CHAPTER II. NEWPORT - RHODE ISLAND.
We - the we consisting of my wife and myself - left Liverpool for Boston on the 24th August, 1861, in the Arabia, one of Cunard's North American mail packets. We had determined that my wife should return alone at the beginning of winter, when I intended to go to a part of the country in which, under the existing circumstances of the war, a lady might not feel herself altogether comfortable. I proposed staying in America over the winter, and returning in the spring; and this programme I have carried out with sufficient exactness.
The Arabia touched at Halifax; and as the touch extended from 11 A.M. to 6 P.M. we had an opportunity of seeing a good deal of that colony; not quite sufficient to justify me at this critical age in writing a chapter of travels in Nova Scotia, but enough perhaps to warrant a paragraph. It chanced that a cousin of mine was then in command of the troops there, so that we saw the fort with all the honors. A dinner on shore was, I think, a greater treat to us even than this. We also inspected sundry specimens of the gold which is now being found for the first time in Nova Scotia, as to the glory and probable profits of which the Nova Scotians seemed to be fully alive. But still, I think the dinner on shore took rank with us as the most memorable and meritorious of all that we did and saw at Halifax. At seven o'clock on the morning but one after that we were landed at Boston.
At Boston I found friends ready to receive us with open arms, though they were friends we had never known before. I own that I felt myself burdened with much nervous anxiety at my first introduction to men and women in Boston. I knew what the feeling there was with reference to England, and I knew also how impossible it is for an Englishman to hold his tongue and submit to dispraise of England. As for going among a people whose whole minds were filled with affairs of the war, and saying nothing about the war, I knew that no resolution to such an effect could be carried out. If one could not trust one's self to speak, one should have stayed at home in England. I will here state that I always did speak out openly what I thought and felt, and that though I encountered very strong - sometimes almost fierce - opposition, I never was subjected to anything that was personally disagreeable to me.
In September we did not stay above a week in Boston, having been fairly driven out of it by the musquitoes. I had been told that I should find nobody in Boston whom I cared to see, as everybody was habitually out of town during the heat of the latter summer and early autumn; but this was not so. The war and attendant turmoils of war had made the season of vacation shorter than usual, and most of those for whom I asked were back at their posts. I know no place at which an Englishman may drop down suddenly among a pleasanter circle of acquaintance, or find himself with a more clever set of men, than he can do at Boston. I confess that in this respect I think that but few towns are at present more fortunately circumstanced than the capital of the Bay State, as Massachusetts is called, and that very few towns make a better use of their advantages. Boston has a right to be proud of what it has done for the world of letters. It is proud; but I have not found that its pride was carried too far.
Boston is not in itself a fine city, but it is a very pleasant city. They say that the harbor is very grand and very beautiful. It certainly is not so fine as that of Portland, in a nautical point of view, and as certainly it is not as beautiful. It is the entrance from the sea into Boston of which people say so much; but I did not think it quite worthy of all I had heard. In such matters, however, much depends on the peculiar light in which scenery is seen. An evening light is generally the best for all landscapes; and I did not see the entrance to Boston harbor by an evening light. It was not the beauty of the harbor of which I thought the most, but of the tea which had been sunk there, and of all that came of that successful speculation. Few towns now standing have a right to be more proud of their antecedents than Boston.
But as I have said, it is not specially interesting to the eye; what new town, or even what simply adult town, can be so? There is an Atheneum, and a State Hall, and a fashionable street, - Beacon Street, very like Piccadilly as it runs along the Green Park, - and there is the Green Park opposite to this Piccadilly, called Boston Common. Beacon Street and Boston Common are very pleasant. Excellent houses there are, and large churches, and enormous hotels; but of such things as these a man can write nothing that is worth the reading. The traveler who desires to tell his experience of North America must write of people rather than of things.