One of my motives for making this tour was to look at the country towns and villages on the way in the face and eyes; to enter them by the front door, and to see them as they were made to be seen first, as far as man's mind and hand intended and wrought.  Railway travelling, as yet, takes everything at a disadvantage; it does not front on nature, or art, or the common conditions and industries of men in town or country.  If it does not actually of itself turn, it presents everything the wrong side outward.  In cities, it reveals the ragged and smutty companionship of tumble-down out-houses, and mysteries of cellar and back-kitchen life which were never intended for other eyes than those that grope in them by day or night.  How unnatural, and, more, almost profane and inhuman, is the fiery locomotion of the Iron Horse through these densely-peopled towns! now the screech, the roar, and the darkness of cavernous passages under paved streets, church vaults, and an acre or two of three-story brick houses, with the feeling of a world of breathing, bustling humanity incumbent upon you; - now the dash and flash out into the light, and the higgledy-piggledy glimpses of the next five minutes.  In a moment you are above thickly-thronged streets, and the houses on either side, looking down into the black throats of smoky chimneys; into the garret lairs of poverty, sickness, and sin; down lower upon squads of children trying to play in back-yards eight feet square.  It is all wrong, except in the single quality of speed.  You enter the town as you would a farmer's house, if you first passed through the pig-stye into the kitchen.  Every respectable house in the city turns its back upon you; and often a very brick and dirty back too, though it may show an elegant front of Bath or Portland stone to the street it faces.  All the respectable streets run over or under you with an audible shudder of disgust or dread.  None but a shabby lane of low shops for the sale of junk, beer, onions, shrimps, and cabbages, will run a third of a mile by your side for the sake of your company.  The wickedest boys in the town hoot at you, with most ignominious and satiric antics, as you pass; and if they do not shie stones in upon you, or dead cats, it is more from fear of the beadle or the constable than out of respect for your business or pleasure.

Indeed, every town and village, great or small, which you pass through or near on the railway, looks as if you came fifty years before you were expected.  It says, in all the legible expressions of its countenance, "Lack-a-day! - if here isn't that creature come already, and looking in at my back door before I had time to turn around, or put anything in shape!"  The Iron Horse himself gets no sympathy nor humane admiration.  He stands grim and wrathy, when reined up for two minutes and forty-five seconds at a station.  No venturesome boys pat him on the flanks, or look kindly into his eyes, or say a pleasant word to him, or even wonder if he is tired, or thirsty, or hungry.  None of the ostlers of the greasy stables, in which the locomotives are housed, ever call him Dobbin, or Old Jack, or Jenny, or say, "Well done, old fellow!" when they unhitch him from the train at midnight, after a journey of a hundred leagues.  His driver is a real man of flesh and blood; with wife and children whom he loves.  He goes on Sunday to church, and, maybe, sings the psalms of David, and listens devoutly to the sermon, and says prayers at home, and the few who know him speak well of him, as a good and proper man in his way.  But, spurred and mounted upon the saddle of the great iron hexiped, nearly all the passengers regard him as a part of the beast.  No one speaks to him, or thinks of him on the journey.  He may pull up at fifty stations, and not a soul among the Firsts, Seconds, or even Thirds, will offer him a glass of beer, or pipe-full of tobacco, or give him a sixpence at the end of the ride for extra speed or care.  His face is grimy, and greasy, and black.  All his motions are ambiguous and awkward to the casual observer.  He has none of the sedate and conscious dignity of his predecessor on the old stage-coach box.  He handles no whip, like him, with easy grace.  Indeed, in putting up his great beast to its best speed, he "hides his whip in the manger," according to a proverb older than steam power.  He wears no gloves in the coldest weather; not always a coat, and never a decent one, at his work.  He blows no cheery music out of a brass bugle as he approaches a town, but pricks the loins of the fiery beast, and makes him scream with a sound between a human whistle and an alligator's croak.  He never pulls up abreast of the station-house door, in the fashion of the old coach driver, to show off himself and his leaders, but runs on several rods ahead of his passengers and spectators, as if to be clear of them and their comments, good or bad.  At the end of the journey, be it at midnight or day-break, not a man nor a woman he has driven safely at the rate of forty miles an hour thinks or cares what becomes of him, or separates him in thought from the great iron monster he mounts.  Not the smock-frocked man, getting out of the forwardmost Third, with his stick and bundle, thinks of him, or stops a moment to see him back out and turn into the stable.

With all the practical advantages of this machine propulsion at bird speed over space, it confounds and swallows up the poetical aspects and picturesque sceneries that were the charm of old-fashioned travelling in the country.  The most beautiful landscapes rotate around a locomotive axis confusedly.  Green pastures and yellow wheat fields are in a whirl.  Tall and venerable trees get into the wake of the same motion, and the large, pied cows ruminating in their shade, seem to lie on the revolving arc of an indefinite circle.  The views dissolve before their best aspect is caught by the eye.  The flowers, like Eastern beauties, can only be seen "half hidden and half revealed," in the general unsteadiness.  As for bees, you cannot hear or see them at all; and the songs of the happiest birds are drowned altogether by the clatter of a hundred wheels on the metal track.  If there are any poor, flat, or fen lands, your way is sure to lie through them.  In a picturesque and undulating country, studded with parks and mansions of wealth and taste, you are plunging through a long, dark tunnel, or walled into a deep cut, before your eye can catch the view that dashes by your carriage window.  If you have a utilitarian proclivity and purpose, and would like to see the great agricultural industries of the country, they present themselves to you in as confused aspects as the sceneries of the passing landscape.  The face of every farm is turned from you.  The farmer's house fronts on the turnpike road, and the best views of his homestead, of his industry, prosperity, and happiness, look that way.  You only get a furtive glance, a kind of clandestine and diagonal peep at him and his doings; and having thus travelled a hundred miles through a fertile country you can form no approximate or satisfactory idea of its character and productions.

But no facts nor arguments are needed to convince an intelligent traveller that the railway affords no point of view for seeing town or country to any satisfactory perception of its character.  Indeed, neither coach of the olden, nor cab of the modern vogue, nor saddle, will enable one to "do" either town or country with thorough insight and enjoyment.  It takes him too long to pull up to catch the features of a sudden view.  He can do nothing with those generous and delightful institutions of Old England, - the footpaths, that thread pasture, park, and field, seemingly permeating her whole green world with dusky veins for the circulation of human life.  To lose all the picturesque lanes and landscapes which these field-paths cross and command, is to lose the great distinctive charm of the country.  Then, neither from the coach-box nor the saddle can he make much conversation on the way.  He loses the chance of a thousand little talks and pleasant incidents.  He cannot say "Good morning" to the farmer at the stile, nor a word of greeting to the reapers over the hedge, nor see where they live, and the kind of children that play by their cottage doors; nor the little, antique churches, bearded to their eye-brows with ivy, covering the wrinkles of half a dozen centuries, nor the low and quiet villages clustering around, each like a family of bushy-headed children surrounding their venerable mother.

In addition to these considerations, there was another that moved me to this walk.  Although I had been up and down the country as often and as extensively as any American, perhaps, and admired its general scenery, I had never looked at it with an agricultural eye or interest.  But, having dabbled a little in farming in the interval between my last two visits to England, and being touched with some of the enthusiasm that modern novices carry into the occupation, I was determined to look at the agriculture of Great Britain more leisurely and attentively, and from a better stand-point than I had ever done before.  The thought had also occurred to me, that a walk through the best agricultural counties of England and Scotland would afford opportunity for observation which might be made of some interest to my friends and neighbor farmers in America as well as to myself.  Therefore I beg the English reader to remember that I am addressing to them the notes that I may make by the way, hoping that its incidents and the thoughts it suggests will not be devoid of interest because they are principally intended for the American ear.