Chapter 4 From the Honourable Edward Antrobus, M.P., In Boston, To th_onourable Mrs. Antrobus
My Dear Susan—I sent you a post-card on the 13th and a native newspape_esterday; I really have had no time to write. I sent you the newspaper partl_ecause it contained a report—extremely incorrect—of some remarks I made a_he meeting of the Association of the Teachers of New England; partly becaus_t is so curious that I thought it would interest you and the children. I cu_ut some portions which I didn't think it would be well for the children t_ee; the parts remaining contain the most striking features. Please point ou_o the children the peculiar orthography, which probably will be adopted i_ngland by the time they are grown up; the amusing oddities of expression,
etc. Some of them are intentional; you will have heard of the celebrate_merican humour, etc. (remind me, by the way, on my return to Thistleton, t_ive you a few examples of it); others are unconscious, and are perhaps o_hat account the more diverting. Point out to the children the difference (i_o far as you are sure that you yourself perceive it). You must excuse me i_hese lines are not very legible; I am writing them by the light of a railwa_amp, which rattles above my left ear; it being only at odd moments that I ca_ind time to look into everything that I wish to. You will say that this is _ery odd moment, indeed, when I tell you that I am in bed in a sleeping- car.
I occupy the upper berth (I will explain to you the arrangement when _eturn), while the lower forms the couch—the jolts are fearful—of an unknow_emale. You will be very anxious for my explanation; but I assure you that i_s the custom of the country. I myself am assured that a lady may travel i_his manner all over the Union (the Union of States) without a loss o_onsideration. In case of her occupying the upper berth I presume it would b_ifferent; but I must make inquiries on this point. Whether it be the fac_hat a mysterious being of another sex has retired to rest behind the sam_urtains, or whether it be the swing of the train, which rushes through th_ir with very much the same movement as the tail of a kite, the situation is,
at any rate, so anomalous that I am unable to sleep. A ventilator is open jus_ver my head, and a lively draught, mingled with a drizzle of cinders, pour_n through this ingenious orifice. (I will describe to you its form on m_eturn.) If I had occupied the lower berth I should have had a whole window t_yself, and by drawing back the blind (a safe proceeding at the dead o_ight), I should have been able, by the light of an extraordinary brillian_oon, to see a little better what I write. The question occurs to me,
however,—Would the lady below me in that case have ascended to the uppe_erth? (You know my old taste for contingent inquiries.) I incline to think
(from what I have seen) that she would simply have requested me to evacuate m_wn couch. (The ladies in this country ask for anything they want.) In thi_ase, I suppose, I should have had an extensive view of the country, which,
from what I saw of it before I turned in (while the lady beneath me was goin_o bed), offered a rather ragged expanse, dotted with little white woode_ouses, which looked in the moonshine like pasteboard boxes. I have bee_nable to ascertain as precisely as I should wish by whom these modes_esidences are occupied; for they are too small to be the homes of countr_entlemen, there is no peasantry here, and (in New England, for all the cor_omes from the far West) there are no yeomen nor farmers. The information tha_ne receives in this country is apt to be rather conflicting, but I a_etermined to sift the mystery to the bottom. I have already noted down _ultitude of facts bearing upon the points that interest me most—the operatio_f the school- boards, the co-education of the sexes, the elevation of th_one of the lower classes, the participation of the latter in political life.
Political life, indeed, is almost wholly confined to the lower middle class,
and the upper section of the lower class. In some of the large towns, indeed,
the lowest order of all participates considerably—a very interesting phrase,
to which I shall give more attention. It is very gratifying to see the tast_or public affairs pervading so many social strata; but the indifference o_he gentry is a fact not to be lightly considered. It may be objected, indeed,
that there are no gentry; and it is very true that I have not yet encountere_ character of the type of Lord Bottomley,—a type which I am free to confess _hould be sorry to see disappear from our English system, if system it may b_alled, where so much is the growth of blind and incoherent forces. It i_evertheless obvious that an idle and luxurious class exists in this country,
and that it is less exempt than in our own from the reproach of preferrin_nglorious ease to the furtherance of liberal ideas. It is rapidly increasing,
and I am not sure that the indefinite growth of the dilettante spirit, i_onnection with large and lavishly-expended wealth, is an unmixed good, eve_n a society in which freedom of development has obtained so many interestin_riumphs. The fact that this body is not represented in the governing class,
is perhaps as much the result of the jealousy with which it is viewed by th_ore earnest workers as of its own—I dare not, perhaps, apply a harsher ter_han—levity. Such, at least, is the impression I have gathered in the Middl_tates and in New England; in the South-west, the North-west, and the fa_est, it will doubtless be liable to correction. These divisions are probabl_ew to you; but they are the general denomination of large and flourishin_ommunities, with which I hope to make myself at least superficiall_cquainted. The fatigue of traversing, as I habitually do, three or fou_undred miles at a bound, is, of course, considerable; but there is usuall_uch to inquire into by the way. The conductors of the trains, with whom _reely converse, are often men of vigorous and original minds, and even o_ome social eminence. One of them, a few days ago, gave me a letter o_ntroduction to his brother-in-law, who is president of a Western University.
Don't have any fear, therefore, that I am not in the best society! Th_rrangements for travelling are, as a general thing, extremely ingenious, a_ou will probably have inferred from what I told you above; but it must at th_ame time be conceded that some of them are more ingenious than happy. Some o_he facilities, with regard to luggage, the transmission of parcels, etc., ar_oubtless very useful when explained, but I have not yet succeeded i_astering the intricacies. There are, on the other hand, no cabs and n_orters, and I have calculated that I have myself carried m_mpedimenta—which, you know, are somewhat numerous, and from which I canno_ear to be separated—some seventy, or eighty miles. I have sometimes though_t was a great mistake not to bring Plummeridge; he would have been useful o_uch occasions. On the other hand, the startling question would have presente_tself—Who would have carried Plummeridge's portmanteau? He would have bee_seful, indeed, for brushing and packing my clothes, and getting me my tub; _ravel with a large tin one—there are none to be obtained at the inns—and th_ransport of this receptacle often presents the most insoluble difficulties.
It is often, too, an object of considerable embarrassment in arriving a_rivate houses, where the servants have less reserve of manner than i_ngland; and to tell you the truth, I am by no means certain at the presen_oment that the tub has been placed in the train with me. "On board" the trai_s the consecrated phrase here; it is an allusion to the tossing and pitchin_f the concatenation of cars, so similar to that of a vessel in a storm. As _as about to inquire, however, Who would get Plummeridge HIS tub, and atten_o his little comforts? We could not very well make our appearance, on comin_o stay with people, with TWO of the utensils I have named; though, as regard_ single one, I have had the courage, as I may say, of a life-long habit. I_ould hardly be expected that we should both use the same; though there hav_een occasions in my travels, as to which I see no way of blinking the fact,
that Plummeridge would have had to sit down to dinner with me. Such _ontingency would completely have unnerved him; and, on the whole, it wa_oubtless the wiser part to leave him respectfully touching his hat on th_ender in the Mersey. No one touches his hat over here, and though it i_oubtless the sign of a more advanced social order, I confess that when I se_oor Plummeridge again, this familiar little gesture— familiar, I mean, onl_n the sense of being often seen—will give me a measurable satisfaction. Yo_ill see from what I tell you that democracy is not a mere word in thi_ountry, and I could give you many more instances of its universal reign.
This, however, is what we come here to look at, and, in so far as there seem_o be proper occasion, to admire; though I am by no means sure that we ca_ope to establish within an appreciable time a corresponding change in th_omewhat rigid fabric of English manners. I am not even prepared to affir_hat such a change is desirable; you know this is one of the points on which _o not as yet see my way to going as far as Lord B— . I have always held tha_here is a certain social ideal of inequality as well as of equality, and if _ave found the people of this country, as a general thing, quite equal to eac_ther, I am not sure that I am prepared to go so far as to say that, as _hole, they are equal to—excuse that dreadful blot! The movement of the trai_nd the precarious nature of the light—it is close to my nose, and mos_ffensive—would, I flatter myself, long since have got the better of a les_esolute diarist! What I was not prepared for was the very considerable bod_f aristocratic feeling that lurks beneath this republican simplicity. I hav_n several occasions been made the confidant of these romantic but delusiv_agaries, of which the stronghold appears to be the Empire City,—a slang nam_or New York. I was assured in many quarters that that locality, at least, i_ipe for a monarchy, and if one of the Queen's sons would come and talk i_ver, he would meet with the highest encouragement. This information was give_e in strict confidence, with closed doors, as it were; it reminded me a goo_eal of the dreams of the old Jacobites, when they whispered their messages t_he king across the water. I doubt, however, whether these less excusabl_isionaries will be able to secure the services of a Pretender, for I fea_hat in such a case he would encounter a still more fatal Culloden. I hav_iven a good deal of time, as I told you, to the educational system, and hav_isited no fewer than one hundred and forty—three schools and colleges. It i_xtraordinary, the number of persons who are being educated in this country;
and yet, at the same time, the tone of the people is less scholarly than on_ight expect. A lady, a few days since, described to me her daughter as bein_lways "on the go," which I take to be a jocular way of saying that the youn_ady was very fond of paying visits. Another person, the wife of a Unite_tates senator, informed me that if I should go to Washington in January, _hould be quite "in the swim." I inquired the meaning of the phrase, but he_xplanation made it rather more than less ambiguous. To say that I am on th_o describes very accurately my own situation. I went yesterday to th_ognanuc High School, to hear fifty-seven boys and girls recite in unison _ost remarkable ode to the American flag, and shortly afterward attended _adies' lunch, at which some eighty or ninety of the sex were present. Ther_as only one individual in trousers—his trousers, by the way, though h_rought a dozen pair, are getting rather seedy. The men in America do no_artake of this meal, at which ladies assemble in large numbers to discus_eligions, political, and social topics. These immense female symposia (a_hich every delicacy is provided) are one of the most striking features o_merican life, and would seem to prove that men are not so indispensable i_he scheme of creation as they sometimes suppose. I have been admitted on th_ooting of an Englishman—"just to show you some of our bright women," th_ostess yesterday remarked. ("Bright" here has the meaning of INTELLECTUAL.) _erceived, indeed, a great many intellectual foreheads. These curiou_ollations are organised according to age. I have also been present as a_nquiring stranger at several "girls' lunches," from which married ladies ar_igidly excluded, but where the fair revellers are equally numerous an_qually bright. There is a good deal I should like to tell you about my stud_f the educational question, but my position is somewhat cramped, and I mus_ismiss it briefly. My leading impression is that the children in this countr_re better educated than the adults. The position of a child is, on the whole,
one of great distinction. There is a popular ballad of which the refrain, if _m not mistaken, is "Make me a child again, just for to-night!" and whic_eems to express the sentiment of regret for lost privileges. At all event_hey are a powerful and independent class, and have organs, of immens_irculation, in the press. They are often extremely "bright." I have talke_ith a great many teachers, most of them lady-teachers, as they are called i_his country. The phrase does not mean teachers of ladies, as you migh_uppose, but applies to the sex of the instructress, who often has larg_lasses of young men under her control. I was lately introduced to a youn_oman of twenty-three, who occupies the chair of Moral Philosophy and Belles-
Lettres in a Western college, and who told me with the utmost frankness tha_he was adored by the undergraduates. This young woman was the daughter of _etty trader in one of the South western States, and had studied at Amand_ollege, in Missourah, an institution at which young people of the two sexe_ursue their education together. She was very pretty and modest, and expresse_ great desire to see something of English country life, in consequence o_hich I made her promise to come down to Thistleton in the event of he_rossing the Atlantic. She is not the least like Gwendolen or Charlotte, and _m not prepared to say how they would get on with her; the boys would probabl_o better. Still, I think her acquaintance would be of value to Miss Bumpus,
and the two might pass their time very pleasantly in the school-room. I gran_ou freely that those I have seen here are much less comfortable than th_chool-room at Thistleton. Has Charlotte, by the way, designed any more text_or the walls? I have been extremely interested in my visit to Philadelphia,
where I saw several thousand little red houses with white steps, occupied b_ntelligent artizans, and arranged (in streets) on the rectangular system.
Improved cooking-stoves, rosewood pianos, gas, and hot water, aestheti_urniture, and complete sets of the British Essayists. A tramway through ever_treet; every block of equal length; blocks and houses scientifically lettere_nd numbered. There is absolutely no loss of time, and no need of looking fo_nything, or, indeed, at anything. The mind always on one's object; it is ver_elightful.