Heard, not regarded."
My desire to see the Derby of this year was of the same origin and character as that which led me to revisit many scenes which I remembered. I cared quite as much about renewing old impressions as about getting new ones. I enjoyed everything which I had once seen all the more from the blending of my recollections with the present as it was before me.
They slant, they stoop, they fall at last,
I have spoken of the pleasure I had in seeing by the roadside primroses, cowslips, and daisies. Dandelions, buttercups, hawkweed looked much as ours do at home. Wild roses also grew at the roadside,--smaller and paler, I thought, than ours.
The room more especially assigned to me looked out, at a distance of not more than a stone's-throw, on the northern aspect of the church where Shakespeare lies buried. Workmen were busy on the roof of the transept. I could not conveniently climb up to have a talk with the roofers, but I have my doubts whether they were thinking all the time of the dust over which they were working. How small a matter literature is to the great seething, toiling, struggling, love-making, bread-winning, child-rearing, death-awaiting men and women who fill this huge, palpitating world of ours! It would be worth while to pass a week or a month among the plain, average people of Stratford. What is the relative importance in human well-being of the emendations of the text of Hamlet and the patching of the old trousers and the darning of the old stockings which task the needles of the hard-working households that fight the battle of life in these narrow streets and alleys? I ask the question; the reader may answer it.
What a life must be that of one whose years are passed chiefly in and about the great Abbey! Nowhere does Macbeth's expression "dusty death" seem so true to all around us. The dust of those who have been lying century after century below the marbles piled over them,--the dust on the monuments they lie beneath; the dust on the memories those monuments were raised to keep living in the recollection of posterity,--dust, dust, dust, everywhere, and we ourselves but shapes of breathing dust moving amidst these objects and remembrances! Come away! The good Archdeacon of the "Eternal Hope" has asked us to take a cup of tea with him. The tea-cup will be a cheerful substitute for the funeral urn, and a freshly made infusion of the fragrant leaf is one of the best things in the world to lay the dust of sad reflections.
I saw no horse-chestnut trees equal to those I remember in Salem, and especially to one in Rockport, which is the largest and finest I have ever seen; no willows like those I pass in my daily drives.
Ingenuity is much better shown in contrivances for making our daily life more comfortable. I was on the lookout for everything that promised to be a convenience. I carried out two things which seemed to be new to the Londoners: the Star Razor, which I have praised so freely, and still find equal to all my commendations; and the mucilage pencil, which is a very handy implement to keep on the writer's desk or table. I found a contrivance for protecting the hand in drawing corks, which all who are their own butlers will appreciate, and luminous match-boxes which really shine brightly in the dark, and that after a year's usage; whereas one professing to shine by night, which I bought in Boston, is only visible by borrowed light. I wanted a very fine-grained hone, and inquired for it at a hardware store, where they kept everything in their line of the best quality. I brought away a very pretty but very small stone, for which I paid a large price. The stone was from Arkansas, and I need not have bought in London what would have been easily obtained at a dozen or more stores in Boston. It was a renewal of my experience with the seafoam biscuit. "Know thyself" and the things about thee, and "Take the good the gods provide thee," if thou wilt only keep thine eyes open, are two safe precepts.
Among the gratifications that awaited me in England and Scotland was that of meeting many before unseen friends with whom I had been in correspondence. I have spoken of Mr. John Bellows. I should have been glad to meet Mr. William Smith, the Yorkshire antiquary, who has sent me many of his antiquarian and biographical writings and publications. I do not think I saw Mr. David Gilmour, of Paisley, whose "Paisley Folk" and other writings have given me great pleasure. But I did have the satisfaction of meeting Professor Gairdner, of Glasgow, to whose writings my attention was first called by my revered instructor, the late Dr. James Jackson, and with whom I had occasionally corresponded. I ought to have met Dr. Martineau. I should have visited the Reverend Stopford Brooke, who could have told me much that I should have liked to hear of dear friends of mine, of whom he saw a great deal in their hours of trial. The Reverend Mr. Voysey, whose fearless rationalism can hardly give him popularity among the conservative people I saw most of, paid me the compliment of calling, as he had often done of sending me his published papers. Now and then some less known correspondent would reveal himself or herself in bodily presence. Let most authors beware of showing themselves to those who have idealized them, and let readers not be too anxious to see in the flesh those whom they have idealized. When I was a boy, I read Miss Edgeworth's "L'Amie Inconnue." I have learned to appreciate its meaning in later years by abundant experiences, and I have often felt unwilling to substitute my real for my imaginary presence. I will add here that I must have met a considerable number of persons, in the crowd at our reception and elsewhere, whose names I failed to hear, and whom I consequently did not recognize as the authors of books I had read, or of letters I had received. The story of my experience with the lark accounts for a good deal of what seemed like negligence or forgetfulness, and which must be, not pardoned, but sighed over.