« ForrigeFortsæt »
conducting me back at a fine season of the year, and had always found in traversing the same route. The England of that date (1794) exhibited many similar cases. At present there is but one stage in all England, where a traveller, without regard to weight, is called upon to take four horses; and that is at Ambleside, in going by the direct road to Carlisle. The first stage to Patterdale lies over the mountain of Kirkstone, and the ascent is not only toilsome, (continuing for above three miles, with occasional intermissions,) but at times is carried over summits too steep for a road by all the rules of engineering, and yet too little frequented to offer any means of repaying the cost of smoothing the difficulties.
It was not until after the year 1815 that the main improvement took place in the English travelling system, so far as regarded speed. It is, in reality, to Mr. M'Adam that we owe it. All the roads in England, within a few years, were remodelled, and upon principles of Roman science. From mere beds of torrents, and systems of ruts, they were raised universally to the condition and appearance of gravel walks in private parks or shrubberies. The average rate of velocity was, in consequence, exactly doubled-ten miles an hour being now generally accomplished, instead of five. And at the moment when all further improvement upon this system had become hopeless, a new prospect was suddenly opened to us by railroads; which again, considering how much they have already exceeded the maximum of possibility, as laid down by all engineers during the progress of the Manchester and Liverpool line, may soon give way to new modes of locomotion still more astonishing to our preconceptions.
One point of refinement, as regards the comfort of travellers, remains to be mentioned, in which the improve
ment began a good deal earlier, perhaps by ten years, than in the construction of the roads. Luxurious as was the system of English travelling at all periods, after the general establishment of post-chaises, it must be granted that, in the circumstance of cleanliness, there was far from being that attention, or that provision for the traveller's comfort, which might have been anticipated from the general habits of the country. I, at all periods of my life, a great traveller, was witness to the first steps and the whole struggle of this revolution. Maréchal Saxe professed always to look under his bed, applying his caution chiefly to the attempts of robbers. Now, if at the greatest inns of England you had, in the days I speak of, adopted this Maréchal's policy of reconnoitring, what would you have seen? Beyond a doubt you would have seen what, upon all principles of seniority, was entitled to your veneration, viz., a dense accumulation of dust far older than yourself. A foreign author made some experiments upon the deposition of dust, and the rate of its accumulation, in a room left wholly undisturbed. If I recollect, a century would produce a stratum about half an inch in depth. Upon this principle, I conjecture that much dust which I have seen in inns, during the first four or five years of the present century, must have belonged to the reign of George II. It was, however, upon travellers by coaches that the full oppression of the old vicious system operated. The elder Scaliger mentions, as a characteristic of the English in his day, a horror of ablution in cold water. Nowhere could he and his foreign companions obtain the luxury of cold water for washing their hands, either before or after dinner. One day he and his party dined with the Lord Chancellor; and now, thought he, for very shame they will allow us some means of purification. Not at all: the Chancellor viewed this outlandish novelty with the same
jealousy as others. However, on the earnest petition of Scaliger, he made an order that a basin or other vessel of cold water should be produced, His household bowed to this judgment, and a slop basin was cautiously introduced. 'What!' said Scaliger, only one, and we so many?' Even that one contained but a tea-cup full of water; but the great scholar soon found that he must be thankful for what he had got. It had cost the whole strength of the English Chancery to produce that single cup of water; and for that day, no man in his senses could look for a second. Pretty much the same struggle, and for the same cheap reform, commenced about the year 1805-6. Postchaise travellers could, of course, have what they liked, and generally they asked for a bed-room. It is of coach travellers I speak. And the particular innovation in question commenced, as was natural, with the mail-coach, which, from the much higher scale of its fares, commanded a much more select class of company. I was a party to the very earliest attempts at breaking ground in this alarming revolution. Well do I remember the astonishment of some waiters, the indignation of others, the sympathetic uproars which spread to the bar, to the kitchen, and even to the stables, at the first opening of our extravagant demands. Sometimes even the landlady thought the case worthy of her interference, and came forward to remonstrate with us upon our unheard-of conduct. But gradually we made way. Like Scaliger, at first we got but one basin amongst us, and that one was brought into the breakfast-room; but scarcely had two years revolved before we began to see four, and all appurtenances, arranged duly in correspondence to the number of inside passengers by the mail: and, as outside travelling was continually gaining ground amongst the wealthier classes, more comprehensive arrangements were often
made; though, even to this day, so much influence survives, from the original aristocratic principle upon which public carriages were constructed, that, on the mailcoaches there still prevails the most scandalous inattention to the comfort, and even to the security, of the outside passengers; a slippery glazed roof frequently makes the sitting a matter of effort and anxiety, whilst the little iron side-rail of four inches in height serves no one purpose but that of bruising the thigh. Concurrently with these reforms in the system of personal cleanliness, others were silently making way through all departments of the household economy. Dust, from the reign of George II., became scarcer; gradually it came to bear an antiquarian value basins and vases de nuit lost their grim appearance, and looked as clean as in gentlemen's houses. And at length the whole system was so thoroughly ventilated and purified, that all good inns, nay, generally speaking, even second-rate inns, at this day, reflect the best features, as to cleanliness and neatness, of well-managed private establishments.
THE reader who may have accompanied me in these wandering memorials of my one life and casual experiences, will be aware that I have brought them forward with little regard to their exact order of succession. In reference to that particular object which governed me in bringing them forward at all—an object which I shall, perhaps, explain pointedly in my closing paper-it was of very little importance to consult the chronologies of the case, except in so far as sometimes it may have happened that the precise dates of a transaction were of some negative value towards its verification. Consequently, I have wandered backwards and forwards, obeying any momentary impulse, as accident or sometimes even as purely verbal suggestions might arise to guide me. But, in many cases, this neglect of chronological order is not merely permitted—it is in fact to some degree inevitable; for there are cases which, as a whole, connect themselves with my own life, at so many different eras, that, upon
*Negative! - why negative value?' I hear some young readers exclaim. As it is always of importance to cultivate accuracy of thinking, and as I never wish to use words (wrong or right otherwise) without a distinct meaning, I reply that the chronology has a negative value in this sense being false, it would have upset the story although, being true, it did not establish that story.