The Glory and Shame of England. By C. Edwards Lester. In twovolames. Bentley. netrosr,
Hardness; of the Uncle. In three volumes Smolders and Otley.,
LESTER'S GLORY AND SHAME OF ENGLAND.
Ma. LESTER appears to have visited England en some matters con- nected with the great Anti-Slavery Convention ; for we find him at the opening of the meeting in Freemason's Hall; we trace him occasionally among delegates ; and in his visits to the poor he sometimes produces a pocket Bible, and constantly talks religion. The purpose of Mr. LESTER, as indicated by his titlepage, is to investigate and exhibit those subjects which " blend our glory' with our shame ": and the result is about as satisfactory as if Mr. GRANT of the Random Recollections had abandoned gossip and personals, to undertake the office of national inquisitor. Each gen- tleman has about the same sense of propriety ; each is equally unscrupulous in "cooking up" a fact for effect ; and each equally credulous, equally at the mercy of a wag bent upon bamboozling. Both have a similar confidence in themselves ; both are equally fluent, and, for that matter, readable ; and if Mr. LESTER, as we think is the case, has a truer perception in matters within his ken and comprehension, the advantage is pretty well neutralized in the volumes before us by the novelty of the circumstances.
The Glory and Shame of England is in the form of letters ; several of which could have been written without a voyage across the Atlantic. Some profess to narrate personal incidents and ob- servations ; others the result of Mr. LESTER'S experience in a short sojourn in London, a still shorter tour in the districts of our cotton- manufacture, and a pilgrimage to Chelmsford to visit Mr. Tnoao- GooD. One of the " shames " of England is the East India Com- pany and our Indian Empire : a mixture, it would appear, of shame and glory is the effort of the Company and private speculators to ex- tend the growth of cotton in Hindostan,—on which the writer bases an address to the South to emancipate their slaves. A more sad and unquestionable " shame" is the condition of the masses ; and though this is an untoward incident in our national progress, rather than a deliberate crime, it is matter of regret that the subject has not been treated by an American who could distinguish between casualties and imposition, and separate the essentials which caused suffering, from circumstances to which men are habituated by being " to the manner born." Such a picture would have commanded attention and excited sympathy ; whilst, if it had startled .and shocked our national complacency, it would also have stimulated attention, and have done something towards mitigating the evil: There cannot be a better proof of the false and feeble character of this person's mind applied to large matters, than the circumstance of the suffering, misery, and vices of the English millions, pro- clueing in his hands only distrust. Always colouring, often imposed upon, if not inventing facts for effect, and swelling up truths after the fashion of the inflated lecturer SIDNEY SMITH, whom he admires so much, the narrative, to the eye of experience or discriminating reason, looks morelike the pious fraud of a well-intentioned zealot, than the truthful exposition of a rational man looking to practical purposes and capable of forwarding them.
In some of his narratives, it is difficult to tell at whose door the exaggeration or untruth is chargeable. But the following account of his drive from the Birmingham Railway to the Guildhall Coffee- house is a pure invention of Mr. LESTER'S.
LAMPLESS STREETS ABM CELLARS IN TOWN: A FANCY-PIECE.
"After I left the railway-station at Euston Square, I rode on mile after mile, scarcely realizing that I was among those very scenes of which from childhood I had so often read, and about which I had thought so long and so earnestly. I longed for daylight to unfold the wonders of that crowded world through which I was moving. The lamps here and there cast a flickering and uncer- tain glare upon the adjacent pavements and houses. To avoid the throng, we passed through different by-streets, where not a lamp was to be seen nor a voice heard, save the noise of low debauchery coming up train some foul and dismal cellar. What scenes, thought I, should I witness could I but look into all these dwellings ! In that house an aged man, long weary of the world, just drawing his last breath; in the next, an infant opening its eyes for the first time upon the light. In that stately mansion is heard the sound of mirth and revelry ; while by its side an orphan, who has this very day asked for food a thousand times, and asked in vain, is shivering in the cold damps of night. In that lonely chamber might be heard the dying groan of one once beautiful and virtuous, but now outcast and deserted, with no one but God to see her die; while perhaps in some neighbouring dwelling, pure young hearts are exchanging their vows of love. Here the abandoned are revelling in pollution, where the very air is loaded with guilt ; while separated from them only by a thin wall,. the subdued voice of prayer and praise is ascending to heaven."
Every statement of fact here is more fictitious than the fanciful passages. From Euston Square there are three ways of reaching the Guildhall Coffeehouse, which either public or private carriages would only take,—along the New Road to the Bank ; along. Goswell. Street to the Post-office; down Judd Street, &c. or Gray's Inn Lane, into Holborn. But are these great lines of thoroughfare without lamps f What throng was there at any time to avoid in the New or Goswell Street Roads ? what throng in Holborn or Newgate Street in the evening? Even had a cabman been ordered to carry him some dark cuts by Clerkenwell, where would he have found a succession of streets "where not a lamp was to be seen " ? The fact is, Mr. Lrarrsa. is as admirer of Boz, and the " stately man- sion" and the "shivering orphan," and all the rest of it, is a repro- duction : but DICKENS knows the town, and does not uproot lamp-posts or call up " stately mansions" where none exist. 1 be next extract is not, we think, an invention of Mr. LESTER's, but of some wag who practised upon his credulity. Whilst waiting at Liverpool for the train, he bought a "Companion" of a young girl who plied with them ; and asked her various questions about herself and family. " As I took my book, and the girt turned away to find another customer, an accomplished and fine-looking man, of youthful appearance, who had been seated near us and had overheard our conversation, called her back, and gave her a sovereign for one of her books ; and then politely handing me his card, with an apology for introducing himself, inquired if 1 was going up to London. Yes, my Lord,' I replied, when I saw from a glance at the card that I was addressing an Irish nobleman. " Will you give an Irishman the pleasure of your company ? I have taken one apartment for London, and nothing will be more agreeable than to have you for a companion.'" Mr. LESTER and " my Lord " having been seated in their " apart- ment " and the train in full motion, talk began upon various sub- jects ; and gambling being introduced, the nobleman thus blazons his own generosity. " A twelvemonth ago, a. young friend of mine, the Marquis of —, came to me about twelve o'clock at night, in the saloon of the — Club, and asked me for 1,0001. I knew he wanted it for play ; but I had great confidence in his judgment and self-control ; it was an inconsiderable saw; and I gave him a draft for the amount. He came out of the hazard-room in two or three hours with 23,0001. The next evening he staked and lost it all. He came to me at half-past one o'clock that night, and asked me for 5,0001. He was a friend, and I could not refuse him. I gave it to him ; and in half-an-hour he had nut only lost every guinea of it, but impoverished his family for ten years. You may imagine the feelings of his beautiful wife, when, on returning home from Almack's the same morning, she found at her door a man waiting to take her carriage to Tattereall's to be sold to pay his debts of honour. Anticipating the result, I had gone with my friend to his house on his leaving the gaming-table. We were sitting in the drawing-room when his wife entered. He was almost raving with madness. She was exceedingly alarmed when she perceived the change in her husband; and came to him, took his hand, and asked him what troubled him. Yon are a beggar, Mary,' he screamed out in despair, and fell senseless on the floor. After he was restored, she came and oat down by my side on the soffit, and prayed me to tell her all. It was a painful task, I assure you. I shall never forget the scene which followed. It was a more affecting sight to see the agony of this beautiful woman, than it would have been to see her die a thousand times. 1 satisfied his creditors at Crockford's for 33,000L ; and this saved the furniture, her horses and carriage, and their house in the country. She left London with a broken heart, and is now living a retired and miserable life."
Here was an Irish heart I and, rarer article, here was an Irish balance at the banker's. We have all heard of a cool thousand, but here is a cool thirty-nine thousand produced impromptu. Does London ever hold an Irish nobleman like this and not know it ? Mr. LESTER should have published the name, if only for the benefit of borrowers.
Who this generous unknown was, must, we fear, remain a mystery. From the denunciations against gaming, many may fancy that he was a leg with a travelling-name, who had marked Mr. LESTER for his victim. From a little incident during their walk in Birming- ham, we incline to think him a waggish bagman, who was fearful of " coming my ford" in that depot lest the nickname should stick to him through his "journies." " After lunch we had time for a walk of a mile or two through the town. ' This must be an odious place to live in, my Lord.'
"' Pardon me. Will you say Sir? It is very pleasant, when we meet with Americans, all of whom are heirs-apparent to the throne, to lay aside our titles : will you say Sir?'
" ' Most certainly, Sir.' " that's it; thank you : you are very kind.
The great "glory" of the United Kingdom is O'Comsett ; to whom Mr. LESTER. devotes a good deal of room, filling part of it with a quotation from one of his Hurrah-for-the-Repeal addresses. The chief "glory" of England is DICKENS ; to whom our travel- ler paid a visit at the instigation of CAMPBELL. Having, at a party, got on Tom's blind side by panegyrics on Gertrude of Wyoming— and the exactness of the descriptions, and how a blind friend of Mr. LESTER'S, stimulated by the poem, made a pilgrimage in his company to enjoy the reality—the Bard of Hope gave him a letter of introduction to Boz. But he might have spared himself the trouble ; Mr. LESTER could introduce himself.
"I thought I would withhold Campbell's letter until after my reception. I felt assured that the heart of Charles Dickens had not been so chilled by the cold spirit that reigns in the higher circles of English society, eat° prevent him from receiving me with genuine kindness. I sent in my card, after writing on it with a pencil, An American would be greatly obliged if he could see Mr. Dickens.' In a moment or two the servant returned and showed me to the library. The author was sitting in a large arm-chair by his table, with a sheet of Master• Humphrey's Cinch before him. He came forward and gave me his hand familiarly, and offered me a chair. I told him I was an American, and hoped lie would pardon me for calling without an invitation; and, if he was not particularly engaged, I should be much gratified with a short interview. He begged me to make no apologies. He was always glad to see Americans : they had extended such a generous hand to the oppressed of England, that they ought to feel no delicacy in introducing themselves to Englishmen. I at once felt at home."
No doubt of it : and having given DICKENS fair warning that what he said would. be repeated, he goes on to describe the inter- view, and the
PERSONAL APPEARANCE OF BOZ.
" I think Dickens incomparably the finest-looking man I ever saw. The por- trait of him in the Philadelphia edition of his works is good; but no picture can do justice to his expression when he is engaged in an interesting conversa- tion. There is something about his eyes at such times which cannot be copied. In person he is perhaps a little above the standard height ; but his bearing is noble, and he appears taller than he really is. His figure is very graceful, nei- ther too slight nor too stout. The face is handsome. His complexion is deli- cate—rather pale generally ;. but when his feelings are kindled, his countenance Is overspread with a rich glow. I presume he is somewhat vain of his hair; and be can be pardoned for it too. It reminded me of words in Sydney's Arcadia: °His fair auburn hair, which he wore in great length, gave him at that time a most delightful show.' His forehead, a phrenologist would say, (especially if he knew his character beforehand,) indicates a clear and beautiful intellect, in which the organs of perception, mirthfulness, ideality, and comparison, predo- minate. I should think his nose bad once been almost determined to be Roman, but hesitated just long enough to settle into the classic Grecian outline. "But the charm of his person is in his full, soft, beaming eyes, which catch an expression from every passing object; and you can always see wit half- sleeping in ambush around them, when it is not shooting its wonted fires."
Unless Mr. DICKENS iS very much smitten with his own appear- ance, we think it will be some time before he again admits an Ame- rican stranger, either with or without letter of introduction.
There are better things in the volumes than we have noted scat- tered here and there ; and perhaps Mr. LESTER has failed through vaulting ambition. The large questions of national interests are beyond his powers even to form an opinion upon ; and what he borrows from others is inflated and disguised, on the principle of omne ignotusn. Facts that he has "guessed" or been told have a being upon these subjects, are treated in the same way. But his descriptions of nature or of persons, though florid, and we suspect not to be trusted as portraits, are readable, if not very distinguish- able from other fluent and ready Americans—Mr. WILLIE for example. In subjects within his range, and to which his mind has been accustomed, he is by no means bad. His remarks on the effect of rival sects in Hindostan are judicious enough. Some of his touches—we must not call them hits—descriptive of the doings at the Convention, have a quiet humour; and the following passage is remarkably neat. The instinct of rivalry taught him that the weakness of his erring brother had strength enough to stand with very little improving. u I saw Lord Brougham at his house in Landon, and heard him converse some time. Mr. Birney was appointed by the Committee of the Pennsylvania Hall of Philadelphia to present his Lordship with a snuff-box, (as we all sap- posed,) which had been made from the ruins of that magnificent edifice. A company of Americans then in London were invited to accompany Mr. Birney on his mission ; not to see the snuff-box, of course, but the snuff-taker.
" That same morning I happened to be in the room with a very zealous American; and before we started for Lord Brougham's residence, he requested me to kneel with him in prayer, for ' he had a weighty matter on his mind, about which he wished to seek Divine direction.' This was all proper enough, I thought, and perfectly agreeable to my feelings; and if it had not been so, I would have yielded from respect to him.
" The burden of the prayer was, that the philanthropists of America had so far forgotten their principles and the spirit of Christianity, as to present a snuff-box to Lord Brougham, 'thereby encouraging a vice second only to slavery and intemperance.'
" He prayed, with a fervour worthy of a better cause, that we might be directed what course to take : we wished to see Lord Brougham, but we did not wish to countenance iniquity.'
" I certainly could not join very heartily in this petition; for I did not see that it met my case at all, since I was going, as I before said, to see the snuff- taker, and not the snuff-box. After a good many hesitations and scruples about the path of duty, curiosity prevailed, and the anti-tobacco brother started with me for his Lordship's house.
" We were introduced into a lofty and• ample sitting-room : the walls were hung with a few fine paintings of distinguished men, and in the corners of the room were the marble busts of four great American statesmen standing- upon pillars of Egyptian marble—Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, and the elder Adams.
" Lord Brougham appeared, in a plain dress : we all rose: he came forward and requested us to be seated. After some general conversation, Mr. Birney mentioned the commission with which he was charged, and produced the snuff- box ; which had, by some strange metamorphosis, been turned into an—ink- stand! A slight mistake my friend had made; and I could hardly avoid burst- ing into a fit, of laughter when I observed the incident."