It was felt like an odor within the sense."
And so we bade good-by to Stratford-on-Avon and its hospitalities, with grateful remembrances of our kind entertainers and all they did for our comfort and enjoyment.
After the poor unsatisfactory towers of Westminster Abbey, the two massive, noble, truly majestic towers of Notre Dame strike the traveller as a crushing contrast. It is not hard to see that one of these grand towers is somewhat larger than the other, but the difference does not interfere with the effect of the imposing front of the cathedral.
The Derby day of 1834 was exceedingly windy and dusty. Our party, riding on the outside of the coach, was half smothered with the dust, and arrived in a very deteriorated condition, but recompensed for it by the extraordinary sights we had witnessed. There was no train in those days, and the whole road between London and Epsom was choked with vehicles of all kinds, from four-in-hands to donkey-carts and wheelbarrows. My friends and I mingled freely in the crowds, and saw all the "humours" of the occasion. The thimble-riggers were out in great force, with their light, movable tables, the cups or thimbles, and the "little jokers," and the coachman, the sham gentleman, the country greenhorn, all properly got up and gathered about the table. I think we had "Aunt Sally," too,--the figure with a pipe in her mouth, which one might shy a stick at for a penny or two and win something, I forget what. The clearing the course of stragglers, and the chasing about of the frightened little dog who had got in between the thick ranks of spectators, reminded me of what I used to see on old "artillery election" days.
"So lonely 'twas that God himself
The bridal of the earth and sky."
After a short excursion to Strasbourg, down the Rhine, and through Holland, a small steamer took us from Rotterdam across the Channel, and we found ourselves in the British capital.
The flora and fauna of a country, as seen from railroad trains and carriages, are not likely to be very accurately or exhaustively studied. I spoke of the trees I noticed between Chester and London somewhat slightingly. But I did not form any hasty opinions from what happened to catch my eye. Afterwards, in the oaks and elms of Windsor Park, in the elms of Cambridge and Oxford and Salisbury, in the lindens of Stratford, in the various noble trees, including the cedar of Lebanon, in which Tennyson very justly felt a pride as their owner, I saw enough to make me glad that I had not uttered any rash generalizations on the strength of my first glance. The most interesting comparison I made was between the New England and the Old England elms. It is not necessary to cross the ocean to do this, as we have both varieties growing side by side in our parks,--on Boston Common, for instance. It is wonderful to note how people will lie about big trees. There must be as many as a dozen trees, each of which calls itself the "largest elm in New England." In my younger days, when I never travelled without a measuring-tape in my pocket, it amused me to see how meek one of the great swaggering elms would look when it saw the fatal measure begin to unreel itself. It seemed to me that the leaves actually trembled as the inexorable band encircled the trunk in the smallest place it could find, which is the only safe rule. The English elm (Ulmus campestris) as we see it in Boston comes out a little earlier perhaps, than our own, but the difference is slight. It holds its leaves long after our elms are bare. It grows upward, with abundant dark foliage, while ours spreads, sometimes a hundred and twenty feet, and often droops like a weeping willow. The English elm looks like a much more robust tree than ours, yet they tell me it is very fragile, and that its limbs are constantly breaking off in high winds, just as happens with our native elms. Ours is not a very long-lived tree; between two and three hundred years is, I think, the longest life that can be hoped for it. Since I have heard of the fragility of the English elm, which is the fatal fault of our own, I have questioned whether it can claim a greater longevity than ours. There is a hint of a typical difference in the American and the Englishman which I have long recognized in the two elms as compared to each other. It may be fanciful, but I have thought that the compactness and robustness about the English elm, which are replaced by the long, tapering limbs and willowy grace and far-spreading reach of our own, might find a certain parallelism in the people, especially the females of the two countries.
The soil of England does not seem to be worn out, to judge by the wonderful verdure and the luxuriance of vegetation. It contains a great museum of geological specimens, and a series of historical strata which are among the most instructive of human records. I do not pretend to much knowledge of geology. The most interesting geological objects in our New England that I can think of are the great boulders and the scratched and smoothed surface of the rocks; the fossil footprints in the valley of the Connecticut; the trilobites found at Quincy. But the readers of Hugh Miller remember what a variety of fossils he found in the stratified rocks of his little island, and the museums are full of just such objects. When it comes to underground historical relics, the poverty of New England as compared with the wealth of Old England is very striking. Stratum after stratum carries the explorer through the relics of successive invaders. After passing through the characteristic traces of different peoples, he comes upon a Roman pavement, and below this the weapons and ornaments of a tribe of ancient Britons. One cannot strike a spade into the earth, in Great Britain, without a fair chance of some surprise in the form of a Saxon coin, or a Celtic implement, or a Roman fibula. Nobody expects any such pleasing surprise in a New England field. One must be content with an Indian arrowhead or two, now and then a pestle and mortar, or a stone pipe. A top dressing of antiquity is all he can look for. The soil is not humanized enough to be interesting; whereas in England so much of it has been trodden by human feet, built on in the form of human habitations, nay, has been itself a part of preceding generations of human beings, that it is in a kind of dumb sympathy with those who tread its turf. Perhaps it is not literally true that