« AnteriorContinuar »
many centuries. Then, back again across the bridge and down some stone steps to a long winding path beside the Severn, the evening promenade of the Shrewsbury folks, and so along, watching the shadows of the evening clouds in the placid waters till the day was done.
EAVING Shrewsbury, on the Severn Valley road, for Wor
cester, one has along the way a pleasant view of the Welsh mountains, which are rather great blue hills, reminding one somewhat of the Blue Ridge in Virginia, as seen a long way off. The country grows rougher as you journey on, but nothing grand. So far, the open country I had seen in England reminded me of a reduced copy of something I had seen in America; as, for instance, on this road there is a precipitous town called Ironbridge, which makes one think of Mauch Chunk on a small scale. Not far from here I was pointed out the residence of a Mr. Whitmer, an ironmaster, whose estate extends for miles in every direction. His name was mentioned with more respect than I have noticed used with regard to many noblemen, and I am inclined to think that men like him, who are allied by birth to the middle, or even, as in the case of the elder Stephenson, to the lower classes, are the real leading men of England.
The agriculture of this region was indifferent; the hedges were untrimmed; the fields were poor, and many of them were a perfect blaze of poppies, very ornamental, but quite the reverse of useful. It reminded me of some old country in New England, where all the young men have gone West, and left the old men to knock about with a side-hill plow and a bush scythe. Worcester, where we arrived in due but not very fast time, is
an ugly town, uglier even than Stratford-on-Avon, (of which we shall speak by-and-by,) because it is larger. It is known best in history on account of Cromwell's fight there, the memory of which is perpetuated in the Guildhall by a cannon and several suits of armor left by the king's forces when they retreated.
Every old English town has its peculiarities and its sights, or some real or affected quality of its inhabitants. Thus, at Liverpool they still relate with infinite glee the story of a coachman in the old coaching days, who described his load as a “gentleman from Liverpool, a man from Manchester, and a fellow from Bolton." Chester has, as I have said, three sights; Shrewsbury has a dozen little “lions;” but Worcester has but two sights, and no more, to interest the traveler. These are the cathedral and the Royal Porcelain Works.
The cathedral has been restored, and is a fine building, with a modern look. They say these restorations are necessary to preserve antique buildings, and yet astonishing stories are told of the solidity of old English structures. Rev. Moncure D. Conway lives in Hammersmith, London, in a dwelling called Hamlet House, which is over one hundred and fifty years old, and was once the residence of Liston, the famous English actor; yet Mrs. Conway assured me that it did not need near the repairs of a modern London residence. They built well in the old time. But to return to Worcester and its cathedral. Chester Cathedral is remarkably destitute of monuments, but Worcester is full of them. One erected to the memory of Lady Charlotte Digby (the work of Chantrey), is singularly beautiful — worthy of Powers, who, in my perhaps not very valuable American opinion, was the greatest sculptor since Phidias. It represents a partially-reclining female figure, with her hands clasped and her eyes uplifted. The neck, arms and feet are bare, and the latter are the most marvelous things I ever saw in marble. In this church is also buried the wife of Izaak Walton, and there was a “touch of nature” in the inscription in the words introduced in parenthesis, “Alas! that she is dead." There is an abundance of monuments of ancient knights and ladies, lying side by side on their tombs, their poor stone hands clasped. The verger said the way in which a knight's legs were crossed indicated the number of holy wars in which he had been engaged; whereupon the idle and irrelevant reflection occurred to me, that an American editor lying on his tomb with his legs crossed for each of his fights would be a fearfully twisted object.
The gratuity nuisance, at which every American traveler has waxed wrathful, exists in a particularly aggravated form at Worcester Cathedral. Notices are everywhere posted, informing visitors that the vergers are paid by the dean and chapter, and that no gratuities are to be given them, but you are admonished that you must give “at least sixpence" to the poor, and a verger stands over you to see that you do it. This is too mean; but the Houses of Parliament are almost the only "show places” in England where some such sixpenny dodge is not resorted to.
Speaking of cathedrals, they are grand structures; they are history in stone; and I can sympathize with the feeling that leads to their preservation and restoration — but they are unfit for Protestant places of worship. As museums, they are a success; as churches, they are not. They were built for another age and another faith. The ancient monkish carvings, for instance, would by no means be introduced even into a modern Catholic church. At Chester, the celibate artist has depicted the sorrows of matrimony — we have a woman beating her husband with a broom, etc.; but at Worcester, the carved work is literally "red hot." All the steps in the fate of the wooden impenitent are portrayed. Here he is condemned; here devils are tying sinners in convenient bundles to burn; here one unusually hard case is being treated to a roast by himself; here another unlucky gentleman is boiling away in a kettle of oil; and the procession of wooden horrors is closed with the figure of a bishop, who, with uplifted finger, seems to be saying to those who would get out for a drink of water or a breath of fresh air, “No you don't!"
I attended two choral services in cathedrals—one at Chester and another at Worcester; and, notwithstanding the fine music, scarcely anybody was present. Dean Stanley attracts a large congregation on Sunday at Westminster Abbey, for he is one of the greatest men in the Church of England; but the result is, that with one of those great pillars between you and the preacher you cannot hear what he says. The humblest “meeting-house” in America is preferable as a preaching-place to the proudest cathedral.
The cathedral at Worcester does not prevent the Dissenters from being the strongest in the town. Such names as Milton street and Cromwell street indicate the prevalence of the Roundhead blood. I noticed several temperance inns, and even a Temperance street; and somehow I have associated teetotalism in England with liberalism in politics and dissent in religion, while it seems as if the Conservative party and the Establishment “took its tod.” However, total abstinence in England is getting along very slowly in church or state. At the rate of present progress, I should judge