« ZurückWeiter »
rality any further, or to load the public treasury with any additional incumbrances.
To give them their due, however, we must admit of two exceptions to this observation. Doctor Johnson, after struggling with disease and poverty for sixty years, was presented with a most magnificent annuity of two hundred pounds per annum. When travelling was prescribed by his physicians, an application was made for a small augmentation, but it was impossible to obtain it. Cowper, a glory and blessing to humanity, struggled with narrow circumstances, and with the most horrible of maladies, for upwards of sixty years, when his majesty was graciously pleased to
secure to him three hundred pounds A JAUNT TO ROCKAWAY, IN LONGThese salaries togeper annum. ther were equal to one fourth of the wages of the master of the foxhounds; which, after all, is only a nominal office, and which is always possessed by those who have vast patrimonies of their own.
It is astonishing that kings and nobles are not more beneficent to men of genius, even from a mere selfish passion for praise. The gratitude excited by such gifts, is always in proportion to the benefits they confer on the receiver, not to the generosity of the donor: and what eloquent eulogies will the king receive, who, with one hand, bestows three hundred a year on a superannuated poet, though, with the other, he confers seven times the sum on the master of his foxhounds.
Suppose the aforesaid eight thousand pounds were distributed, in life annuities of two hundred each, to men, whose forlorn situation, joined with intellectual merit, laid indisputable claim to so mere a competence, there would be no less than forty persons enlisted in the service of the giver's glory. How would such munificence have sounded through the world: how rich, in the ornaments of public gratitude, would it go down to posterity! what a mighty and expensive effort
would it appear! And yet we see that, at present, this very sum, indeed, ten times this sum, is divided between half a dozen noble and worthless idlers, whose claim, and that is only nominal, consists in their superintendence of a pack of hounds, or something of equal dignity and usefulness!
This is not a censure intended particularly for England, or for kings. This abuse of the public revenue, in a greater or less degree, is incident to all nations, and to every form of government.
MY DEAR R......
WHAT possible amusement can you expect from my recital of a jaunt to Rockaway? I cannot dignify trifles, or give to vulgar sights a novelty, by making them pass through my fancy. That fancy, you well know, has no particle of kindred to that of poet or painter, and nobody should pretend to describe, who does not look through the optics of either painter or poet. Besides, my ignorance circumscribes my curiosity. I have few objects of remembrance with which to compare the objects that I meet with. Hence, as the carriage whirls along, faces, fences, houses, barns, cultivated fields, pass rapidly across my eye, without leaving a vestige behind them. You will of course ask me, how the fields are inclosed? How they are planted? What portion is tilled; what is wood, and what is waste? Of what number, materials, dimensions, and form, are the dwellings, the granaries, the churches, the bridges, the carriages? What is the countenance, the dress, the deportment of the passengers, and so forth? through an endless catalogue of interrogatories.
Now I cannot answer a word to all these questions. Your attention, on the contrary, during such a journey, would be incessantly alive: you would take exact note of all these particulars, and draw from them a thousand inferences as to the nature of the soil, the state of agriculture, and the condition of the people. While your companions were beguiling the time by a map: by looking eagerly forward to the bating place, and asking the driver now and then, how many miles he had to go to dinner, or cursing the dust, the heat, the jolting, and the hard benches, or conversing with each other, all your senses, and your whole soul would be chained to passing objects. Not a stone would you meet with, but should instantly pass through your crucible; not a tree or a post, but would serve as a clue to the knowledge of the soil, climate, and the industry of the island. You would count the passengers, take an inventory of their dress, mark their looks and their steps; you would calculate the length, breadth, and height of all the buildings; and compare every thing you saw, from the church to the pig-pen, and from the parson to the plowboy, with all that you had seen elsewhere.
Such is the traveller, my friend, that you would have made; and you have known more of Long-Island in a few hours, than many who have lived within sight of it these fifty years: I, alas! am one of those whom fifty years of observation would leave in the same ignorance in which they found me.
'Tis true, as you say, that such an unobservant wretch as I represent myself to be, may yet amuse by relating his own sensations, and his narrative, if it give no account of the scene of his journey, will, at least, comprise a picture of his own character. An accurate history of the thoughts and feelings of any man, for one hour, is more valuable to some minds, than a system of geography; and you, you tell me, are one of those who would rather
travel into the mind of a plowman, than into the interior of Africa. Í confess myself of your way of thinking; but from very different motives. I must needs say I would rather consort forever with a plowman, or even with an old Bergen market woman, than expose myself to an hundredth part of the perils which beset the heels of a Ledyard or a Parke.
You see how ingeniously I put off this unpleasant task: but since you will not let me off, I must begin. Remember, it is a picture of myself, and not of the island, that you want: and such, how disreputable soever it may be to the painter, you shall have. I have some comfort in thinking, that most of the travellers to Rockaway, are but little wiser and more inquisitive than myself.
In the first place, then, we left I........'s at one o'clock. The day was extremely fine, and promised a most pleasant ride. You may suppose that we were most agreeably occupied in the prospect of a journey which neither of the three had ever made before: but no such thing. We thought and talked of nothing but the uncertainty of getting seats in the stage, which goes at that hour from Brooklynn, and the reasonable apprehension of being miserably crowded, even if we could get seats. Such is my aversion to being wedged with ten or twelve in a stage coach, that I had previously resolved to return, in case of any such misfortune. So I told my friends, but in this I fibbed a little, for the naked truth was that I wanted a pretext for staying behind; having left society in New York, the loss of which all the pleasures of Rockaway would poorly compensate.
We passed the river, and after dining at the inn, were seated in the coach, much more at our ease than we had any reason to expect. We rode through a country altoge ther new to me, twelve or fourteen miles (I forgot which) to Jamaica. Shall I give you a peep into my
thoughts? I am half ashamed to admit you, but I will deal sincerely with you. Still, say I, my consolation is, that few travellers, if their minds were laid as completely open to inspection, would come off from their trial with more credit than myself.
I confess to you then that my mind was much more busily engaged in reflecting on the possible consequences of coming off without several changes of clothes in my handkerchief, and without an umbrella to shelter me from sunshine and rain, than with the fields and woods which I passed through. My umbrella I had the ill-luck to break as we crossed the river, and as to clothes, I had the folly, as usual, to forget that Rockaway was a place of fashionable resort, and that many accidents might happen to prolong our stay there four or five days, instead of a single day; and yet think not that I was totally insensible to passing objects. The sweet pure country air, which was brisk, cool and fresh enough to make supportable the noon-tide rays of a July sun, to the whole force of which my seat beside the driver exposed me, I inhaled with delight. I remember little, however, but a country, pretty much denuded of its woods, (as Sam. Johnson would say) a sandy soil; stubble fields, houses fifty years old, a couple of miles from each other, and most of them, especially those furthest on the road, exact counterparts of such as we see in Dutch and Flemish landscapes; four-wheeled rustic carriages, of a most disproportioned length, crazy and uncouth, without springs, entered from behind, and loaded with women and children, pigs and chickens; not a single carriage of elegance or pleasure to be met with, though overtaken by half a dozen gigs, going to the same place with ourselves.
We reached Jamaica at five o'clock, and here we staid one hour. A glass of lemonade, a plentiful ablution in cold water, and a walk
with B..... in a church-yard opposite the inn, were all the surprising events which distinguished this hour. This island is one of the oldest of European settlements in North America, and we therefore expected to find in this churchyard some were disappointed. There were memorial of ancient days, but we many grave-stones, broken or half sunken, or blackened by age, but the oldest date was within forty years. The church, though painted anew and furbished up lately, inscription on the front informed us. was about seventy years old, as an There was another of a much more antique cast within view, but we did not approach it
questions respecting Jamaica, for I I hope you will be sparing of your not a single question statistical or can answer none of them. I asked topographical of our hostess. I did not count the houses, and therefore tion. It is a spacious, well-looking can form no notion of the populavillage, many of whose houses appear to be built as summer retreats for wealthy citizens, and that is all I can say of it.
placed much more at my ease than
I, for the most part, was mute, as I usually am, in a stage-coach and among strangers. Not so my two friends. B.... finds a topic of talk and good humour in every thing, and J....'s amenity is always ready to pursue the other's lead. I forget all their topics, except a very earnest discussion of the merits of different lodging-houses, at the sea-side, and many sympathetic effusions, drawn forth by the shipwreck of another coach. On the first head we concluded to go to the house nearest the sea, one Ben Cornwall's, our purpose being as much to gratify the eye as the touch, and there we accordingly arrived, pretty late on a chill, moist and cloudy evening.
There are few men who are always masters of their spirits, and mine, which had not been high through the day, fell suddenly some degrees lower, on stepping out of the carriage into the piazza of the house. This place appeared, at the first glance, to want at the same time the comforts and seclusion of a private house, and the order and plenty of a public one. The scene without was extremely dreary, and the vicinity of the sea, not being a quarter of a mile distant, gave us very distinctly the music of his multitudinous waves.
Our curiosity would not allow us to go to bed, till we had touched the ocean-wave. We, therefore, after a poor repast, hastened down to the beach. Between the house and the water, is a wide and level expanse of loose white sand, which is a pretty good sample of Arabia or Zaara, as I have heard them described. Tell me, you who have travelled, whether every country, in the temperate zone, of moderate extent and somewhat diversified, contains not samples of every quarter of the globe?
my friend B.... this novelty was absolute. He never before saw the ocean; but to me it was new only as I now saw it, at night. Seven years ago I found my way to the margent of the sea, between Sandyhook and the mouth of the Raritan. I took a long peregrination on foot, in company with two friends, and shall never forget the impression which the boundless and troubled ocean, seen for the first time, from an open beach, in a clear day, and with a strong wind blowing landward, made upon me. It was flood-tide, and the sandy margin formed a pretty steep shelf. The billows, therefore, rose to a considerable height, and brake with great fury against it; and my soul was suspended for half an hour, with an awe, a rapture which I never felt before. Far different were my feelings on this occasion, for the scene was no longer new to me, and the scene itself was far less magnificent. There was scarcely any wind, the tide was ebb, and the shore declined almost imperceptibly.
As we came to this place for the purpose of bathing, and had so short a time to stay, we thought we could not begin too early, and therefore stript immediately, notwithstanding the freshness of the air, and what is of greater moment, our ignorance of the shore.
The air was wet to the touch and saline to the taste, but the novelty of the scene, to which a canopy of dark clouds, with a pale star gleaming now and then through the crevices, tended to increase, buoyed up my spirits to their usual pitch. To
VOL. I. NO. I.
Up, pretty high upon the shore, is an house, no better than a fisherman's hut. 'Tis a mere frame of wood, boarded at the sides and top, with no window, and a deor-way. The floor is sand, and there are pegs against the wall to hang clothes upon. There is a tub provided for cleansing the feet from the sand, which when wet clings to the skin like bird-lime. Towels, which are furnished at the house, we brought not with us.
Is there any thing, the advantages of which are more universally and constantly manifested, titan order? Its value is seen in the most trivial matters, as in the most momentous. This room was pitchdark, and we were wholly unac
quainted with it: and yet by the simple process of hanging our clothes, as we take them off, on a peg, and putting them on in the same order reversed, there is no difficulty. Some of us were not so wise as to practise this order, and, of consequence, were condemned to grope about half an hour longer than others, in the dark, for stockings, sleeve-buttons, hats, and handkerchiefs.
What would physicians say to standing naked on a bleak night, with the wind at east, while the billows broke over you for ten minutes? There is an agreeable trepidation felt, while the scene is new, and the sudden effusion of cold water must, methinks, produce powerful effects of some kind or another.
As we were early comers to this house, we were honoured each with a room to himself. There were twenty or thirty persons to be accommodated, besides a numerous family, in a wooden house of two stories; so that we could not but congratulate ourselves on the privilege thus secured to us. The chamber, however, allotted to me was a little nook, about seven feet long and three wide, only large enough to admit the bedstead and him that slept in it. In such excursions as these, however, hardships and privations, are preferable to ease and luxury. There is something like consciousness of merit in encountering them voluntarily and with chearfulness. There is a rivalship in hardihood and good humour, more pleasurable than any delights of the senses. A splenetic or fastidious traveller is a great burden to himself and to his company,and ought, through mere generosity, to keep himself at home. In saying this, I am conscious, that in some degree, I pronounce my own condemnation, but I hope I am not very culpable.
My friends rose at day-light next morning, and went to bathe. They gave me warning, but I heeded it not. My little nook had half melted
me with heat, and I felt as if unqualified for the least exertion. I was sorry to have lost the opportu nity, and rose, when the sun was high in the heavens, with some degree of regret. But, more lucky than I deserved to be, I found a country waggon at the door, ready to carry down any one that chose, to the strand. I went down with another.
This was a far different bathing from that of the night before. The waggon carries us to the water's edge, and there we may undress at our leisure amidst a footing of clean straw, convenient seats and plenty of napkins. The waggon receives us directly from the water and carries us home, without trouble or delay. On this occasion the sun was just warm enough to be comfortable, and the time o'day exactly suited to the bath. Such is my notion of the matter, but I doubt whether any body else will agree with me. Sunrise and sun-set are the usual bathing-times.
After breakfast, we took a walk along the strand. My pastime consisted in picking up shells; in sifting and examining the fine white sand; in treading on the heels and toes of the wave, as it fell and rose, and in trying to find some music in its eternal murmur. Here could I give you long descants on all these topics, but my vague and crude reveries would only make my dull epistle still more dull. The sun at last broke out with the full force of midsummer, and we panted and waded through the sand, homeward, with no small regret that we had ventured so far. We Americans in general have feeble heads: those of us, I mean, who were not born to dig ditches and make hay. A white hat, broad-brimmed, and light as a straw, is an insufficient shelter against the direct beams of the sun. What must we have suffered on this occasion when the vertical rays fell on a surface of smooth white sand: We were almost liquefied before we reached the house.