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From the New Monthly Magazine.
EUROPEAN LIFE AND MANNERS.
European Life and Manners; in Familiar Letters to Friends. BY HENRY COLMAN, Author of "European Agriculture, and the Agriculture of France, Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland." 2 vols.
WHEN the famous Baron Munchausen fastened his horse, one dark winter's night, after a deep fall of snow, to what he supposed was the stump of a tree, and waking next morning saw his steed dangling from the village steeple, his surprise, as surprise, as he avouches, was extreme. Apparently, how ever, the veracious baron's astonishment was scarcely greater than that of the author of the "Familiar Letters" on "European Life and Manners," when he found that his friends had actually preserved the numerous epistles which he wrote to them from this side of the Atlantic during a sojourn in Europe of something more than five years. This being the case, our readers do not require to be told that "the letters were not designed for publication." Yet, after all, such was their destiny. Fate proved stronger than free-will. Their extraordinary merit had somehow got bruited abroad; "many friends expressed a strong wish to possess them, and that," adds Mr. Colman, "is the reason of their publication."
Boston and London. 1849.
try to make the most of it. It is not often that we have the opportunity of gazing upon such a "picture of private and domestic life."
In painting this picture, however, Mr. Colman says that his greatest difficulty has been that his letters " may be deemed too personal ;" and his principal anxiety, "lest they should be thought to approach a violation of private confidence.' He certainly does make some revelations which border closely on personality, but how far he is obnoxious to the charge of violating private confidence our readers shall form their own opinion. It was, at first, Mr. Colman's determination not to publish a single name; but he "found this an idle attempt, and that individuals would be traced by circumstances, as certainly as if distinctly announced." To this account, therefore, must be placed the greater part of the startling discoveries which his volumes have made public; and all we can hope is, that the individuals whose "style of living" he has sketched with the minute We cannot but think that Mr. Colman pencil of a Gerard Douw, will be as lenient was right in yielding to the widely-extended to him as ourselves. They ought to be so, solicitation; for, though he might have for, according to Mr. Colman's showing, satisfied his friends by a manifold process on "pains were most kindly taken to initiate me a large scale, or even by lithographic aid, into those particulars; the information was, the object which those who do not write though entirely without ostentation, most for publication have generally in view, would kindly given; written lists of servants, and hardly have been answered; the letters written and printed rules of domestic managewould not have obtained the popularity ment, were repeatedly placed in my hands, which now that they are in print seems with a full and expressed liberty to use them likely to attend them; neither would the as I pleased." To violate private confidence, world have experienced the gratification as far as these things are concerned, is conwhich must necessarily follow their perusal.sequently a difficult matter; but we will not We learn from his preface, that Mr. Colman prejudge the question. Mr. Colman gives "had proposed a graver work than this an equally good reason for turning the knowlupon European society," that he has actu- edge thus obtained to account. The style ally begun it, and that he designs "present- of living is so "wholly different from that ly to give it to the public." But, en attend- which prevails" in the United States (of ant the fulfillment of this purpose, let us which country Mr. Colman is a citizen), and gratefully receive what we have got, and "the interest in these minute details" is so
intense at Boston, New York, and other great | Colman for slightly overcharging the piccities of the Union, that not to have emptied ture. As Sir Lucius O'Trigger says, "When the vials of his information for the benefit of affection guides the pen, he must be a brute the American coteries (of which Mr. Colman who finds fault with the style;" and the is now, without doubt, the idol) would have couleur de rose of Mr. Colman is of so tender been looked upon by his countrymen-and a tint, that we may be pardoned if we see country women-as an act of leze-majesté in it the warmth of a stronger sentiment. against the laws of politeness and good man- Was it owing to this amiable feeling, or to ners, which, we gather from the context of "the malady of not listening"-as Falstaff his book, appear rather to require extension calls premeditated deafness-that Mr. Colin his native land. We have, ourselves, im- man is enabled to say: "Though I have plied our obligations to Mr. Colman; but been a great deal in the streets, and in before we proceed to show why, we feel bound crowds without number, and have seen vexto mention that he states in a second preface- ation enough in passing, I do not think I as a matter deserving to stand apart-that have heard a single oath since I have been in the letters record "only a small portion of the city." (?) This is something worth noting, the kindness" shown him. What would have even although Mr. Colman had been only been their effect upon the public if the whole ten days in London when he wrote the senhad been narrated, we almost tremble to tence. The population of London, unless it think of. was then very differently composed, could certainly have furnished no quota of the armies which in my Uncle Toby's time swore so terribly in Flanders. We have a faint idea that the accomplishment is not altogether forgotten at the present day, but we may be mistaken; indeed, on second thoughts, we feel we must be so, for Mr. Colman tells us, a little further on, that "good manners are here evidently a universal study."
We shall now, following Mr. Colman's example, plunge in medias res.
In the month of May, in the year 1843, he finds himself wandering through the streets of London, in a state of utter amazement at "the wilderness of houses, streets, lanes, courts, and kennels," in which he is suddenly located. From the particularity of his description, "where seven streets all radiated from one centre," we suspect he must have made his début in the Seven Dials; but it is no matter where, for all he meets enchants and astonishes him. He thus describes the effect produced by the vast extent of London:
I have walked until I have had to sit down on some door-steps out of pure weariness, and yet have not got at all out of the rushing tide of population. I have rode [ridden] on the driver's seat on an omnibus, and there has been a constant succession of squares, parks, terraces, and long lines of single houses for miles, and continuous blocks and single palaces in the very heart of London, occupying acres of ground. I do not speak, of course, of the large parks, which, for their trees, their verdure, their neatness, their embellishments, their lakes and cascades, their watérs swarming with fish, and covered with a great variety of water-fowl, which they have been able to domesticate, and their grazing flocks of sheep and cattle, and their national monuments, and the multitude of well-dressed pedestrians, and of elegantly-mounted horsemen and horsewomen, and of carriages and equipages as splendid as gold and silver can make them, are beautiful beyond even my most romantic dreams. I do not exaggerate; I cannot go beyond the reality.
This is making the most of the ducks and geese in St. James's Park; but our national vanity will not suffer us to quarrel with Mr.
But although an outward decorum is preserved, dissipation has taken deep root in the soil. "The business-shops close at ten, in general; but the ale and wine shops, the saloons, and the druggists' shops, I believe, are open all night; and the fire of intemperance, I should infer, was nourished as faithfully as the vestal fire at Rome, and never permitted to go out or to slacken." Our inference from this passage is, that those who don't or won't drink malt or sherry, indulge in intemperate draughts of spirits of wine at the druggists' shops, or they would hardly be included in the same category with the ale and wine shops. Yet again Mr. Colman finds an opportunity of excepting in favor of the Londoners: " I have scarcely seen a smoker, and as to a tobacco-chewer, not one." It is possible, we conceive, for a person to chew tobacco without being discovered-unless he is an American; but we will not inwith any one who indulges in this luxury; sist on this point, as we are not acquainted but we had fancied that the "smokers" of London were as plenty as blackberries." But in this also, it seems, we are wrong, or Mr. Colman's eyesight is on a par with his faculty of hearing. What he says of the ladies is, without doubt, equally true:
"They have another practice which I equally admire. They seldom wear false curls." We have heard of "fronts" as a not very uncommon article of feminine coiffure; but Mr. Colman has of course tested his opinion by a closer inspection than we have been able to bestow, and therefore we yield in this point, as in all others, most willingly. When he speaks of the costume of the bench and the bar, the Blue-coat boys and the court, our doubts for a moment have the mastery over our belief, but they presently subside before Mr. Colman's better knowledge.
"The judges and the lawyers wear wigs, as they did centuries ago. The charity boys wear leather-breeches, blue or yellow yarn stockings, shoes with buckles, long coats and bands, which I presume was the dress of two hundred years ago. So the court-dress in which you are to be presented at the levees, is the same that was worn in the days of Queen Elizabeth."
We cannot sufficiently commend our author's
But to return from these generalities, and
Ostensibly bent on an agricultural mission,
Mr. Colman's first visit was to Earl Spen-
We had a notion-an erroneous one, of course that the court-dress of the present day rather resembled the age of George the Second than that of Elizabeth; and had no idea, until we read the above passage, of the antediluvian antiquity of the lawyers' wigs. Historical accuracy is evidently one of the strong points of our traveled American; he rarely allows an opportunity to escape without adding something to our previous impressions. As, for instance, when speaking of Melrose Abbey, he tells us that it contains the tomb of "Michael Bruce, the celebrated wizard," (a fact which Walter Scott would have given a great deal to know ;) and that the marks of the balls from Cromwell's guns-the first Cromwell, who destroyed the Abbeys in England-are shown upon the walls." By "the first Cromwell" we presume is meant the vicar-general of Henry the Eighth, under whose authority the English monasteries were suppressed, but we were not aware, till Mr. Colman told us, that he used cannon for the purpose; or, if he did, that Melrose Abbey, in Scotland, came under his jurisdiction. But there is nothing like information picked up on the spot. The broken walls of Melrose were there to attest that somebody battered them; and as the merit of the act was to be given to a Cromwell, the first, perhaps, has as good a claim to it as the second. Mr. Colman, however, is not a person to take everything upon trust that he is told, for when he visited Abbotsford he know the time, in season for you to dress for breakIn the morning, a servant comes in to let you was shown "a Roman kettle, said to be 2000 fast. At half past nine you go in to family prayyears old, quite like our modern cast-ironers, if you find out the time. They are happy to pots. This age struck me as apocryphal." I have the guests attend, but they are never asked.
You will (he says) be glad to hear something
the Castle of Otranto.
servants in plain gentlemanly dress, but all with white cravats, which are likewise mostly worn by the gentlemen in dress. The servants not in livery are a higher rank than those in livery, never even associating with them. The livery is of such a description as the master chooses: the Duke of Richmond's were all in black, on account of mourning in the family; the others vaof the most grotesque description, sometimes with and sometimes without wigs, and always in shorts and white silk or white cotton stockings. [We foresee a tremendous social revolution in Boston after this.] Many persons request you not to give any gratuity to the servants; others forbid them accepting any, under pain of dismissal; and at the house of a nobleman of high rank I found a printed notice on my dressing-table to this effect: "The guests are particularly requested to give no gratuities to the servants."
The servants are all assembled in the room fitted for a chapel. They all kneel, and the master of the house or a chaplain reads the morning service. As soon as it is over they all wait until he and his guests retire, and then the breakfast is served. At breakfast there is no ceremony whatever. You are asked by the servant what you will have, tea or coffee; or you get up and help yourself. Dry toast, boiled eggs, and bread-and-rious, butter are on the table; and on the sideboard you will find cold ham, tongue, beef, &c., to which you carry your own plate and help yourself, and come back to the breakfast-table and sit as long as you please. All letters or notes addressed to you are laid by your plate; and letters to be sent by mail are put in the post-box in the entry, and are sure to go. The arrangements for the day are then made, and parties are formed; horses and carriages for all the guests are found at the stables, and each one follows the bent of his inclination. When he returns at noon, he finds a sidetable with an abundant lunch upon it, if he chooses; and when he goes to his chamber for preparation for dinner, he finds his dress clothes brushed and folded in the nicest manner, and cold water, and hot water, and clean napkins, in the greatest abundance.
We have no disposition to question the truth of a word of this elaborate statement; not even of the existence of that mysterious place the entry," to which Mr. Colman is so fond of referring like the rest of his revelations, it is too circumstantial to admit of a doubt; but what we want to know is, How many of these "polite attentions" are omitted in American country houses? Do the servants there we beg pardon, we mean the "helps"—not announce your arrival? do they not carry your portmanteau up stairs for you, call you in the morning, bring your letters, brush your clothes, and supply you with cold water, hot water, and clean napkins? We should imagine not, or Mr. Colman would scarcely have been at the pains to tell his countrymen what English servants do; and the conclusion we are compelled to arrive at is, that when a stranger pays a visit in the United States, he is necessarily his own porter, his own watchman, and his own shoeblack, and that if he washes his face at all he does it at his own cost and contrivance. Nothing in England seems to have impressed Mr. Colman more forcibly than the manners and proceedings of that useful class of persons whom the Scotch call "flunkies." He says:
Servants are without number. I have never dined out yet, even in a private untitled family, with less than three or four, and at several places eight or nine even, for a party hardly as numerous; but each knows his place; all are in full dress -the liveried servants in livery, and the upper
We hope, as Mr. Colman seems in general rather solicitous about his personal expenditure, that he profited by this hint.
A round of visits ensues, to Lord Hatherton's, Lord Hardwicke's, and other titled and untitled Amphitryons; the former having "the call" with our republican friend. But before he sets out, "Mrs. P" (whom we strongly suspect from the context to be Mrs. Pendarves) takes him "in her carriage to see the most fashionable millinery store and the largest jewelry store in the world."
In the letter announcing this fact, Mr. Colman very nearly "forgot to mention" that he was also taken by Mrs. P-"to see the wedding gear of the Princess Augusta ;" luckily, however, he recollects it in the postscript, and enlightens the Bostonians by informing them that it cost more than a thousand dollars," and was made "of silver and silk interwoven, and covered with Brussels lace."
We next find Mr. Colman domiciliated in the house of "a Member of Parliament," while attending the cattle-show at Doncaster; and the chief thing we learn from this visit is embodied in the form of a maxim, as follows:
As direct introductions seldom take place, you are expected, in such visits, to put yourself in polite communication with those who are near you. That our traveler acted up to his own rule is evident when he says:
There are some gentlemen here with whom I have had long conversations, and who have asked me repeatedly to visit them, whose names 1 do not know."
The value of these invitations is, however, somewhat diminished by their vagueness, it
being difficult to pay a visit to an anonymous has an office by the door, or else a table, with pen, host.
We have said that Mr. Colman is careful
in matters of personal expense. He illustrates this in Edinburgh, where, there being no nobleman's house convenient, out of the numbers placed at his disposition, he gets into "excellent quarters at nine shillings per week" for his lodgings-a price which we trust secured for him "cold water and clean
towels." "Traveling in coaches," he says, "is very expensive; and though I never ride inside when I can ride out, yet one gets to the bottom of one's purse constantly much sooner than you expect it." He has an expedient for avoiding this expense, which he appears to have practiced successfully on one occasion. "I have walked today about twelve miles, and to save two miles had to ford the Tweed, with my trowsers and shoes in my hands," (like Cæsar and his fortunes ;) "not a very pleasant operation, upon stones of all angles and shapes, which the water, though constantly flowing over them, had done little to soften." Certainly not a very pleasant operation," nor one that, we think, it would be desirable for him to repeat very often, at all events on this side of the Tweed. In Scotland, Melrose and Abbotsford claim, as we have shown, some portion of his time; but the relics of the Wizard of the North (not Michael Bruce), the memorials of Mary Stuart and John Knox, and the monuments of Edinburgh, soon give place to a description of the ménage of Lambton Castle, "the seat of the late Lord Durham." Here Mr. Colman is completely at home.
ink, paper, &c.; who receives and delivers messages, but does not leave his place, having always servants at hand to wait upon him. Then each gentleman in the house has his own private valet, and each lady her own maid, who has all the castoff clothes of the lady. The ladies, it is reported, never wear a pair of white satin shoes or white gloves more than once; and some of them, if they find, on going into society, another person of inferior rank wearing the same dress as themselves, aside, and the lady's maid perfectly understands the dress upon being taken off is at once thrown her perquisite.
There are two difficulties to be got over in this arrangement: first, to discover a person of inferior rank moving in the same society with you; and next, to find that person actually wearing the clothes which you have got on your back. The last-named state of the case seems to belong to the category of Sir Boyle Roche's bird, which was in two places at the same time; but as Mr. Colman is satisfied about its practicability, we shall not venture to express our incredulity. Great truths cannot be too often repeated; and Mr. Colman is unable to part with Lambton Castle without telling how the guests make it out in noblemen's establishments in general, even at the risk of repetition.
In most families the hour of breakfast is announced to you before retiring, and the breakfast is entirely without ceremony. Your letters are brought to you in the morning, and the mail goes out every day. The postage of letters is always prepaid by those who write them, who paste double or single stamps upon them; and it is considered an indecorum to send a letter unpaid, or only sealed with a wafer. Any expense incurred for you, if it be only a penny upon a letter, is at once mentioned to you, and you of course pay it. At breakfast the arrangements are made for the day.
Here follows an account similar to that
In houses of this kind it is usual to have from forty to fifty servants. The servants' establishment is quite an affair by itself. The steward is at the head; he provides everything, and purchases all the supplies; he oversees all the other servants, and puts on, and where the party is not large, takes everything off from the table, the given at Lord Spencer's. He then continother servants standing by and waiting upon him. He has a room to himself, well fitted up, and has a large salary. Next to him comes the butler, who takes care of all the wines, fruit, glasses, candlesticks, lamps, and plate, and has an underbutler for his adjunct. Next, in equal authority with the steward, and having also an elegant parlor, is the housekeeper; she has all the care of the chambers, the linen, and the female servants. Then comes, next in authority, and perfectly despotic in his own domain, the cook, who is generally French or Italian, and his subalterns. Then come the coachman, the footman, and the ostlers, who, the last, I believe, seldom come into the house. Then there is the porter, who in London houses always sits in the entry, and there either
At eleven o'clock there is always a candle for each guest, placed on the sideboard or in the entry, with allumettes alongside of them; and at your pleasure you light your own candle and bid good night. In a Scotch family you are expected to shake hands, on retiring, with all the party, and on meeting in the morning.
Not always a very safe practice in Scotland, if the popular belief be true.
The English are a little more reserved, though in general, the master of the house shakes hand with you. On a first introduction, no gentleme