CINCINNATI, fifty-five years ago, was a city of twenty thousand inhabitants. As the center of the growing business of the Ohio valley, it enjoyed a European celebrity which drew to it many emigrants, and some visitors of capital and education. The Trollope family, since so famous in literature, were living there at that time in a cottage just under the bluff which overhangs the town. Fresh from England, and retaining all their English love of nature and out-of-door exercise, the whole family, parents, two sons and two daughters, often climbed that lofty and umbrageous height, since pierced by an elevator, and now crowned by one of the most beautiful streets in the world.
Mrs. Trollope, her two daughters, and her second son, Henry, then a lad of twelve, had reached Cincinnati by the Mississippi River, and were joined there afterwards by her eldest son and her husband, who was a London lawyer of some distinction. In her work upon the " Domestic Manners of the Americans," the lady does not mention the motive of this visit to America. We have the liberty of guessing it. She was an ardent friend of Miss Frances Wright, an English lady of fortune and benevolence, who came to this country with the Trollopes in 1827, with the view of founding a Communal Home according to the ideas of Owen and Fourier. Miss Wright afterwards lectured in New York and elsewhere, but her ideas were deemed erroneous and romantic, and she had very little success in gaining adherents. She was part of the movement which led to Brook Farm, New Harmony, and similar establishments founded on principles which work beautifully so long as they are confined to the amiable thoughts of their founders.
It is probable that Mrs. Trollope, without being a dreamer of this school, came to America a sentimental republican, expecting to find here the realization of a dream not less erroneous than that of Frances Wright. She was
woefully disappointed. In New Orleans, where she landed, she saw slavery, and shuddered at the spectacle.
"At the sight," she says, " of every negro man, woman, and child that passed, my fancy wove some little romance of misery as belonging to each of them; since I have known more on the subject, and become better acquainted with their real situation in America, I have often smiled at recalling what I then felt."
This was one great shock. She was, perhaps, not less offended, as an Englishwoman and the daughter of a clergyman of the church of England, to find that the white people were living together on terms approaching social equality. She found in New Orleans a milliner holding a kind of levee in her shop, to whom she was formally introduced, and who spoke of the French fashions to the ladies, and of metaphysics to the gentlemen. Mrs. Trollope was not severely afflicted at this instance of republican equality ; but the free and easy manners prevailing on board of the Mississippi steamboats disgusted her entirely, particularly the frightful expectorating of the men, and their silent voracity at the dinner table. And here she fell into her great mistake. She attributed the crude provincialisms of American life to the institutions of the country, and not their true cause, the desperate struggle in which the people were engaged with savage nature. If she had carried out her original intention, and passed some months with Miss Wright on the tract of primeval wilderness which that lady bought in Tennessee, she might have learned what it costs to settle and subdue a virgin continent. She might have discovered that when human beings subdue the wilderness, the wilderness wreaks a revenge upon them in making them half wild. Many of the arts of domestic life are lost in the struggle. Grace of manners is lost. The art of cookery is lost. Comfort is forgotten. Men may gain in rude strength, but must lose in elegance and agreeableness. Mrs. Trollope, whether from perversity or want of penetration, perceived nothing of this, and conceived for the people of the United States an extreme repugnance.
"I do not like them," she frankly wrote, after a stay among us of three or four years. I do not like their principles, I do not like their manners, I do not like their opinions, I do not like their government."
She expanded these sentiments into two highly amusing volumes, which contain some pure truth, some not unfair burlesque, and an amount of misstatement, misconception, prejudice, and perversity absolutely without example. She had her work illustrated with a dozen or two of caricatures, not ill-executed, which can now be inspected as curious relics of antiquity. In America half a century ago is antiquity.
But I left the Trollopes in Cincinnati in 1828, father, mother, and four children. They had then been in the country more than a year, quite long enough for Mrs. Trollope to discover that Cincinnati had little in common with the republic of her dreams. She had had enough of America. How she abhorred and detested Cincinnati, the first place at which she had halted long enough for much observation! She says :
"Were I an English legislator, instead of sending Sedition to the Tower, I would send her to make a tour of the United States. I had a little leaning towards sedition myself when I set out, but before I had half completed my tour I was quite cured."
She admits that everybody at Cincinnati had as much pork, beef, hominy, and clothes as the animal man required. Every one reveled in abundance. But "The total and universal want of manners, both in males and females, is so remarkable, that I was constantly endeavoring to account for it."
She was sure it did not proceed from want of intellect. On the contrary, the people of Cincinnati appeared to her to have clear heads and active minds. But there is no charm, no grace in their conversation. I very seldom, during my whole stay in the country, heard a sentence elegantly turned and correctly pronounced from the lips of an American."
She gives her recollections of the evening parties in Cincinnati sixty years ago:
"The women invariably herd together at one part of the room, and the men at the other; but in justice to Cincinnati, I must acknowledge that this arrangement is by no means peculiar to that city, or to the western side of the Alleghanies. Sometimes a small attempt at music produces a partial reunion ; a few of the most daring youths, animated by the consciousness of curled hair and smart waistcoats, approached the piano-forte, and began to mutter a little to the half-grown pretty things, who are comparing with one another ' how many quarters' music they have had.' Where the mansion is of sufficient dignity to have two drawing-rooms, the piano, the little ladies, and the slender gentlemen are left to themselves, and on such occasions the sound of laughter is often heard to issue from among them. But the fate of the more dignified personages, who are left in the other room, is extremely dismal. The gentlemen spit, talk of elections and the price of produce, and spit again. The ladies look at each other's dresses till they know every pin by heart; talk of parson somebody's last sermon on the day of judgment, on Dr.
t'otherbody's new pills for dyspepsia, till the ''tea" is announced, when they will all console themselves for whatever they may have suffered in keeping awake, by taking more tea, coffee, hot cake, and custard, hoe cake, johnny cake, waffle cake, and dodger cake, pickled peaches, and preserved cucumbers, ham, turkey, hung beef, apple sauce, and pickled oysters, than ever were prepared in any other country of the known world. After this massive meal is over, they return to the drawing-room, and it always appeared to me that they remained together as long as they could bear it, and then they rise en masse, cloak, bonnet, shawl, and exit." One day of the year in America she enjoyed, namely, the Fourth of July, because on that day the people around her seemed to be happy, and on that day alone.
"To me," she remarks, "the dreary coldness and want of enthusiasm in American manners is one of their greatest defects, and I therefore hailed the demonstrations of general feeling which this day elicits with real pleasure. On the Fourth of July, the hearts of the people seem to awaken from a three hundred and sixty-four days' sleep; they appear high spirited, gay, animated, social, generous, or at least liberal in expense; and would they but refrain from spitting on that hallowed day, I should say that on the Fourth of July, at least, they appeared to be an amiable people. It is true that the women have little to do with the pageantry, the splendor, or the gayety of the day ; but, setting this defect aside, it was indeed a glorious sight to behold a jubilee so heartfelt as this; and had they not the bad taste and bad feeling to utter an annual oration, with unvarying abuse of the mother country, to say nothing of the warlike manifesto called the Declaration of Independence, our gracious king himself might look upon the scene and say that it was good; nay, even rejoice, that twelve millions of bustling bodies, at four thousand miles distance from his throne and his altars, should make their own laws, and drink their own tea, after the fashion that pleased them best." In the city of New York she found more agreeable society, but even there she thought the ladies were terribly under the influence of fanatical ideas. She spent a Sunday afternoon at Hoboken, and describes what she saw there :
"The price of entrance to this little Eden is the six cents you pay at the ferry. We went there on a bright Sunday afternoon, expressly to see the humors of the place. Many thousand persons were scattered through the grounds; of these we ascertained, by repeatedly counting, that nineteen-twentieths were men. The ladies were at church. Often as the subject has pressed upon my mind, I think I never so strongly felt the conviction that the Sabbath-day, the holy day, the day on which alone the great majority of the Christian world can spend their hours as they please, is ill passed (if passed entirely) within brick walls, listening to an earth-born preacher, charm he never so wisely.
"How is it that the men of America, who are reckoned good husbands and good fathers, while they themselves enjoy sufficient freedom of spirit to permit their walking forth into the temple of the living God, can leave those they love best on earth, bound in the iron chains of a most tyrannical fanaticism ? How can they breathe the balmy air, and not think of the tainted atmosphere so heavily weighing upon breasts still dearer than their own? How can they gaze upon the blossoms of the spring, and not remember the fairer cheeks of their young daughters, waxing pale, as they sit for long, sultry hours, immured with hundreds of fellow victims, listening to the roaring vanities of a preacher canonized by a college of old women? They cannot think it needful to salvation, or they would not withdraw themselves. Wherefore is it? Do they fear these self-elected, self-ordained priests, and offer up their wives and daughters to propitiate them? Or do they deem their hebdomadal freedom more complete because their wives and daughters are shut up four or five times in the clay at church or chapel ?"
But enough of these specimens. The republic being insupportable, and Mrs. Trollope's Diary being still incomplete, it was necessary for the family to come to a resolution. Their eldest son, Thomas Adolphus, nineteen years of age, was old enough to be entered at Oxford University, and it was necessary for his father to go with him to England. After family consultations, they resolved upon a brief separation, the father and eldest son to go to England, the mother with her two daughters and younger son to visit the Eastern portions of the country, and fill up the Diary. That second son, then about fourteen years of age, was Henry Trollope, afterwards the famous English novelist, whose recent death was lamented in America not less than in England. No sooner had they come to this resolution than a piece of news reached Cincinnati which induced the gentlemen to postpone their departure. General Jackson, President-elect, was on his triumphal journey to Washington, and was expected to stop a few hours at Cincinnati on his way up the Ohio. They determined to wait and get passage on board of the steamboat that bore so distinguished a personage. Mrs. Trollope and her family walked down to the landing to see the arrival of the old hero, and she almost enjoyed the spectacle.
"The noble steamboat which conveyed him was flanked on each side by one of nearly equal size and splendor; the roofs of all three were covered by a crowd of men; cannon saluted them from the shore as they passed by to the distance of a quarter of a mile above the town. There they turned about and came down the river with a rapid but stately motion, the three vessels so close together as to appear one mighty mass upon the water." Mrs. Trollope was so happy as to catch a view of the Hero of New Orleans as he walked bareheaded between a silent lane of people on his way from the steamboat to the hotel, where he was to hold a reception.
He wore his gray hair carelessly," she remarks, " but not ungracefully arranged, and, spite of his harsh, gaunt features, he looks like a gentleman and a soldier." Her husband and her son conversed much with the general on board the steamboat.
They were pleased," she says, " by his conversation and manners, but deeply disgusted by the brutal familiarity to which they saw him exposed at every place on their progress at which they stopped."
Mrs. Trollope and her children returned to England in 1830, carrying with her, as she tells us, six hundred pages of manuscript notes similar to the specimens I have given. They were speedily published, ran through three editions in three months, were republished in New York, and called forth an amount of comment of all kinds, from eulogistic to vituperative, which has rarely been paralleled. The work set her up in the business of an authoress. She followed it by a very long list of works of travel and fiction, most of which were tolerably successful.
Both her sons became voluminous writers, and some of her grandchildren 1 believe, have written books. Her husband, too, is the author of legal works and a History of the Church. If all the works produced by this family during the last sixty years were gathered together in their original editions, they would make a library of five or six hundred volumes. Several English journalist, have been counting up the works of the late Anthony Trollope. If at some future time a compiler of statistic, should take the census of the people he called into being on the printed page, it will be found that he was the author of more population than some of our Western counties can boast.
Anthony Trollope was born in 1815, but as he did not begin to publish till 1847, when he was thirty-two years of age, he was a public writer for thirty-five years, and during that period he gave the world fifty-nine works, of which thirty-seven were full-fledged novels. Some of his publications, such as his life of Cicero, and others, involved a good deal of research, and all of them show marks of careful elaboration. They give us the impression that, if ever he failed in his purpose, it was not from any lack of painstaking in the author.
This amount of literary labor would be reckoned extraordinary if he had done nothing else in his life. When we learn that until within the last eight years he held an important and responsible post in the English Post-office department, which obliged him to give attendance during business hours, from eleven to four, and that he was frequently sent on long journeys and ocean voyages on Post-office business, involving many months' continuous absence, we may well be amazed at the catalogue of his publications.
Of late years, too, he was constantly in society, a frequent diner out, a welcome guest everywhere, as well as a familiar personage in the hunting-field. !hinting was his favorite recreation, as walking was that of Charles Dickens. Like most Englishmen, he loved the country, country interests, and country sports. For many years, although a stout man, difficult to mount, he rode after the hounds three times a week during the hunting season. His readers do not need to be told that he utilized his hunting experience in working out his novels. His knowledge of horse-flesh was something like Sam Weller's knowledge of London, " both extensive and peculiar," for he was obliged to look sharply to the points of a horse destined to gallop and leap under more than two hundred pounds' weight. A reader cannot go far in his pages without being reminded that he was a horseman and a hunter.
All this increases the wonder excited by the mere number of his printed works. How did he execute them ? and above all, when did he execute them ? He was often in this country, mingling freely with literary men, and lie more than once in New York described his daily routine. He rose so early in the morning as to sit down to write at five o'clock, and lie wrote steadily on until eight. He had such complete command of his powers that he could depend upon producing a certain number of pages every morning. lie rarely failed to do his stint. It made little difference whether the scene under his hand was of a tranquil or a thrilling nature, whether he was writing the critical chapter of his work or one of its most commonplace portions. He wrote his daily number of pages before people in general had sat down to breakfast, and having done so, he laid his manuscript aside, and thought no more of it till the next morning.
He told the late Mr. George Ripley that he could produce in this way two long novels per annum, for which he received (if 1 remember rightly) three thousand guineas each, or fifteen thousand dollars each. This was certainly doing very well, and deprives him of any excuse for overworking. One of his friends writes in the London Times:
"We can not resist a melancholy suspicion that if he had relaxed a little sooner he might have been spared to us longer. Anxiety, rather than actual work, may have been injurious, when he began to grow nervous under the strain of keeping engagements against time."
Not one man in many thousands could have lived his life for a single year without destruction. Nature had given him an admirable constitution. He had a sound digestion, tranquil nerves, a cheerful disposition, and a taste for rural pleasures. He should have lived to " four score and upward."
America may claim some property in this gifted and genial man. He used to berate us soundly (and justly, too) for republishing his works without paying him copyright for the same. 1 have the impression, however, that he owed his place in the Post-office, in an indirect way, to the American people. We have seen above that as a boy of twelve, he arrived with his mother and sisters, on Christmas day, 1827, at the mouth of the Mississippi, and made with them a three years' tour of the United States.
It is possible mat tic may have assisted in the drawing of the comic pictures with which his mother enlivened her work upon the "Domestic Manners of the Americans," and doubtless he had his share in the numberless anecdotes that figure iii its pages. The youth escorted his mother to some of those " large evening parties " which she describes, where there was "no ecarte, no chess, very little music, and that lamentably bad," and where "to eat inconceivable quantities of cake, ice, and pickled oysters, and to show half their revenue in silks and satins, seemed to be the chief object of the ladies."
We are sure that he passed, with his mother, those "four days of excitement and fatigue at Niagara," where, as she says, " we drenched ourselves in spray, we cut our feet on the rocks, we blistered our faces in the sun, we looked up the cataract and down the cataract, we perched ourselves on every pinnacle we could find, we dipped our fingers in the flood at a few yards' distance front its thundering fall." In all these delights the future novelist had his part.
Let us hope, too, that he shared with ins parent the pleasure she took in the Hudson River, in Manhattan Island, and even in the city of New York, a city which she really seemed to enjoy. At that time, 1830, Manhattan Island was one of the most beautiful suburban regions in the world. It was dotted all over with pretty villas and cottages, and showed many a stately mansion on the slopes of the two rivers. Greenwich, Bloomingdale, Yorkville, and Harlem were pleasant country villages. The island was New York and Newport in one. Anthony Trollope heard of these agreeable scenes, and, possibly, shared the indignation of his mother on being charged by a New York hackman two dollars and a half for a twenty minutes' ride.
But how did we render him a pecuniary benefit? When his mother published in London her satirical work, it was hailed by the enemies of republicanism with delight. They seem to have felt that American principles were discredited forever. I think it highly probable that the son of the authoress owed his appointment in the Post-office to the favor in which the work was held by the appointing power.
England had not then reformed her civil service so as to make appointments depend on the comparative merit of applicants. But she has always known enough to retain in her service men of intelligence and capacity. Having got Anthony Trollope, she kept him during all the best years of his life, and then gave him honorable retirement. It was he who completed the postal arrangements between this country and Great Britain, by which it is quite as easy, and almost as cheap, to send a letter to any part of the British empire as it is from New York to Albany.
That is the substance of a true civil service: first, get a man, and then keep him.
Mrs. Trollope died in Florence in 1863, aged eighty-three years. In private life she was a very friendly and good soul, much admired and sought in the society of Florence, where she passed the last twenty years of her long life.