so eagerly looked forward, was out of the question; and I did succeed in making my way by the slippery and rather terrible path behind the fall, rewarded by an effect of the sun on the sheet of falling water as perfect and admirable as if it had been ordered expressly for me, and none the worse for the enterprise save returning to the inn{187} as thoroughly drenched as if I had been dragged through the fall! Little enough I cared for that—in those days!

I may mention here one of those singular coincidences which, though in reality so frequently occurring, are objected to in a novelist’s pages as passing the bounds of credibility. Many years after the date of my visit to Niagara the mother of my present wife was there, and saw from the balcony of the hotel a boat with two rowers in it, who had incautiously approached too near the fall, carried over it! Her account of the horror of the sight, and of the sudden and evident despair of the frantically struggling rowers was very impressive, and hardly less so when I heard it for the second time from an American met by chance in Italy, who, sitting in that same balcony at that same hour, had witnessed the same catastrophe!

At New York we were again most kindly and cordially received by Mr. Wilkes, who gave my father much advice respecting his projected Cincinnati venture—advice wholly, as I take it, ignored.

Taught by experience, however, my father did not attempt a second steerage passage. We came back comfortably enough, and had an entirely prosperous voyage, the result being that my remembrances of it are very far less vivid than those of my steerage experience. We reached England in March, and again took up our abode at Harrow Weald, where I, with such very imperfect means{188} and appliances as were at my disposition, was to employ the abundant hours in preparing, in accordance with my own unassisted lights, for the university.

Bad, however, as my father’s circumstances were at this time, and little pleasant in any way as was our life in the farm-house at Harrow Weald, I remember an excursion made by him and me, the only object of which, I think, could have been amusement. My father had an old friend named Skinner (no relative of the vicar of my uncle Meetkerke’s parish of Julians, of whom I have spoken in a former chapter), who was the rector of a parish near Bath. He was a widower, living with an only daughter, and was, I remember, an enthusiastic student of ancient British history in connection with the localities around him. One of the two days we remained with him was devoted to a visit to Cheddar Cliffs. Mr. Skinner mounted us, and we rode a partie carrée, he and my father, Miss Skinner and I, some twelve or fourteen miles to Cheddar. She was a pretty, bright girl, and I found her a charming companion in a scramble to the top of the cliffs overlooking the gorge through which the road runs. We became, indeed, such good friends, that, on our homeward ride, we gradually drew away from our respective parents and reached home a good half hour before they did—which procured for us both a scolding for knocking the horses up.{189}

It was roughish riding, too, as I remember, for the road was very different from what I found it some months ago, when, revisiting Cheddar, I saw on the top of the hill a notice to bicycle riders that the descent is dangerous for them.{190}