Chapter 1. INTRODUCTION TO VOLS. I AND II

Great Britain and Ireland

The tourist who has embarked for the British Isles lands usually at Liverpool, Fishguard, or Plymouth, whence a special steamer-train takes him in a few hours to London. In landing at Plymouth, he has passed, outside the harbor, Eddystone, most famous of lighthouses, and has seen waters in which Drake overthrew the Armada of Philip II.

Once the tourist leaves the ship he is conscious of a new environment. Aboard the tender (if there be one) he will feel this, in the custom house formalities, when riding on the steamer-train, on stepping to the station platform at his destination, when riding in the tidy taxicab, at the door and in the office of his hotel, in his well-ordered bedroom, and at his initial meal. First of all, he will appreciate the tranquility, the unobtrusiveness, the complete efficiency, with which service is rendered him by those employed to render it.

When Lord Nelson, before beginning the battle of Trafalgar, said to his officers and sailors that England expected "every man to do his duty," the remark was merely one of friendly encouragement and sympathy, rather than of stern discipline, because every man on board that fleet of ships already expected to do his duty. Life in England is a school in which doing one's duty becomes a fundamental condition of staying "in the game." Not alone sailors and soldiers know this, and adjust their lives to it, but all classes of public and domestic servants--indeed, all men are subject to it, whether servants or barristers, lawmakers or kings.

Emerging from his hotel for a walk in the street, the tourist, even tho his visit be not the first, will note the ancient look of things. Here are buildings that have survived for two, or even five, hundred years, and yet they are still found fit for the purposes to which they are put. Few buildings are tall, the "skyscraper" being undiscoverable. On great and crowded thoroughfares one may find buildings in plenty that have only two, or at most three, stories, and their windows small, with panes of glass scarcely more than eight by ten. The great wall mass and dome of St. Paul's, the roof and towers of Westminster Abbey, unlike the lone spire of old Trinity in New York, still rise above all the buildings around them as far as the eye can reach, just about as they did in the days of Sir Christopher Wren.

Leaving a great thoroughfare for a side street, a stone's throw may bring one to a friend's office, in one of those little squares so common in the older parts of London. How ancient all things here may seem to him, the very street doorway an antiquity, and so the fireplace within, the hinges and handles of the doors. From some upper rear window he may look out on an extension roof of solid lead, that has survived, sound and good, after the storms of several generations, and beyond may look into an ancient burial ground, or down upon the grass-plots and ample walks around a church (perchance the Temple Church), and again may see below him the tomb of Oliver Goldsmith.

In America we look for antiquities to Boston, with her Long Wharf, or Faneuil Hall; to New York, with her Fraunccs Tavern and Van Cortlandt Manor House; to Jamestown with her lone, crumbling church tower; to the Pacific coast with her Franciscan mission houses; to St. Augustine with her Spanish gates; but all these are young and blushing things compared with the historic places of the British Isles. None of them, save one, is of greater age than a century and a half. Even the exception (St. Augustine) is a child in arms compared with Westminster Hall, the Tower of London, St. Martin's of Canterbury, the ruined abbey of Glastonbury, the remains of churches on the island of Iona, or the oldest ruins found in Ireland.

What to an American is ancient history, to an Englishman is an affair of scarcely more than yesterday. As Goldwin Smith has said, the Revolution of 1776 is to an American what the Norman conquest is to an Englishman--the event on which to found a claim of ancestral distinction. More than seven hundred years divide these two events. With the Revolution, our history as a nation began; before that we were a group of colonies, each a part of the British Empire. We fought single-handed with Indians, it is true, and we cooperated with the mother country in wresting the continent from the French, but all this history, in a technical sense, is English history rather than the history of the United States.

Our Revolution occurred in the reign of the Third George; back of it runs a line of other Hanoverian kings, of Stuart kings, of Tudor kings, of Plantagenet kings, of Norman kings, of Saxon kings, of Roman governors, of Briton kings and queens, of Scottish tribal heads and kings, of ancient Irish kings. Long before Caesar landed in Kent, inhabitants of England had erected forts, constructed war chariots, and reared temples of worship, of which a notable example still survives on Salisbury Plain. So had the Picts and Scots of Caledonia reared strongholds and used war chariots, and so had Celts erected temples of worship in Ireland, and Phoenicians had mined tin in Cornwall. When Cavaliers were founding a commonwealth at Jamestown and the Puritans one on Massachusetts Bay, the British Isles were six hundred years away from the Norman conquest, the Reformation of the English church had been effected, Chaucer had written his "Tales," Bacon his "Essays," and Shakespeare all but a few of his "Plays."

Of the many races to whom belong these storied annals--Briton, Pict, Scot, Saxon, Dane, Celt, Norman--we of America, whose ancestral lines run back to those islands, are the far-descended children, heirs actual. Our history, as a civilized people, began not in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, not at Jamestown, not at Plymouth Rock, but there in the northeastern Atlantic, in lands now acknowledging the sway of the Parliament of Westminster, and where, as with us, the speech of all is English. Not alone do we share that speech with them, but that matchless literature, also English, and more than that, racial customs, laws and manners, of which many are as old as the Norman conquest, while others, for aught we know, are survivals from an age when human sacrifices were made around the monoliths of Stonehenge.

It is not in lands such as these that any real American can ever feel himself a stranger. There lies for so many of us the ancestral home--in that "land of just and of old renown," that "royal throne of kings," that "precious stone set in the silver sea," that "dear, dear land, dear for her reputation through the world."

F.W.H.