Слике страница
PDF
ePub

when some Englishmen played at this finest of all games, in the Cascina at Florence. Indeed that joyous spirit, which, in our country, animates not only childhood, but also maturer age, can rarely or never be seen among the inhabitants of the United States.

It has been remarked by almost every one, that the Americans have a great propensity to boast ; and many of the works, written on the subject of the late war with Great Britain, furnish abundant proofs of this national defect. I am perfectly willing to grant that they had great reason to be proud of having maintained their rights against so much more powerful a nation ; but they have certainly exhibited strong symptoms of vanity, in representing all their own warriors as heroes, and all those of Great Britain as cowards. Thus some nameless skirmish on the Canadian frontier has been compared to Platæa or Marathon ; and the victory gained by Captain Perry on Lake Erie, where he took a flotilla carrying in all scarcely as many guns as a large frigate, has been represented as equal to that gained by Lord Nelson, when he annihilated the whole naval force of hostile Europe at Trafalgar.

In the beginning of the year 1823 Commodore Porter, having been sent to take command of the small squadron employed against the Pirates in the Gulf of Mexico, stopped for a day or two at the town of Norfolk in Virginia ; and having here

been honoured by a public dinner, said in his speech, after his health had been drunk: “ It is only necessary to pronounce one name, to awaken our resentments, and to inspire us with vengeance; a name distinguished in the annals of our country; a name synonymous with patriotism, courage, and self-devotion; the name of Allen.” Now more than this could scarcely have been said of Washington himself; yet the person mentioned was only an unfortunate Lieutenant, who was killed in attempting to take a piratical schooner. I have not quoted this with any intention of ridiculing Commodore Porter, who is well known to be a gallant and meritorious officer ; but I wished to give an example of a common American puff. In England we should be greatly astonished if one of our admirals, at a public dinner, were to pronounce a similar panegyric upon a similar personage; but in America oratorical Hyperbole, is a sort of matter of course, and really means nothing. In this respect, the Americans have neglected the modesty of their English ancestors, in order to adopt the vanity of the “ grande nation.” But the propensity to indulge in the bom bast, though common among the middle and lower classes of the people, is rapidly going into discredit among those of superior education.

A traveller in passing through the different States, cannot fail to remark the great purity with which the English language is everywhere spoken.

Indeed although the population is so much smaller than that of the British Empire, yet I am certain that in the United States there is a greater number of persons who speak pure English, than even in England itself.

The Americans have, it is true, coined some words; but have not we also done the same? What would our critics have said, if the word Ultraism had been used by the orators in Congress, as often as by those in Parliament? I own that some of the words coined, and most of the peculiar significations given to those already in use, might just as well have been avoided ; but we should not be surprised at the few slight changes which have been admitted, but rather at the almost entire

preservation of the mother tongue, at such a distance from the land where it was first spoken.

Those vile dialects, of which nearly every county in England has its own, are unknown to the Americans; and it is amusing enough, that while we suppose they speak corrupt English, they imagine that we do. The only persons coming from Great Britain, whom they have an opportunity of seeing, are almost without exception mechanics or farmers ; and if they arrive from Somersetshire, Yorkshire, or the low lands of Scotland, it is no wonder if the Americans find fault with their almost unintel. ligible jargons. Twice, in the course of my travels, when I have mentioned that I was an Englishman, I have been addressed with Well,

sir, I should never have suspected that; for you speak English as correctly as an American.”

As few persons have as yet visited America, except some men of extremely moderate education, and whose national prejudices have never been removed by previous travelling, we must not be surprised that they found fault with every thing different from what they were accustomed to. Ignorant of men or manners, never having been in good society in England, and from their want of introductions unlikely to be admitted into good society in America, these “ Smell-fungus” travellers have passed their time at the most inferior sort of taverns, and often at the pot-houses of the frontiers. They have then come home, and given a book to the world, purporting to be a fair view of the people of the United States.

Now let any one suppose that an American farmer, coming to England, with the intention of settling in Northumberland or Lancashire, were to pass his time at low inns or alehouses, which in all countries are the head-quarters of rudeness, vice, and profligacy; and that in addition he were to select some of the worst description of stories from the newspapers, what a pretty set of materials he would thus obtain for writing a fair and unprejudiced account of the people of Great Britain !—His journal would probably not be very different from the following:

[ocr errors]

“ July 20.-Stopped at Mr. N's Inn, on the road to where I was very badly treated, had a filthy dinner, and was charged eight shillings for it. Mr. N. was the head gamekeeper of a great proprietor in this part of the country, and has been placed in his present situation in reward for his zeal in oppressing the poor of the neighbourhood. As an instance I may mention, that having one day found a man with a dog on one of his master's fields, he carried him before a clerical magistrate in the neighbourhood, and swore that he suspected the

poor man of an intention of “poaching.” This word, which we do not understand on our side of the Atlantic, means the killing a wild hare or bird. The Clergyman immediately fined the unhappy man £5 for committing a trespass, and as he was too poor to pay it, he was sent by the humane magistrate for two months to the treadmill, under a new act called the Trespass act.

“ 21.-In the paper of to day is an account of the escape of a certain dignitary of the church from Justice. He was taken up for committing a horrible crime. Now if a bishop could be guilty of this, I leave my countrymen to suppose what must be the general character of the English Clergy.

“22.-All I have seen of this nation, proves them to be uncivilized and brutal in the extreme. Only imagine any of our members of Congress, going to see two poor men beat one another almost to death

« ПретходнаНастави »