Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

one of earth. The system of agriculture, I should say, was very primitive, but painstaking. Indeed, the life of New England farmers is no easy one. They rise early, work hard, and toil year after year with bare returns for their labours. Why a man is a farmer in Massachusetts, or, for that matter, anywhere, is a mystery. I can only account for it by the, to me, unintelligible passion for the possession of land. The farms in the country districts have many of them remained in the same family from the earliest days of the colony. Property, as in almost all parts of America, is divided equally by custom not by law. Any man is at perfect liberty to make whatever disposition of his estate he thinks fit. As a rule, the eldest son of a New England farmer takes the farm, mortgages it deeply, to pay off his brothers' and sisters' shares in the estate, and then toils on, throughout his life perhaps, to clear off the incumbrances which eat up his scanty profits. Whenever the struggle becomes too hard, the great West is always open to give the settler a new start in life under kindlier auspices, and therefore real poverty is almost unknown in New England. As long, however, as the Massachusetts yeoman can make both ends meet in any way, he prefers to drag on his life at home.

Yet with all this, I saw nowhere the trace of poverty. I drove for miles along the pleasant country-roads, with their broad roadside strips of turf and their English hedge-rows; I passed through villages without end ; and yet I never saw a cottage about which there was the unmistakeable stamp of want. It is true that white paint conceals a good deal of dirt, but still I saw no single cottage in which I should think it a hardship to have to live. Most of them had gardens, where wild vines and honeysuckles and roses were trained carefully. Through the windows you could see sofas, and rocking-chairs, and books, and lamps—all signs evidencing some degree of wealth, or at least of comfort. The poorest cottages were always those of the raw Irish emigrants, but still there was hardly one of them which was not a palace compared with the cottage of an ordinary English labourer, to say nothing of Ireland. It is curious, by the way, that there is a great deal of the old English prejudice against the Irish in New England. Intermarriages between the poor Irish and the poor New Englanders are almost unheard of, and it is a most unusual occurrence for an Irishman to be elected to any office in the State. However, the Irish make and, what is more, save money; and for the most part lose both race and language and religion in the third generation. The German element seems to be very small. A German name over a shop-door is a rare sight in the New England villages, and the names that catch a traveller's eye are good old English ones, such as Hurst, Bassett, College, Thompson, and Packard.

Of all country houses I have been in, some I know of near Boston seem to me about the pleasantest. There is no style, and very little pretension of any kind about them. There are none but women-servants, and but few of them. There are no luxurious carriages, and if you want riding-horses you must hire them. There is no display of plate or liveries; and you dine at two o'clock, and do not dress for dinner. Possibly for this cause you are all the more comfortable. At any rate, you have everything that, to my mind, a country house ought to have. There are pleasant gardens and shady walks, warm rooms and large old grates, easy chairs without number, portraits of English ancestors who lived and died before America was ever heard of, good libraries, and excellent cookery. Added to all this, you are in an English atmosphere-very welcome to an Englishman. You find English books about you, read English newspapers, and are talked to with English talk. The latest English criticisms, the gossip of the English book-world, the passing incidents of English life, “ Essays and Reviews," and the Kennedy law case, are topics about which your hosts know as much, and perhaps care more, than you do yourself. Indeed, it often struck me that my Boston friends knew more about England than they did about America. I say this in no depreciation of their patriotism. It may seem strange to English critics—who are wont to assume, as a selfevident axiom, that America is a hateful country, and that the system of American Government is repulsive to every educated and refined mind-to discover, as they would do by a short residence at Boston, that men of genius and men of letters—men whose names are known and honoured wherever the English language is read feel as proud of their own country and as proud of their own institutions as if they had been Englishmen. I do not say, that the feeling towards England is more friendly in Boston than elsewhere in the States ; perhaps it is even less so. The community of feeling, and sentiment, and literature, between New and Old England has caused the New Englanders to feel more bitterly than other Americans what they consider, justly or unjustly, the sins of England towards the Union ; but, in spite of themselves, the old love for England still crops out, in the almost touching cordiality with which an Englishman is welcomed here. Just as the artist world of Europe, willingly or unwillingly, turns to Italy as the home of Art, so the mind, and culture, and genius of America turns, and will turn for many long years yet, to the mother-country as the home of her language, and history, and literature. That this should be so is an honour to England, and, like all honours, it entails a responsibility.

THE NEW ENGLAND ABOLITIONISTS.

DURING the early part of June, when I first came to Boston, the Army of the Potomac had advanced beyond York Town, and the North was expecting daily to hear of the capture of Richmond. Towards the middle of June, in the weeks that just preceded the Chickahominy battles, there grew up, for the first time, a feeling of popular anxiety about the issue of the campaign. The national hopes, though they had not yet begun to waver, were not very vivid. Even the New York papers were at their wits' ends to produce sensation paragraphs, and contented themselves with oracular statements, that “ a gentleman of intelligence, recently returned from “Richmond, was convinced that McClellan's plans must “ be crowned with ultimate success.” The long-suffering patience, I may remark, with which the American people awaited McClellan's action was a remarkable trait of the national character. With the exception of the New York Tribune, and its namesake of Chicago, there was not a paper of any eminence in the North

« AnteriorContinuar »