« PreviousContinue »
tion, social and religious, in the Free States. I wanted to know the mind of the slaveholders in the Slave States. I longed for leave to hope for good in the one, and to see good in the other. The manner in which such questions were generally met pained me sincerely. It was the only subject on which I saw a tendency to a ruffle on the sunny surface of American temper, and reminded me of Tom Moore's anecdote of an interview he had with Byron. Byron seemed never to have forgiven the providence which had disfigured his otherwise beautiful person by a club-foot. While the poets conversed, the eye of the Irish lyrist rested on the foot. The saturnine lord observed it, and his countenance darkened. Poor Tom became aware, and evaded a bitter burst by making his eyes wander carelessly over the whole person as if he had not specially marked the foot, when gradually the thunder-cloud dispersed, and sunshine returned.
Every nation has its club-foot-some have twosome are perfect centipedes in deformities : happy America, if she have but one! It is the more painfully deforming, but will be the more easily remedied. Even young ladies seem expert tacticians on this subject, and carry the war into the enemy's camp with great keenness. When a simple inquiry is made, not by an enemy, but a true friend, they accuse England of the cruelties perpetrated in Manchester on the manufacturers of cotton cloth, as being worse than those inflicted on negroes who raise the raw material. They hardly believe when told that these people are free, that if they do not like one master they can engage with another, that they receive wages for their work, and if oppressed or injured, they can bring the oppressor before a magistrate. If, however, convinced that this is not a point where they can make a breach in the wall of the British constitution, they will assail you on the wrongs of Ireland. Should the truth that Ireland has been misgoverned by reason of its Popish preferences be conceded, they triumph, and say it does not become us to criticise slavery; as if evils on one side of the Atlantic could neutralise those on the otheror as if evils in our government of Ireland—the remedy of which has cost Britain millions of gold, and more than millions of ingenuity, trouble, and disappointment—ought to seal up our hearts against every benevolent sentiment in reference to the African race, or shut us out from the natural desire of information as to the condition of one branch of the human species.
The coloured people, who imitate all the respectable customs of the whites, have their funeral processions and their mourning garments, and look much more like paying respect to their dead, and feeling sympathy for the living, than the Irish do. Those of them who have any religion, are Protestants, and form the procession, not to please, or to put money into the purse of the priest, but to show kindness to the departed. I heard the minister of a coloured
church announce from the pulpit the death of a highly esteemed church-member, and the hour of his funeral, inviting attendance, and stating that if the choir could be spared by their employers, it would fitly assist a becoming solemnity if they would attend, and sing two appropriate hymns, which he pointed out. There was neither levity nor show, but a becoming sentiment apparent, in what the good man advised.
One custom, which at first surprised me, but afterwards commended itself as most convenient, prevails, as I found on inquiry, in many cities and villages. In cases of death, some considerate neighbour borrows for the bereaved family suitable dresses, from any one who has them, which are worn on occasion of the funeral, and then returned, thus leaving the mourners undisturbed, till their own convenience enables them to procure at leisure what they require.” I have known one excellent Christian gentlewoman, on occasion of the death of one of the most highly esteemed pastors of her city, consider the age and size of the daughters, and who of similar figure among her acquaintance were wearing mourning at that time. She then set off herself, accompanied by her maid, procured what she wanted, bonnets, shawls, and everything necessary, and carried them to the house of mourning, where they were willingly received, and used without scruple.
* It must be remembered that the funeral comes very quickly after death, and that females generally attend them.
I also saw a dear matron, whose emotions and actions run together like parted mercury, leave the room, saying, “I think the gown I am wearing will look best for poor Mrs at the funeral—will you excuse me, ladies, while I go and change it, that she may have it?” Refinement that is refined away into inanity may be squeamish at this plan, and the reserve of ancient etiquette may scorn it. To me, there was a simplicity, and heartiness, and helpfulmess in the style of sympathy, which indicated real love for the neighbour. And who that has gone through the infliction of having boxes of bonnets and caps to fit on, and that has stood under the hand of a dressmaker, when ready to expire, and flung herself down, when released, in an irrepressible burst of woe, would not feel the gentle helping hand in such a place as this to be like that of a ministering angel?
The natural and the real is always beautiful in time of sorrow, and to be preferred to the artificial and the ceremonial.
THE cemeteries are laid out in fine taste. Père-laChaise at Paris has formed the pattern, and tastefully is it imitated, and even surpassed. There are many beautiful. That on the banks of the Passaic at Newark has a fine position in reference to the river. It was rather a delicate matter to pronounce between the claims of Mount Auburn at Boston, and Greenwood beyond Brooklyn; not only because both are beautiful, but because there exists a degree of rivalry on the subject between Boston and New York, of which latter city Greenwood is the principal cemetery. It contains 242 acres of the most beautifully varied grounds, and is rich in avenues of pines, elms, and yews; with fine slopes shaded by magnificent locust, cypress, and weeping willow; and picturesque pieces of water, with fountains casting up the sparkling element to a great height, which, falling, forms rainbows in the sunbeams, and tranquillises the spirit with its monotonous and stilly plash. One felt inclined to linger out the day, and yet to return again on the morrow.