4 AUGUST 1838, Page 16


IT is a reflection which will appear to different persons, according as their dispositions are for peace or contention, either a mitiga- tion or an aggravation of circumstances, that in all great ques- tions which divide public opinion there is usually a self-motive power which drives them to an end in a manner beyond the con- trol either of favour or opposition. While two opposite parties are striving to settle, in two opposite ways, a question of this kind, it generally turns out that the question has settled itself. Steam power is one of those powers which has proved itself suffi- cient to its own establishment. The principle of the thing, like the thing itself, carries all before it. There is no resisting steam either as a power or as a principle; and it may be accounted as impossible for steam companies to help extending themselves, as for the piston of a steam-engine to avoid rising out of the cylinder, It is therefore too late now, if it was ever advisable, to Depose th; universal application of steam power to the affairs of the ssgal economy.

We remember embarking in one of the earliest of the !remelt constructed on the steam principle,—a low, angular, most unses manlike object, and more resembling a raft than a proper bones or you might perhaps have taken it for a large dining-table afloat; and which we remember to have seen again many years since e Liverpool, still doing duty on the river Mersey, but, like a broken. down racer, given over to ignoble service, and condemned e transport pigs and sheep from the opposite shore. This bon, if we remember rightly, was called the /Etna; and, amidst the ap. prehensions of relatives and the silent wonderment of a host of other spectators collected on the pier, used to convey a few trembling experimentalists to the nearest ferry. Other vessels, however, of much more recent date, have established a better title to the name of /Etna; nor do we remember that the curious and antiquated specimen alluded to ever distinguished itself by those eruptions which have of late years given a somewhat too volcanic character to steam navigation. The prejudice at that time was strung against steam-boats; and while one party recoiled from them as from so many infernal machines or instruments of death, another set resisted them on what may be called the sentimental interests. To the latter, their awkward and unpicturesque pro- portions, tutu their duck-like waddle, were intolerable novelties; and they seemed to see in their introduction the downfal of nate tical science and the ultimate extinction of Great Britain as a great maritime nation. All the associations with the character of a British tar were shaken ; the indignant shade of NELSOS seemed to rise from the grave; and even the voice of DIRDIN was audible to poet's ears, protesting with a sailor's oath against the lubberly innovation. Public convenience, however, triumphed over every other consideration,—as we suspect it always will; and it was found that a vessel which could go out of port during flood. tide, and hold its course right in the teeth of the wind,—which could traverse the seas and come home again, and start again and again return, while more scientific sailors were tossing about in sight of land or unable to leave their moorings,—might be a lab. berly innovation, but at. any rate it was a very good one. What has been the feeling of the public with regard to steam-boats, may be gathered from a comparison between the Great Western steamer, now plying between Bristol and New York, and its "rude forefather" the floating dinner-table above described; re- membering at the saute time, that a space of twenty years em- braces all the improvements implied in the contrast.

If the Nereides of the poets were shocked by the first plashing of a steam-paddle, what must have been the sensations of the Dryades and Homadryades at sight of a colony of people flying through their woods and plains in a cloud of fire and smoke! We are by no means indifferent to the claims of sentiment and of beauty, whether by land or sea; and we confess we are unable at present to defend steam-boats or railways on either of these grounds. Let it stand confessed, then, that they are full of ugliness; that West and East longitude are not more at variance than they and the posts. But what avail such complaints, or what wisdom is there in making them ? An agent of unlimited human conve- nience is discovered : if we were ungrateful enough to desire its rejection, yet should we be unable to effect it, fur it has become already implicated beyond redemption with all the necessities of our life. What then remains to du, but to accept it with a good grace, and turn it to all the account we can. Whenever Nature gives us an instrument of such extraordinary efficacy as this, and we find ourselves distressed by any of its effects in our first use of it, let us rather believe that we have not arrived at the perfect handling and application, than that she has forgotten to make it better.

There are many comforts for the poets in this business, which they do not choose to see ; we will therefore endeavour to point them out. In the first place, it is to be remembered that all true sentiment is a thing of growth and association ; and that to say that a perfect novelty is destitute of sentiment, is no more reason- able a complaint than to say that the seed of the rose-tree is with- out scent, or that the acorn wants the proportions of the oak. No- thing is poetical, nothing sentimental, in itself, but only in its circumstances. If certain sentiments are connected with ships and sailors, these sentiments are entirely due to the memories of the past, to the association with victories and tales of other times, and to circumstances of character and incident which will arise again and again, under all varieties of change, as long as men are men. If a country-road and a mail-coach are objects of sentiment, any other road and any other coach may become so. Philosophers they certainly are not, and we can hardly admit them to he poets, who do not perceive that the springs of sentiment are all in the human heart, and none in the forms of things. It is indeed sur- prising that the fallacy which attributes beauty and sentiment to one set of circumstances and refuses it to another should not be more readily seen through, since a little reflection will easily impress the fact, that the very order of things which is now dwelt upon pathetically under prospect of a change, was once itself therhange under prospect of which a previous order of things was similarly bewailed. It is not necessary to be disgracefully old, to remember the time when the mail-bags were carried by a courier on horse- back; nor to be very recondite historians, to discover the period when there were no stage-coaches, or the period when there were no coaches at all. All travelling associations, two hundred and fifty

yea go, were confined to horses; sentiments turned on pack-

rs a .

addles and knapsacks—to say nothing here about heaths and h as en The first stage-coach ran over these sentiments, o; but substituted others, it seems. So it will ever be. highwaymen. Why, time was when a ship itself was a novelty, and a grave dis- turber of association. The acme of profane impertinence was reached and the ne plus ultra of vulgar Utilitarianism already achieved, in the eyes of Conservatives, some four or five thousand when some.o, one—furnished, we are assured, " with triple years ago, brass about his heart —launched the first boat. Again, if steam-boats and railways present certain appearances which shock our sense of the beautiful, it does now follow they will always do so. Utility is the first object aimed at in all new undertakings—fitness to an end ; consequently, it rarely happens that a new invention is at once useful and beautiful : but etli- ejeacy being once fully established, pains are then, very properly, bestowed on the dictates of taste. We should form a sery poor idea of the elegance of a mansion if we judged of it in the shell, while in the course of erection ; and yet bricks and beams most come first. The improvements already made in the build of steam-vessels, if we only recall the unseemly appearance of the early specimens, appears such as to warrant the belief that the utmost elegance of structure is compatible with the principle of their propulsion. With respect to railways, it way appear more difficult to win favour for them from the sentimental, who will probably be at a loss to conceive how any associations can arise to place them in the number of cherished things. We have nothing to say, ab- stractedly, in favour of long, straight, level lines of road : they are not beautiful in themselves, and never can become so. Yet are there several facts overlooked in connexion with this subject, of which we desire to remind the reader. Let it be remembered, then, that if railways present a greater number and length of straight lines than ordinary roads, these lines are not associated in the minds of travellers (and we shall all be travellers soon) with the same sense of weariness—they are less long in fact than shorter lengths on other roads. The speed of railway travelling is already such as to have established a new criterion of distance: and if, of which we entertain no doubt, such improvements come Into operation as that about to be attempted on the Great Western Railway, (the ten-feet wheel,) it is hardly possible to predict the point at which the speed attainable on these roads may culminate. If so, we shall come to look upon leagues as, formerly, on miles ; and the eye will travel over a line of straight road, extending almost into the horizon, with the same freedom from fatigue as the body itself'. Let us also remember, that no two things are more different than • line of road lately laid down and the same line of road when time has surrounded it with harmonizing objects,—with verdure, with fields and farms, with hedges and cattle, with wood awl water, with villages and all the varieties of nature, and lastly with associations—for these come after the rest. W hat could be so flat, so dull and !miserable, as—at their first construction—canals ? And yet with how many lovely bits of landscape have they be- come wrapped up and are to be found harmonizing ! So much so, that if we could persuade an artist to accompany us on a tour through the provinces, leaving us at liberty to choose the route, we are sure we could bring him to admit that canals have given rise to a distinct species of scenery of a most pleasing and pictu- resque description. They undulate more than railroads, and are often hardly to be distinguished from little rivers. If railway travelling may be admitted to be generally not picturesque, yet it unquestionably often imposing and even grand. We know of nothing in the old manner of travelling to be compared in this respect with the passage through the rock near Gateacre, on the Manchester and Liverpool line. And another fact deserves espe- cial notice, as being directly contrary to the received notion : we mean, that the undeviating level of a railroad, which is vulgarly associated with the idea of a tedious unbroken flat, and is regarded as essentially destructive of all variety, is, on the contrary, the eery creator of that variety. A railway must be level ; therefore, since the surface of the country is not level, it must always be leaving the surface : sometimes it is necessary to raise it to an inordinate height, the surface of the grcund being depressed; sometimes it must be sunk into a shaft, far below the light, or even carried through the bowels of the earth, because of the sud- den elevation of the surface. A common road exhibits no such vicissitudes as these, because it rises and falls with the country. You may be raised, on a common road, gradually to a height far above the level of the sea, and not know it, it the surrounding country opens no distant view ; but on a railroad the very exact- ness with which you preserve your level—forcing you as it does into all manner of quaint contradictions to the country—produces tbe variety so much desired in travelling. It is true that a rail- road is dull and flat when the country is so, but is not a common road equally dull and flat in the like circumstances ? We will freely confess, that we have spoken here more from philosophy than from feeling; participating as we do to the full to the attachment to the old rustic objects which railroads threaten to displace. But when a great and unquestionable blessing is given to man, such as steam is, we cannot but feel, all other con- siderations apart, that it is his duty, and must become his pleasure, tofullow it ih.ough all its of anions. In the mean time, it seems desirable to find such fair and reasonable arguments as may re- concile the public to a course which indeed it cannot avoid if it

v Tuose which we have advanced al pear to us of this Ware,