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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsSunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 1 - Letter 5
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Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 1 - Letter 5 Post by :sbeard Category :Nonfictions Author :Harriet Beecher Stowe Date :May 2012 Read :2938

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Sunny Memories Of Foreign Lands, Volume 1 - Letter 5


April 17.


To-day a large party of us started on a small steamer, to go down the Clyde. It has been a very, very exciting day to us. It is so stimulating to be where every name is a poem. For instance, we start at the Broomielaw. This Broomielaw is a kind of wharf, or landing. Perhaps in old times it was a haugh overgrown with broom, from whence it gets its name; this is only my conjecture, however.

We have a small steamer quite crowded with people, our excursion party being very numerous. In a few minutes after starting, somebody says,--

"O, here's where the Kelvin enters." This starts up,--

"Let us haste to Kelvin Grove."

Then soon we are coming to Dumbarton Castle, and all the tears we shed over Miss Porter's William Wallace seem to rise up like a many-colored mist about it. The highest peak of the rock is still called Wallace's Seat, and a part of the castle, Wallace's Tower; and in one of its apartments a huge two-handed sword of the hero is still shown. I suppose, in fact, Miss Porter's sentimental hero is about as much like the real William Wallace as Daniel Boone is like Sir Charles Grandison. Many a young lady, who has cried herself sick over Wallace in the novel, would have been in perfect horror if she could have seen the real man. Still Dumbarton Castle is not a whit the less picturesque for that. Now comes the Leven,--that identical Leven Water known in song,--and on the right is Leven Grove.

"There," said somebody to me, "is the old mansion of the Earls of Glencairn." Quick as thought, flashed through my mind that most eloquent of Burns's poems, the Lament for James, Earl of Glencairn.

"The bridegroom may forget the bride
Was made his wedded wife yestreen;
The monarch may forget the crown
That on his head an hour hath been;
The mother may forget the child
That smiles sae sweetly on her knee;
But I'll remember thee, Glencairn,
And a' that thou hast done for me."

This mansion is now the seat of Graham of Gartmor.

Now we are shown the remains of old Cardross Castle, where it was said Robert Bruce breathed his last. And now we come near the beautiful grounds of Roseneath, a green, velvet-like peninsula, stretching out into the widening waters.

"Peninsula!" said C----. "Why, Walter Scott said it was an island."

Certainly, he did declare most explicitly in the person of Mr. Archibald, the Duke of Argyle's serving man, to Miss Dollie Dutton, when she insisted on going to it by land, that Roseneath was an island. It shows that the most accurate may be caught tripping sometimes.

Of course, our heads were full of David Deans, Jeanie, and Effie, but we saw nothing of them. The Duke of Argyle's Italian mansion is the most conspicuous object.

Hereupon there was considerable discussion on the present Duke of Argyle among the company, from which we gathered that he stood high in favor with the popular mind. One said that there had been an old prophecy, probably uttered somewhere up in the Highlands, where such things are indigenous, that a very good duke of Argyle was to arise having red hair, and that the present duke had verified the prediction by uniting both requisites. They say that he is quite a young man, with a small, slight figure, but with a great deal of energy and acuteness of mind, and with the generous and noble traits which have distinguished his house in former times. He was a pupil of Dr. Arnold, a member of the National Scotch Kirk, and generally understood to be a serious and religious man. He is one of the noblemen who have been willing to come forward and make use of his education and talent in the way of popular lectures at lyceums and athenaeums; as have also the Duke of Newcastle, the Earl of Carlisle, and some others. So the world goes on. I must think, with all deference to poetry, that it is much better to deliver a lyceum lecture than to head a clan in battle; though I suppose, a century and a half ago, had the thing been predicted to McCallummore's old harper, he would have been greatly at a loss to comprehend the nature of the transaction.

Somewhere about here, I was presented, by his own request, to a broad-shouldered Scotch farmer, who stood some six feet two, and who paid me the compliment to say, that he had read my book, and that he would walk six miles to see me any day. Such a flattering evidence of discriminating taste, of course, disposed my heart towards him; but when I went up and put my hand into his great prairie of a palm, I was as a grasshopper in my own eyes. I inquired who he was, and was told he was one of the Duke of Argyle's farmers. I thought to myself, if all the duke's farmers were of this pattern, that he might be able to speak to the enemy in the gates to some purpose.

Roseneath occupies the ground between the Gare Loch and Loch Long. The Gare Loch is the name given to a bay formed by the River Clyde, here stretching itself out like a lake. Here we landed and went on shore, passing along the sides of the loch, in the little village of Row.

As we were walking along a carriage came up after us, in which were two ladies. A bunch of primroses, thrown from this carriage, fell at my feet. I picked it up, and then the carriage stopped, and the ladies requested to know if I was Mrs. Stowe. On answering in the affirmative, they urged me so earnestly to come under their roof and take some refreshment, that I began to remember, what I had partly lost sight of, that I was very tired; so, while the rest of the party walked on to get a distant view of Ben Lomond, Mr. S. and I suffered ourselves to be taken into the carriage of our unknown friends, and carried up to a charming little Italian villa, which stood, surrounded by flower gardens and pleasure grounds, at the head of the loch. We were ushered into a most comfortable parlor, where a long window, made of one clear unbroken sheet of plate glass, gave a perfect view of the loch with all its woody shores, with Roseneath Castle in the distance. My good hostesses literally overwhelmed me with kindness; but as there was nothing I really needed so much as a little quiet rest, they took me to a cozy bedroom, of which they gave me the freedom, for the present. Does not every traveller know what a luxury it is to shut one's eyes sometimes? The chamber, which is called "Peace," is now, as it was in Christian's days, one of the best things that Charity or Piety could offer to the pilgrim. Here I got a little brush from the wings of dewy-feathered sleep.

After a while our party came back, and we had to be moving. My kind friends expressed so much joy at having met me, that it was really almost embarrassing. They told me that they, being confined to the house by ill health, and one of them by lameness, had had no hope of ever seeing me, and that this meeting seemed a wonderful gift of Providence. They bade me take courage and hope, for they felt assured that the Lord would yet entirely make an end of slavery through the world.

It was concluded, after we left here, that, instead of returning by the boat, we should take carriage and ride home along the banks of the river. In our carriage were Mr. S. and myself, Dr. Robson and Lady Anderson. About this time I commenced my first essay towards giving titles, and made, as you may suppose, rather an odd piece of work of it, generally saying "Mrs." first, and "Lady" afterwards, and then begging pardon. Lady Anderson laughed, and said she would give me a general absolution. She is a truly genial, hearty Scotch woman, and seemed to enter happily into the spirit of the hour.

As we rode on we found that the news of our coming had spread through the village. People came and stood in their doors, beckoning, bowing, smiling, and waving their handkerchiefs, and the carriage was several times stopped by persons who came to offer flowers. I remember, in particular, a group of young girls brought to the carriage two of the most beautiful children I ever saw, whose little hands literally deluged us with flowers.

At the village of Helensburgh we stopped a little while to call upon Mrs. Bell, the wife of Mr. Bell, the inventor of the steamboat. His invention in this country was about the same time of that of Fulton in America. Mrs. Bell came to the carriage to speak to us. She is a venerable woman, far advanced in years. They had prepared a lunch for us, and quite a number of people had come together to meet us, but our friends said that there was not time for us to stop.

We rode through several villages after this, and met quite warm welcome. What pleased me was, that it was not mainly from the literary, nor the rich, nor the great, but the plain, common people. The butcher came out of his stall, and the baker from his shop, the miller, dusty with his flour, the blooming, comely, young mother, with her baby in her arms, all smiling and bowing with that hearty, intelligent, friendly look, as if they knew we should be glad to see them.

Once, while we stopped to change horses, I, for the sake of seeing something more of the country, walked on. It seems the honest landlord and his wife were greatly disappointed at this; however, they got into the carriage and rode on to see me, and I shook hands with them with a right good will.

We saw several of the clergymen, who came out to meet us, and I remember stopping, just to be introduced to a most delightful family who came out, one by one, gray-headed father and mother, with comely brothers and fair sisters, looking all so kindly and home-like, that I would have been glad to use the welcome that they gave me to their dwelling.

This day has been a strange phenomenon to me. In the first place, I have seen in all these villages how universally the people read. I have seen how capable they are of a generous excitement and enthusiasm, and how much may be done by a work of fiction, so written as to enlist those sympathies which are common to all classes. Certainly, a great deal may be effected in this way, if God gives to any one the power, as I hope he will to many. The power of fictitious writing, for good as well as evil, is a thing which ought most seriously to be reflected on. No one can fail to see that in our day it is becoming a very great agency.

We came home quite tired, as you may well suppose. You will not be surprised that the next day I found myself more disposed to keep my bed than to go out. I regretted it, because, being Sunday, I would like to have heard some of the preachers of Glasgow. I was, however, glad of one quiet day to recall my thoughts, for I had been whirling so rapidly from scene to scene, that I needed time to consider where I was; especially as we were to go to Edinburgh on the morrow.

Towards sunset Mr. S. and I strolled out entirely alone to breathe a little fresh air. We walked along the banks of the Kelvin, quite down to its junction with the Clyde. The Kelvin Grove of the ballad is all cut away, and the Kelvin flows soberly between stone walls, with a footpath on each side, like a stream that has learned to behave itself.

"There," said Mr. S., as we stood on the banks of the Clyde, now lying flushed and tranquil in the light of the setting sun, "over there is Ayrshire."

"Ayrshire!" I said; "what, where Burns lived?"

"Yes, there is his cottage, far down to the south, and out of sight, of course; and there are the bonny banks of Ayr."

It seemed as if the evening air brought a kind of sigh with it. Poor Burns! how inseparably he has woven himself with the warp and woof of every Scottish association!

We saw a great many children of the poor out playing--rosy, fine little urchins, worth, any one of them, a dozen bleached, hothouse flowers. We stopped to hear them talk, and it was amusing to hear the Scotch of Walter Scott and Burns shouted out with such a right good will. We were as much struck by it as an honest Yankee was in Paris by the proficiency of the children in speaking French.

The next day we bade farewell to Glasgow, overwhelmed with kindness to the last, and only oppressed by the thought, how little that was satisfactory we were able to give in return.

Again in the railroad car on our way to Edinburgh. A pleasant two hours' trip is this from Glasgow to Edinburgh. When the cars stopped at Linlithgow station, the name started us as out of a dream.

There, sure enough, before our eyes, on a gentle eminence stood the mouldering ruins of which Scott has sung:--

"Of all the palaces so fair,
Built for the royal dwelling,
In Scotland, far beyond compare
Linlithgow is excelling;
And in its park in genial June,
How sweet the merry linnet's tune,
How blithe the blackbird's lay!
The wild buck's bells from thorny brake.
The coot dives merry on the lake,--
The saddest heart might pleasure take,
To see a scene so gay."

Here was born that woman whose beauty and whose name are set in the strong, rough Scotch heart, as a diamond in granite. Poor Mary! When her father, who lay on his death bed at that time in Falkland, was told of her birth, he answered, "Is it so? Then God's will be done! It (the kingdom) came with a lass, and it will go with a lass!" With these words he turned his face to the wall, and died of a broken heart. Certainly, some people appear to be born under an evil destiny.

Here, too, in Linlithgow church, tradition says that James IV. was warned, by a strange apparition, against that expedition to England which cost him his life. Scott has worked this incident up into a beautiful description, in the fourth canto of Marmion.

The castle has a very sad and romantic appearance, standing there all alone as it does, looking down into the quiet lake. It is said that the internal architectural decorations are exceedingly rich and beautiful, and a resemblance has been traced between its style of ornament and that of Heidelberg Castle, which has been accounted for by the fact that the Princess Elizabeth, who was the sovereign lady of Heidelberg, spent many of the earlier years of her life in this place.

Not far from here we caught a glimpse of the ruins of Niddrie Castle, where Mary spent the first night after her escape from Lochleven.

The Avon here at Linlithgow is spanned by a viaduct, which is a fine work of art. It has twenty-five arches, which are from seventy to eighty feet high and fifty wide.

As the cars neared Edinburgh we all exclaimed at its beauty, so worthily commemorated by Scott:--

"Such dusky grandeur clothes the height,
Where the huge castle holds its state,
And all the steeps slope down,
Whose ridgy back heaves to the sky,
Piled deep and massy, close and high,
Mine own romantic town!"

Edinburgh has had an effect on the literary history of the world for the last fifty years, that cannot be forgotten by any one approaching her. The air seemed to be full of spirits of those who, no longer living, have woven a part of the thread of our existence. I do not know that the shortness of human life ever so oppressed me as it did on coming near to the city.

At the station house the cars stopped amid a crowd of people, who had assembled to meet us. The lord provost met us at the door of the car, and presented us to the magistracy of the city, and the committees of the Edinburgh antislavery societies. The drab dresses and pure white bonnets of many Friends were conspicuous among the dense moving crowd, as white doves seen against a dark cloud. Mr. S. and myself, and our future hostess, Mrs. Wigham, entered the carriage with the lord provost, and away we drove, the crowd following with their shouts and cheers. I was inexpressibly touched and affected by this. While we were passing the monument of Scott, I felt an oppressive melancholy. What a moment life seems in the presence of the noble dead! What a momentary thing is art, in all its beauty! Where are all those great souls that have created such an atmosphere of light about Edinburgh? and how little a space was given them to live and to enjoy!

We drove all over Edinburgh, up to the castle, to the university, to Holyrood, to the hospitals, and through many of the principal streets, amid shouts, and smiles, and greetings. Some boys amused me very much by their pertinacious attempts to keep up with the carriage.

"Heck," says one of them, "that's _her_; see the _courls_."

The various engravers, who have amused themselves by diversifying my face for the public, having all, with great unanimity, agreed in giving prominence to this point, I suppose the urchins thought they were on safe ground there. I certainly think I answered one good purpose that day, and that is, of giving the much oppressed and calumniated class, called boys, an opportunity to develop all the noise that was in them--a thing for which I think they must bless me in their remembrances.

At last the carriage drove into a deep gravelled yard, and we alighted at a porch covered with green ivy, and found ourselves once more at home.

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