The first morning at sea revealed the mystery of the little round tin box. The process of shaving, never a delightful one, is a very unpleasant and awkward piece of business when the floor on which one stands, the glass in which he looks, and he himself are all describing those complex curves which make cycles and epicycles seem like simplicity itself. The little box contained a reaping machine, which gathered the capillary harvest of the past twenty-four hours with a thoroughness, a rapidity, a security, and a facility which were a surprise, almost a revelation. The idea of a guarded cutting edge is an old one; I remember the "Plantagenet" razor, so called, with the comb-like row of blunt teeth, leaving just enough of the edge free to do its work. But this little affair had a blade only an inch and a half long by three quarters of an inch wide. It had a long slender handle, which took apart for packing, and was put together with the greatest ease. It was, in short, a lawn-mower for the masculine growth of which the proprietor wishes to rid his countenance. The mowing operation required no glass, could be performed with almost reckless boldness, as one cannot cut himself, and in fact had become a pleasant amusement instead of an irksome task. I have never used any other means of shaving from that day to this. I was so pleased with it that I exhibited it to the distinguished tonsors of Burlington Arcade, half afraid they would assassinate me for bringing in an innovation which bid fair to destroy their business. They probably took me for an agent of the manufacturers; and so I was, but not in their pay nor with their knowledge. I determined to let other persons know what a convenience I had found the "Star Razor" of Messrs. Kampf, of New York, without fear of reproach for so doing. I know my danger,--does not Lord Byron say, "I have even been accused of writing puffs for Warren's blacking"? I was once offered pay for a poem in praise of a certain stove polish, but I declined. It is pure good-will to my race which leads me to commend the Star Razor to all who travel by land or by sea, as well as to all who stay at home. With the first sight of land many a passenger draws a long sigh of relief. Yet everybody knows that the worst dangers begin after we have got near enough to see the shore, for there are several ways of landing, not all of which are equally desirable. On Saturday, May 8th, we first caught a glimpse of the Irish coast, and at half past four in the afternoon we reached the harbor of Queenstown. A tug came off, bringing newspapers, letters, and so forth, among the rest some thirty letters and telegrams for me. This did not look much like rest, but this was only a slight prelude to what was to follow. I was in no condition to go on shore for sight-seeing, as some of the passengers did.
I suppose I ought to form no opinion at all about the aspect of Paris, any more than I should of an oyster in a month without an r in it. We were neither of us in the best mood for sight-seeing, and Paris was not sitting up for company; in fact, she was "not at home." Remembering all this, I must say that the whole appearance of the city was dull and dreary. London out of season seemed still full of life; Paris out of season looked vacuous and torpid. The recollection of the sorrow, the humiliation, the shame, and the agony she had passed through since I left her picking her way on the arm of the Citizen King, with his old riflard over her, rose before me sadly, ominously, as I looked upon the high board fence which surrounded the ruins of the Tuileries. I can understand the impulse which led the red caps to make a wreck of this grand old historical building. "Pull down the nest," they said, "and the birds will not come back." But I shudder when I think what "the red fool-fury of the Seine" has done and is believed capable of doing. I think nothing has so profoundly impressed me as the story of the precautions taken to preserve the Venus of Milo from the brutal hands of the mob. A little more violent access of fury, a little more fiery declamation, a few more bottles of vin bleu, and the Gallery of the Louvre, with all its treasures of art, compared with which the crown jewels just sold are but pretty pebbles, the market price of which fairly enough expresses their value,--much more, rather, than their true value,--that noble gallery, with all its masterpieces from the hands of Greek sculptors and Italian painters, would have been changed in a single night into a heap of blackened stones and a pile of smoking cinders.
To the Tower, to see the lions,--of all sorts. There I found a "poor relation," who made my acquaintance without introduction. A large baboon, or ape,--some creature of that family,--was sitting at the open door of his cage, when I gave him offence by approaching too near and inspecting him too narrowly. He made a spring at me, and if the keeper had not pulled me back would have treated me unhandsomely, like a quadrumanous rough, as he was. He succeeded in stripping my waistcoat of its buttons, as one would strip a pea-pod of its peas.
If I were planning to make a tour of the United Kingdom, and could command the service of all the wise men I count or have counted among my friends, I would go with such a retinue summoned from the ranks of the living and the dead as no prince ever carried with him. I would ask Mr. Lowell to go with me among scholars, where I could be a listener; Mr. Norton to visit the cathedrals with me; Professor Gray to be my botanical oracle; Professor Agassiz to be always ready to answer questions about the geological strata and their fossils; Dr. Jeffries Wyman to point out and interpret the common objects which present themselves to a sharp-eyed observer; and Mr. Boyd Dawkins to pilot me among the caves and cairns. Then I should want a better pair of eyes and a better pair of ears, and, while I was reorganizing, perhaps a quicker apprehension and a more retentive memory; in short, a new outfit, bodily and mental. But Nature does not care to mend old shoes; she prefers a new pair, and a young person to stand in them.
After my return from the race we went to a large dinner at Mr. Phelps's house, where we met Mr. Browning again, and the Lord Chancellor Herschell, among others. Then to Mrs. Cyril Flower's, one of the most sumptuous houses in London; and after that to Lady Rothschild's, another of the private palaces, with ceilings lofty as firmaments, and walls that might have been copied from the New Jerusalem. There was still another great and splendid reception at Lady Dalhousie's, and a party at Mrs. Smith's, but we were both tired enough to be willing to go home after what may be called a pretty good day's work at enjoying ourselves.
The 17th of June is memorable in the annals of my country. On that day of the year 1775 the battle of Bunker's Hill was fought on the height I see from the window of my library, where I am now writing. The monument raised in memory of our defeat, which was in truth a victory, is almost as much a part of the furniture of the room as its chairs and tables; outside, as they are inside, furniture. But the 17th of June, 1886, is memorable to me above all the other anniversaries of that day I have known. For on that day I received from the ancient University of Cambridge, England, the degree of Doctor of Letters, "Doctor Litt.," in its abbreviated academic form. The honor was an unexpected one; that is, until a short time before it was conferred.
In bush, and tree, and sky."
Among other things to which Mr. Palgrave called our attention was the death-warrant of Charles the First. One name in the list of signers naturally fixed our eyes upon it. It was that of John Dixwell. A lineal descendant of the old regicide is very near to me by family connection, Colonel Dixwell having come to this country, married, and left a posterity, which has resumed the name, dropped for the sake of safety at the time when he, Goffe, and Whalley, were in concealment in various parts of New England.
It is one of the regrets of my life that I never saw or heard Carlyle. Nature, who seems to be fond of trios, has given us three dogmatists, all of whom greatly interested their own generation, and whose personality, especially in the case of the first and the last of the trio, still interests us,--Johnson, Coleridge, and Carlyle. Each was an oracle in his way, but unfortunately oracles are fallible to their descendants. The author of "Taxation no Tyranny" had wholesale opinions, and pretty harsh ones, about us Americans, and did not soften them in expression: "Sir, they are a race of convicts, and ought to be thankful for anything we allow them short of hanging." We smile complacently when we read this outburst, which Mr. Croker calls in question, but which agrees with his saying in the presence of Miss Seward, "I am willing to love all mankind except an American."
Our week at Brighton was passed in a very quiet but most enjoyable way. It could not be otherwise with such a host and hostess, always arranging everything with reference to our well-being and in accordance with our wishes. I became very fond of the esplanade, such a public walk as I never saw anything to compare with. In these tranquil days, and long, honest nights of sleep, the fatigues of what we had been through were forgotten, the scales showed that we were becoming less ethereal every day, and we were ready for another move.
All my travelling experiences, including a visit to Switzerland and Italy in the summer and autumn of 1835, were merely interludes of my student life in Paris. On my return to America, after a few years of hospital and private practice, I became a Professor in Harvard University, teaching Anatomy and Physiology, afterwards Anatomy alone, for the period of thirty-five years, during part of which time I paid some attention to literature, and became somewhat known as the author of several works in prose and verse which have been well received. My prospective visit will not be a professional one, as I resigned my office in 1882, and am no longer known chiefly as a teacher or a practitioner.
The sight of an old nest over which two or three winters have passed is a rather saddening one. The dingy three-story brick house in which Carlyle lived, one in a block of similar houses, was far from attractive. It was untenanted, neglected; its windows were unwashed, a pane of glass was broken; its threshold appeared untrodden, its whole aspect forlorn and desolate. Yet there it stood before me, all covered with its associations as an ivy-clad tower with its foliage. I wanted to see its interior, but it looked as if it did not expect a tenant and would not welcome a visitor. Was there nothing but this forbidding house-front to make the place alive with some breathing memory? I saw crossing the street a middle-aged woman,--a decent body, who looked as if she might have come from the lower level of some not opulent but respectable household. She might have some recollection of an old man who was once her neighbor. I asked her if she remembered Mr. Carlyle. Indeed she did, she told us. She used to see him often, in front of his house, putting bits of bread on the railing for the birds. He did not like to see anything wasted, she said. The merest scrap of information, but genuine and pleasing; an instantaneous photograph only, but it makes a pretty vignette in the volume of my reminiscences. There are many considerable men in every generation of mankind, but not a great number who are personally interesting,--not a great many of whom we feel that we cannot know too much; whose foibles, even, we care to know about; whose shortcomings we try to excuse; who are not models, but whose special traits make them attractive. Carlyle is one of these few, and no revelations can prevent his interesting us. He was not quite finished in his parental existence. The bricklayer's mortar of his father's calling stuck to his fingers through life, but only as the soil he turned with his ploughshare clung to the fingers of Burns. We do not wish either to have been other than what he was. Their breeding brings them to the average level, carries them more nearly to the heart, makes them a simpler expression of our common humanity. As we rolled in the cars by Ecclefechan, I strained my eyes to take in every point of the landscape, every cottage, every spire, if by any chance I could find one in that lonely region. There was not a bridge nor a bit of masonry of any kind that I did not eagerly scrutinize, to see if it were solid and honest enough to have been built by Carlyle's father. Solitary enough the country looked. I admired Mr. Emerson's devotion in seeking his friend in his bare home among what he describes as the "desolate heathery hills" about Craigenputtock, which were, I suppose, much like the region through which we were passing.