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do not discover, in consequence, their affinity to devoted Humphrey Clinkers : there is merely a half-hour's stoppage of the train, barren of incident, save that the male passengers get out to smoke, while the ladies sit still. And as for the frequent tragedy of railway collision accidents, it has but little of the classic about it, and is more appropriately recorded in newspaper columns, struck off for the passing day, than in pages of
higher pretensions written for to-morrow. England has become - a greatly less fertile field of adventure than when, according to
the Anglice Metropolis for 1690, the “weekly . waggon of Richard Hamersly the carrier” formed the sole conveyance, for passengers who did not ride horses of their own, between Brumegham and the capital.
But though the age of personal adventure has to a certainty gone by, the age which has succeeded is scarcely less fertile in incident on a larger scale, and of a greatly more remarkable character. It would seem as if the same change which has abridged the area of the country had given condensation to its history. We are not only travelling, but also, as a people, living fast ; and see revolutions, which were formerly the slow work of ages, matured in a few brief seasons. Opinion during the last twenty years has accomplished, though in a reverse order, the cycle of the two previous centuries. From the Reformation to the Revolution, the ecclesiastical reigned paramount in men’s minds : from the Revolution to the breaking out of the first American war—a quiet time in the main—Governments managed their business much through the medium of individual influence, little personal interests carried the day, and monarchs and ministers bulked large in the forefront of the passing events : from the first American war till the rise of Napoleon, the hot political delirium raged wide among the masses, and even statesmen of the old school learned to recognise the people as a power. Now, such in effect has been the cycle of the last twenty years. The reign of George the Fourth was also that of personal and party influence. With the accession of William the political fever again broke out, and swept the country in a greatly more alterative and irresistible form than at first. And now, here, in the times of Victoria, are we scarce less decidedly enveloped in the still thickening ecclesiastical element than our ancestors of the sixteenth century. If there be less of personal adventure in the England of the present day than in that of Queen Anne and the two first Georges, there is, as if to make amends, greatly more of incident in the history of the masses. It has been remarked by some students of the Apocalypse, that the course of the predicted events at first move slowly, as, one after one, six of the seven seals are opened ; that on the opening of the seventh seal, the progress is so considerably quickened that the seventh period proves as fertile in events—represented by the sounding of the seven trumpets
-as the foregoing six taken together ; and that on the sounding of the seventh trumpet, so great is the further acceleration, that there is an amount of incident condensed in this seventh part of the seventh period, equal, as in the former case, to that of all the previous six parts in one. There are three cycles, it has been said, in the scheme-cycle within cycle ; the second comprised within a seventh portion of the first, and the third within a seventh portion of the second. Be this as it may, we may at least see something that exceedingly resembles it, in that actual economy of change and revolution manifested in English history for the last two centuries. It would seem as if events,
in their downward course, had come under the influence of that law of gravitation through which falling bodies increase in speed as they descend, according to the squares of the distances.
Though there may be little to encounter in such a state of society, there must of necessity be a good deal to observe : the traveller may have few incidents to relate, and yet many appearances to describe. He finds himself in the circumstances of the mariner who sits listlessly in the calm and sunshine of a northern summer, and watches the ever-changing aspect of some magnificent iceberg, as its sun-gilt pinnacles sharpen and attenuate, and its deep fissures widen and extend, and the incessant rush of the emancipated waters is heard to re-echo from amid the green light of the dim twilight caverns within. Society in England, in the present day, exists, like the thawing iceberg, in a transition state, and presents its consequent shiftings of aspect and changes of feature ; and such is the peculiar degree of sensitiveness at which the Government of the country has arrived—partly, it would seem, from the fluctuating nature of the extended basis of representation on which it now rests that, like some nervous valetudinarian, open to every influence of climate and the weather, there is scarce a change that can come over opinion, or affect the people in even their purely physical concerns, which does not more or less fully index itself in the statute-book. The autumn of 1845, in which I travelled over England, was ungenial and lowering, and I saw wheaten fields deeply tinged with brown—an effect of the soaking raiņs—and large tracts of diseased potatoes. A season equally bad, however, twenty years ago, would have failed to influence the politics of the country. Its frequent storms might have desolated the fruits of the earth, but they would have made no impression on the statutes at large. But the storms of 1845 proved greatly more influential. They were included in the cycle of rapid change, and annihilated at once the Protectionist policy and party of the empire. And amid the fermenting components of English society there may be detected elements of revolution in their first causes, destined, apparently, to exercise an influence on public affairs at least not less considerable than the rains and tempests of the Autumn of FortyFive. The growing Tractarianism of the National Church threatens to work greater changes than the bad potatoes, and the semi-infidel liberalism of the country, fast passing into an aggressive power, than the damaged corn.
The reader will find in the following pages, as from these remarks he may be led to anticipate, scarce any personal anecdote or adventure: they here and there record a brief dialogue by the wayside, or in some humble lodging-house, and here and there a solitary stroll through a wood, or a thoughtful lounge in a quarry; but there is considerably more of eye and ear in them—of things seen and heard—than of aught else. They index, however, not much of what he might be led equally to expect—those diagnostic symptoms impressed on the face of society, that indicate the extensive changes, secular and ecclesiastical, which seem so peculiarly characteristic of the time. The journey of which they form a record was undertaken purely for purposes of relaxation, in that state of indifferent health, and consequent languor, which an over-strain of the mental faculties usually induces, and in which, like the sick animal that secludes itself from the herd, man prefers walking apart from his kind, to seeking them out in the bustle and turmoil of active life, there to note peculiarities of aspect or character, like an
adventurous artist taking sketches amid the heat of a battle. They will, however, lead the reader who accompanies me in my rambles considerably out of the usual route of the tourist, into sequestered corners, associated with the rich literature of England, or amid rocks and caverns, in which the geologist finds curious trace of the history of the country as it existed during the long cycles of the bygone creations. I trust I need scarce apologize to the general reader for my frequent transitions from the actual state of things, to those extinct states which obtained in what is now England during the geologic periods. The art, so peculiar to the present age, of deciphering the ancient hieroglyphics, sculptured on the rocks of our country, is gradually extending from the few to the many; it will be comparatively a common accomplishment half a generation hence; and when the hard names of the science shall have become familiar enough no longer to obscure its poetry, it will be found that what I have attempted to do will be done, proportionally to their measure of ability, by travellers generally. In hazarding the prediction, I build on the fact that it is according to the intellectual nature of man to delight in the metaphor and the simile --in pictures of the past and dreams of the future-in short, in whatever introduces amid one set of figures palpable to the senses, another visible but to the imagination, and thus blends the ideal with the actual, like some fanciful allegorist, sculptor, or painter, who mixes up with his groups of real personages, qualities and dispositions embodied in human form—angelic virtues with wings growing out of their shoulders, and brutal vices furnished with tails and claws. And it is impossible, such being the mental constitution of the species, to see the events of other creations legibly engraved all around, as with an iron