LADY EMMELINE STUART WORTLEY'S TRAVELS IN AMERICA. * THESE volumes contain
an account of an enterprising tour, for a lady, made by Lady Emmeline Stuart Wortley in 1849 and 1850, through parts of North and South America. New York was of course her landing-place ; whence she visited the Falls of Niagara and the cities lying in her route, with Boston and other places on her return. She subsequently went to Philadelphia and Washington, crossed the Alleghanies to Louisville, descended the Mississippi to New Orleans, and thence to Mobile. From that city the dauntless pilgrim steamed to 'Vera Cruz, and made a diligence journey to Mexico and back ; she next sailed for Havana, and then for Panama, ascending the river Chagres in a boat as far as she could, and crossing the remainder of the Isthmus • Travels in the United States, 8m., during 1849 and 1850. By the Lady Emmeline Stuart Wortley. In three volumes. Published by Bentley.
on a mule. Lima in Peru was the terminus of her travels, and the narrative closes with her arrival at Jamaica on her return.
The publication of her travels was not Lady Emmeline's original intention. She would not even keep a journal, lest she should be tempted; but having written off her remarks and impressions in her letters, she yielded on her return to " request of friends"; and these volumes consist of a revised and extended edition of her cor- respondence. Whether the complimentary urgency of her ac- quaintance was judicious, may be doubted. Although the places Lady Emmeline visited are not in the route of travellers for pleasure, yet enough has been written about the most remote, of Tate years, to render some distinctness of purpose or force of de- lineation necessary to impart interest to the narrative. Those who are acquainted with Lady Emmeline's poetry will not ex- pect much of depth or condensed strength from her prose; and the drawingroom mode of estimating things, which distinguishes her narrative, is not well fitted for an active country like America, where material industry is made the sole business of life. In a sense this peculiarity gives novelty ; we are shown features that other people disregard or do not see ; but the style has too much of the drawingroom as well as the matter selected for description. The composition is not exactly prolix, nor is it empty ; but it is slight and superficial,—qualities which, as Lady Emmeline inti- mates in her preface, may in part be owing to the book having been based on a familiar correspondence addressed to minds and tastes akin to the writer's.
Perhaps the freshest and most valuable portion of the book is that which relates to society in America. The conclusions, indeed, must be taken with allowance. Common travellers see the worst of American society ; Lady Wortley saw the best, and saw it doubtless on its best behaviour. 'When she put up at a hotel, she escaped the gobble-down system of American ordinaries, by dining in private. In society, where she passed a great deal of her time in the older States, every one was naturally anxious to exhibit self and country in the best point of view to the English celebrity, poetess and titled lady ; and they succeeded. Lady Emmeline was charmed with everything and everybody. Some- times we cannot but think she allowed her goodnatured grati- tude and her poetical habit of exalting the real into the ideal to carry her a little beyond the actual. That the wealthy, well- descended, and according to report very exclusive families in the older States of America, should have a well-conducted establish- ment, and exhibit self-possessed manners, with more of oldfashioned formal courtesy than is now the mode in Europe, was to be ex- pected; but we were scarcely prepared to hear of such high breed- ing and distinguished looks as Lady Emmeline fell in with. We should rather have expected a provincial manner, slightly ap- proaching the priggish, when thought or refinement was aimed at, with a strength more tending towards the rugged or ungainly than the heroic. However, " speak as you find "; and in this strain throughout speaks Lady Emmeline.
"I like the Americans more and more : either they have improved won- derfully lately, or else the criticisms on them have been cruelly exaggerated. They are particularly courteous and obliging ; and seem, I think, amiably anxious that foreigners should carry away a favourable impression of them. As for me, let other travellers say what they please of them, I am determined not to be prejudiced, but to judge of them exactly as I had them; and I shall most pertinaciously continue to praise them, (if I see no good cause to alter my present humble opinion,) and most especially for their obliging civility and hospitable attention to strangers, of which I have already seen several instances.
" I have witnessed but very few isolated cases, as yet, of tha unrefined habits so usually ascribed to them; and those cases decidedly were not among the higher orders of people : for there seems just as much difference in Ame- rica as anywhere else in some respects. The superior classes here have al- most always excellent manners, and a great deal of real and natural as well as acquired refinement, and are often besides (which perhaps will not be be- lieved in fastidious England) extremely distinguished-looking. By the way, the captains of the steam-boats appear a remarkably gentlemanlike race of men in general, particularly courteous in their deportment, and very con- siderate and obliging to the passengers."
Good-nature, a determination to struggle on through difficulties, and a natural politeness to women, would really seem to be a cha- racteristic of the Americans. When Lady Emmeline crossed the Isthmus of Panama, the Californian fever was at its height, and the concourse somewhat resembled the suttlers of an army in re- treat. Men stimulated by the " auri sacra fames," carrying their " traps " on their backs in default of other means of conveyance, were not only regardful of the rights of others (of the Anglo-Saxon race) but polite. These are scenes from the road.
"Our room (at Gorgona) with its solitary aperture commanded a view of the commencement of the road to Panama ; and many an interesting and curious sight did we witness from it. One that was very characteristic of American go-aheadishness and independence, I will relate. A spare, eager- eyed 'States' man,' had loaded an obstinate-looking animal with probably all his worldly goods, and was starting, or rather attempting to start, perfectly alone on his road to Panama ; for the animal resolutely refused to budge, and he was dragging at it by an immense long rope with all his might and main, he at one end of the rambling street, and it at the other, and shouting out in English to the sauntering natives by the roadside, say, which is the road to Panamaw ?' Another was stepping on deliberately, his bundle under his arm, and a huge umbrella, like that you see represented in Chinese rice- paper drawings, over his head, following the first path that came in his way."
The English party start too, but are annoyed by a troublesome mule.
"It was almost constantly stopping the way.' We had no sooner driven it on than it paused again : it was like one of those great buzzing, teasing flies, that towards the end of summer perfectly haunt you, and if expelled from your hand, are found on your face, and so on. Now we found our friend sticking on a bank, threatening to tumble down on us if we went on, like an avalanee of mule and mangos ; and now just standing across our path : and now again he would turn short round, as if to dare us to single combat,
and sometimes would play at bo-peep behind the trees—in short, he was the dread and horror of us all, and a cry of 'Here he comes!' was sufficient to send us all helter-skelter.
" A weary American, trudging on alone under an accumulation of af- flictions, in the shape of blankets, bundles, cloaks, and knapsacks, whom we overtook, had compassion on the poor naughty mule, and humanely inter- fered in its behalf. 'Indeed, ladies, I think the creature's nigh tired out : better let him rest a little.' But we had lost so much precious time by these various unforeseen misfortunes, that we could not stop ; and we knew by ex- perience what allowing the four-footed culprit to loiter behind would bring on us, and the horrible nudging of trunks and elbowing of boxes to which we should subject ourselves, probably to the demolition of our ribs. So we declined this; and the state of the case was explained to the humane tra- veller; and, as he looked almost fagged to death beneath his mountain pile of luggage, (and as a reward for his humanity to our tired tormentor,) I begged him to put part of his heavy load on one of our lightly-laden mules ; which he gladly did.
"We were now at a more open part of the road, but soon again we plunged into thick forest for a short time, and then arrived at a partial clearing. The daylight now was beginning to wane ; and I was surprised to see one of the leading mules taken by the guides out of the road along a smooth path to the right. The rest of course followed ; and on inquiring what was the reason, the head guide came and said, in consequence of the unfortunate de- lay it would be safer to wait at an Indian village in the wood till morning, as the road farther on was very rough and bad, and the forest so impene- trably thick that it would be very dark ; also, that one of the guides with the baggage-mules had hurt his ankle very badly in scrambling among some stumps and blocks of stone, and that it was absolutely necessary he should rest.
" After a little parleying and demurring I consented to remain at this Indian village till the moon rose (when, as it was full, it would be a little lighter than most days in England) ; and wishing good night to the weary American traveller, who was bound' tojoin some of his companions at an American encampment a little way beyond, and who did not seem much to like the prospect of threading the dark masses of forest alone without the protection of our escort, we pursued our way to the Indian village."
Lady Emmiline saw something of the slaves, if it cannot be said that she saw slavery; but she saw them, like other matters, in holyday dress. The late President, General Taylor, invited her to visit his estate, which his son managed, and which she beheld as royalty in this country beholds rustics.
"The late President's son was there, and received us with the kindest hospitality. The slaves were mustered and marshalled for us to see ; cotton was picked from the few plants that had survived the late terrible over- flowing of the Mississippi; and the interior of one of the slaves' houses was exhibited to us. As to the slaves themselves, they were as well fed, com- fortably clothed, and kindly cared for in every way as possible, and seemed thoroughly happy and contented. The dwelling-house we went to look at was extremely nice : it was a most tastefully decorated and an excellently furnished one, the walls were covered with prints, and it was scrupulously clean and neat.
"V— expressed a great wish to see some of the small sable fry ; and a whole regiment of little robust, rotund, black babies were forthwith paraded for her especial amusement : it was a very orderly little assemblage, and it cannot be imagined how nice and clean] they all looked. Such a congrega- tion of little smiling, goodnatured, raven rolypolies, I never saw collected together before. One perfect duck of a child was only about three weeks old, but it comported itself quite in as orderly a manner as the rest, as if it had been used to give parties and assemblies, and receive any quantity of company from every nation on earth all its days or rather hours. It was as black as a little image carved in polished ebony, and as plump as a partridge (in mourning). These pitchy-coloured piccaninnies differed from white children in one essential particular, for they were all perfectly quiet and silent ; all wide awake, but all still and smiling.
"After the main body had departed, a small straggler was brought in (whose mother, perhaps, had lavished additional cares upon its state toilette) • and it alone, apparently alarmed at finding itself thus unsupported and insulated, testified its disapprobation at the presence of English visitors by a very mild squall. We saw an older child afterwards, who was very nearly white, with lovely features and fair hair; the mother was a Mulatto, and the father almost white.
"V— was highly delighted with the whole company of little inky imps from first to last, nursing and fondling them in high glee ; and it may be readily conceived that the mothers stood by equally enchanted at having their little darkies so appreciated,—and not a little proud; showing their splendid glittering teeth almost from ear to ear.
"All the slaves were evidently taken the kindest care of on General Tay- lor's plantation. Men, women, and children, all appeared to adore Mr. Tay- lor; who seemed extremely kind to them, and affable with them."