Nunc huc, nunc illuc et utrinque sine ordine curro.
Courteous reader, when I bade thee last farewell I thought these wanderings were brought to a final close; afterwards I often roved in imagination through distant countries famous for natural history, but felt no strong inclination to go thither, as the last adventure had terminated in such unexpected vexation. The departure of the cuckoo and swallow and summer birds of passage for warmer regions, once so interesting to me, now scarcely caused me to turn my face to the south; and I continued in this cold and dreary climate for three years. During this period I seldom or never mounted my hobby-horse; indeed, it may be said, with the old song,
The saddle and bridle were laid on the shelf,
and only taken down once, on the night that I was induced to give a lecture in the Philosophical Hall of Leeds. A little after this Wilson's Ornithology of the United States fell into my hands.
The desire I had of seeing that country, together with the animated description which Wilson had given of the birds, fanned up the almost-expiring flame. I forgot the vexations already alluded to, and set off for New York in the beautiful packet John Wells, commanded by Captain Harris. The passage was long and cold, but the elegant accommodations on board and the polite attention of the commander rendered it very agreeable; and I landed in health and merriment in the stately capital of the New World.
We will soon pen down a few remarks on this magnificent city, but not just now. I want to venture into the north-west country, and get to their great canal, which the world talks so much about, though I fear it will be hard work to make one's way through bugs, bears, brutes and buffaloes, which we Europeans imagine are so frequent and ferocious in these never-ending western wilds.
I left New York on a fine morning in July, without one letter of introduction, for the city of Albany, some hundred and eighty miles up the celebrated Hudson. I seldom care about letters of introduction, for I am one of those who depend much upon an accidental acquaintance. Full many a face do I see as I go wandering up and down the world whose mild eye and sweet and placid features seem to beckon to me and say, as it were, "Speak but civilly to me, and I will do what I can for you." Such a face as this is worth more than a dozen letters of introduction; and such a face, gentle reader, I found on board the steamboat from New York to the city of Albany.
There was a great number of well-dressed ladies and gentlemen in the vessel, all entire strangers to me. I fancied I could see several whose countenances invited an unknown wanderer to come and take a seat beside them; but there was one who encouraged me more than the rest. I saw clearly that he was an American, and I judged by his manners and appearance that he had not spent all his time upon his native soil. I was right in this conjecture, for he afterwards told me that he had been in France and England. I saluted him as one stranger gentleman ought to salute another when he wants a little information; and soon after I dropped in a word or two by which he might conjecture that I was a foreigner, but I did not tell him so; I wished him to make the discovery himself.
He entered into conversation with the openness and candour which is so remarkable in the American, and in a little time observed that he presumed I was from the old country. I told him that I was, and added that I was an entire stranger on board. I saw his eye brighten up at the prospect he had of doing a fellow-creature a kind turn or two, and he completely won my regard by an affability which I shall never forget. This obliging gentleman pointed out everything that was grand and interesting as the steamboat plied her course up the majestic Hudson. Here the Catskill Mountains raised their lofty summit; and there the hills came sloping down to the water's edge. Here he pointed to an aged and venerable oak which, having escaped the levelling axe of man, seemed almost to defy the blasting storm and desolating hand of Time; and there he bade me observe an extended tract of wood by which I might form an idea how rich and grand the face of the country had once been. Here it was that, in the great and momentous struggle, the colonists lost the day; and there they carried all before them:
They closed full fast, on every side
No slackness there was found;
And many a gallant gentleman
Lay gasping on the ground.
Here, in fine, stood a noted regiment; there moved their great captain; here the fleets fired their broadsides; and there the whole force rushed on to battle:
Hic Dolopum manus, hic magnus tendebat Achilles,
Classibus hic locus, hic acies certare solebat.