URLs for Books

Your last ebook:

You dont read ebooks at this site.

Total ebooks on site: about 25000

You can read and download its for free!

Ebooks by authors: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 
Trollope, Fanny / Domestic Manners of the Americans
Produced by David G Johnson

Domestic Manners of the Americans
Fanny Trollope

Frances Milton Trollope (known as Fanny Trollope)
(Mother of the author Anthony Trollope)

First published in 1832


Entrance of the Mississippi--Balize

On the 4th of November, 1827, I sailed from London, accompanied
by my son and two daughters; and after a favourable, though
somewhat tedious voyage, arrived on Christmas-day at the mouth of
the Mississippi.

The first indication of our approach to land was the appearance
of this mighty river pouring forth its muddy mass of waters, and
mingling with the deep blue of the Mexican Gulf. The shores of
this river are so utterly flat, that no object upon them is
perceptible at sea, and we gazed with pleasure on the muddy ocean
that met us, for it told us we were arrived, and seven weeks of
sailing had wearied us; yet it was not without a feeling like
regret that we passed from the bright blue waves, whose varying
aspect had so long furnished our chief amusement, into the murky
stream which now received us.

Large flights of pelicans were seen standing upon the long masses
of mud which rose above the surface of the waters, and a pilot
came to guide us over the bar, long before any other indication
of land was visible.

I never beheld a scene so utterly desolate as this entrance of
the Mississippi. Had Dante seen it, he might have drawn images
of another Bolgia from its horrors. One only object rears itself
above the eddying waters; this is the mast of a vessel long since
wrecked in attempting to cross the bar, and it still stands, a
dismal witness of the destruction that has been, and a boding
prophet of that which is to come.

By degrees bulrushes of enormous growth become visible, and a few
more miles of mud brought us within sight of a cluster of huts
called the Balize, by far the most miserable station that I ever
saw made the dwelling of man, but I was told that many families
of pilots and fishermen lived there.

For several miles above its mouth, the Mississippi presents no
objects more interesting than mud banks, monstrous bulrushes, and
now and then a huge crocodile luxuriating in the slime. Another
circumstance that gives to this dreary scene an aspect of
desolation, is the incessant appearance of vast quantities of
drift wood, which is ever finding its way to the different mouths
of the Mississippi. Trees of enormous length, sometimes still
bearing their branches, and still oftener their uptorn roots
entire, the victims of the frequent hurricane, come floating down
the stream. Sometimes several of these, entangled together,
collect among their boughs a quantity of floating rubbish, that
gives the mass the appearance of a moving island, bearing a
forest, with its roots mocking the heavens; while the dishonoured
branches lash the tide in idle vengeance: this, as it approaches
the vessel, and glides swiftly past, looks like the fragment of a
world in ruins.

As we advanced, however, we were cheered, notwithstanding the
season, by the bright tints of southern vegetation. The banks
continue invariably flat, but a succession of planless villas,
sometimes merely a residence, and sometimes surrounded by their
sugar grounds and negro huts, varied the scene. At no one point
was there an inch of what painters call a second distance; and
for the length of one hundred and twenty miles, from the Balize
to New Orleans, and one hundred miles above the town, the land is
defended from the encroachments of the river by a high embankment
which is called the Levee; without which the dwellings would
speedily disappear, as the river is evidently higher than the
banks would be without it. When we arrived, there had been
constant rains, and of long continuance, and this appearance was,
therefore, unusually striking, giving to "this great natural
feature" the most unnatural appearance imaginable; and making
evident, not only that man had been busy there, but that even the
mightiest works of nature might be made to bear his impress; it
recalled, literally, Swift's mock heroic,

"Nature must give way to art;"

yet, she was looking so mighty, and so unsubdued all the time,
that I could not help fancying she would some day take the matter
into her own hands again, and if so, farewell to New Orleans.

It is easy to imagine the total want of beauty in such a
landscape; but yet the form and hue of the trees and plants, so
new to us, added to the long privation we had endured of all
sights and sounds of land, made even these swampy shores seem
beautiful. We were, however, impatient to touch as well as see
the land; but the navigation from the Balize to New Orleans is
difficult and tedious, and the two days that it occupied appeared
longer than any we had passed on board.

In truth, to those who have pleasure in contemplating the
phenomena of nature, a sea voyage may endure many weeks without
wearying. Perhaps some may think that the first glance of ocean
and of sky shew all they have to offer; nay, even that that first
glance may suggest more of dreariness than sublimity; but to me,
their variety appeared endless, and their beauty unfailing. The
attempt to describe scenery, even where the objects are prominent
and tangible, is very rarely successful; but where the effect is
so subtile and so varying, it must be vain. The impression,
nevertheless, is perhaps deeper than any other; I think it
possible I may forget the sensations with which I watched the
long course of the gigantic Mississippi; the Ohio and the Potomac
may mingle and be confounded with other streams in my memory, I
may even recall with difficulty the blue outline of the Alleghany
mountains, but never, while I remember any thing, can I forget
the first and last hour of light on the Atlantic.

The ocean, however, and all its indescribable charm, no longer
surrounded us; we began to feel that our walk on the quarter-deck
was very like the exercise of an ass in a mill; that our books
had lost half their pages, and that the other half were known by
rote; that our beef was very salt, and our biscuits very hard; in
short, that having studied the good ship, Edward, from stem to
stern till we knew the name of every sail, and the use of every
pulley, we had had enough of her, and as we laid down, head to
head, in our tiny beds for the last time, I exclaimed with no
small pleasure,

"Tomorrow to fresh fields and pastures new."


New Orleans--Society--
Creoles and Quadroons Voyage up the Mississippi

On first touching the soil of a new land, of a new continent, of
a new world, it is impossible not to feel considerable excitement
and deep interest in almost every object that meets us. New
Orleans presents very little that can gratify the eye of taste,
but nevertheless there is much of novelty and interest for a
newly arrived European. The large proportion of blacks seen in
the streets, all labour being performed by them; the grace and
beauty of the elegant Quadroons, the occasional groups of wild
and savage looking Indians, the unwonted aspect of the
vegetation, the huge and turbid river, with its low and slimy
shore, all help to afford that species of amusement which
proceeds from looking at what we never saw before.

The town has much the appearance of a French Ville de Province,
and is, in fact, an old French colony taken from Spain by France.
The names of the streets are French, and the language about
equally French and English. The market is handsome and well
supplied, all produce being conveyed by the river. We were much
pleased by the chant with which the Negro boatmen regulate and
beguile their labour on the river; it consists but of very few
notes, but they are sweetly harmonious, and the Negro voice is
almost always rich and powerful.

By far the most agreeable hours I passed at New Orleans were
those in which I explored with my children the forest near
the town. It was our first walk in "the eternal forests of
the western world," and we felt rather sublime and poetical.
The trees, generally speaking, are much too close to be either
large or well grown; and, moreover, their growth is often
stunted by a parasitical plant, for which I could learn no
other name than "Spanish moss;" it hangs gracefully from the
boughs, converting the outline of all the trees it hangs upon
into that of weeping willows. The chief beauty of the forest
in this region is from the luxuriant undergrowth of palmetos,
which is decidedly the loveliest coloured and most graceful
plant I know. The pawpaw, too, is a splendid shrub, and in
great abundance. We here, for the first time, saw the wild
vine, which we afterwards found growing so profusely in every
part of America, as naturally to suggest the idea that the
natives ought to add wine to the numerous production of their
plenty-teeming soil. The strong pendant festoons made safe and
commodious swings, which some of our party enjoyed, despite the
sublime temperament above-mentioned.

Notwithstanding it was mid-winter when we were at New Orleans,
the heat was much more than agreeable, and the attacks of the
mosquitos incessant, and most tormenting; yet I suspect that, for
a short time, we would rather have endured it, than not have seen
oranges, green peas, and red pepper, growing in the open air at
Christmas. In one of our rambles we ventured to enter a garden,
whose bright orange hedge attracted our attention; here we saw
green peas fit for the table, and a fine crop of red pepper
ripening in the sun. A young Negress was employed on the steps
of the house; that she was a slave made her an object of interest
to us. She was the first slave we had ever spoken to, and I
believe we all felt that we could hardly address her with
sufficient gentleness. She little dreamed, poor girl, what deep
sympathy she excited; she answered us civilly and gaily, and
seemed amused at our fancying there was something unusual in red
pepper pods; she gave us several of them, and I felt fearful lest
a hard mistress might blame her for it. How very childish does
ignorance make us! and how very ignorant we are upon almost every
subject, where hearsay evidence is all we can get!

I left England with feelings so strongly opposed to slavery, that
it was not without pain I witnessed its effects around me. At
the sight of every Negro man, woman, and child that passed, my
fancy wove some little romance of misery, as belonging to each of
them; since I have known more on the subject, and become better
acquainted with their real situation in America, I have often
smiled at recalling what I then felt.

The first symptom of American equality that I perceived, was
my being introduced in form to a milliner; it was not at a
boarding-house, under the indistinct outline of "Miss C--," nor
in the street through the veil of a fashionable toilette, but in
the very penetralia of her temple, standing behind her counter,
giving laws to ribbon and to wire, and ushering caps and bonnets
into existence. She was an English woman, and I was told that
she possessed great intellectual endowments, and much
information; I really believe this was true. Her manner was easy
and graceful, with a good deal of French tournure; and the
gentleness with which her fine eyes and sweet voice directed the
movements of a young female slave, was really touching: the way,
too, in which she blended her French talk of modes with her
customers, and her English talk of metaphysics with her friends,
had a pretty air of indifference in it, that gave her a
superiority with both.

I found with her the daughter of a judge, eminent, it was said,
both for legal and literary ability, and I heard from many
quarters, after I had left New Orleans, that the society of this
lady was highly valued by all persons of talent. Yet were I,
traveller-like, to stop here, and set it down as a national
peculiarity, or republican custom, that milliners took the lead
in the best society, I should greatly falsify facts. I do not
remember the same thing happening to me again, and this is one
instance among a thousand, of the impression every circumstance
makes on entering a new country, and of the propensity, so
irresistible, to class all things, however accidental, as
national and peculiar. On the other hand, however, it is certain
that if similar anomalies are unfrequent in America, they are
nearly impossible elsewhere.

In the shop of Miss C-- I was introduced to Mr. M'Clure, a
venerable personage, of gentlemanlike appearance, who in the
course of five minutes propounded as many axioms, as "Ignorance
is the only devil;" "Man makes his own existence;" and the like.
He was of the New Harmony school, or rather the New Harmony
school was of him. He was a man of good fortune, (a Scotchman, I
believe), who after living a tolerably gay life, had "conceived
high thoughts, such as Lycurgus loved, who bade flog the little
Spartans," and determined to benefit the species, and immortalize
himself, by founding a philosophical school at New Harmony.
There was something in the hollow square legislations of Mr.
Owen, that struck him as admirable, and he seems, as far as I can
understand, to have intended aiding his views, by a sort of
incipient hollow square drilling; teaching the young ideas of all
he could catch, to shoot into parallelogramic form and order.
This venerable philosopher, like all of his school that I ever
heard of, loved better to originate lofty imaginings of faultless
systems, than to watch their application to practice. With much
liberality he purchased and conveyed to the wilderness a very
noble collection of books and scientific instruments; but not
finding among men one whose views were liberal and enlarged as
his own, he selected a woman to put into action the machine he
had organized. As his acquaintance with this lady had been of
long standing, and, as it was said, very intimate, he felt sure
that no violation of his rules would have place under her sway;
they would act together as one being: he was to perform the
functions of the soul, and will everything; she, those of the
body, and perform everything.

The principal feature of the scheme was, that (the first liberal
outfit of the institution having been furnished by Mr. M'Clure,)
the expense of keeping it up should be defrayed by the profits
arising from the labours of the pupils, male and female, which
was to be performed at stated intervals of each day, in regular
rotation with learned study and scientific research. But
unfortunately the soul of the system found the climate of Indiana
uncongenial to its peculiar formation, and, therefore, took its
flight to Mexico, leaving the body to perform the operations of
both, in whatever manner it liked best; and the body, being a
French body, found no difficulty in setting actively to work
without troubling the soul about it; and soon becoming conscious
that the more simple was a machine, the more perfect were its
operations, she threw out all that related to the intellectual
part of the business, (which to do poor soul justice, it had laid
great stress upon), and stirred herself as effectually as ever
body did, to draw wealth from the thews and sinews of the youths
they had collected. When last I heard of this philosophical
establishment, she, and a nephew-son were said to be reaping a
golden harvest, as many of the lads had been sent from a distance
by indigent parents, for gratuitous education, and possessed no
means of leaving it.

Our stay in New Orleans was not long enough to permit our
entering into society, but I was told that it contained two
distinct sets of people, both celebrated, in their way, for their
social meetings and elegant entertainments. The first of these
is composed of Creole families, who are chiefly planters and
merchants, with their wives and daughters; these meet together,
eat together, and are very grand and aristocratic; each of their
balls is a little Almack's, and every portly dame of the set is
as exclusive in her principles as the excluded but amiable
Quandroons, and such of the gentlemen of the former class as can
by any means escape from the high places, where pure Creole blood
swells the veins at the bare mention of any being tainted in the
remotest degree with the Negro stain.

Of all the prejudices I have ever witnessed, this appears to me
the most violent, and the most inveterate. Quadroon girls, the
acknowledged daughters of wealthy American or Creole fathers,
educated with all of style and accomplishments which money can
procure at New Orleans, and with all the decorum that care and
affection can give; exquisitely beautiful, graceful, gentle, and
amiable, these are not admitted, nay, are not on any terms
admissable, into the society of the Creole families of Louisiana.
They cannot marry; that is to say, no ceremony can render an
union with them legal or binding; yet such is the powerful effect
of their very peculiar grace, beauty, and sweetness of manner,
that unfortunately they perpetually become the objects of choice
and affection. If the Creole ladies have privilege to exercise
the awful power of repulsion, the gentle Quadroon has the sweet
but dangerous vengeance of possessing that of attraction. The
unions formed with this unfortunate race are said to be often
lasting and happy, as far as any unions can be so, to which a
certain degree of disgrace is attached.

There is a French and an English theatre in the town; but we were
too fresh from Europe to care much for either; or, indeed, for
any other of the town delights of this city, and we soon became
eager to commence our voyage up the Mississippi.

Miss Wright, then less known (though the author of more than one
clever volume) than she has since become, was the companion of
our voyage from Europe; and it was my purpose to have passed some
months with her and her sister at the estate she had purchased in
Tennessee. This lady, since become so celebrated as the advocate
of opinions that make millions shudder, and some half-score
admire, was, at the time of my leaving England with her,
dedicated to a pursuit widely different from her subsequent
occupations. Instead of becoming a public orator in every town
throughout America, she was about, as she said, to seclude
herself for life in the deepest forests of the western world,
that her fortune, her time, and her talents might be exclusively
devoted to aid the cause of the suffering Africans. Her first
object was to shew that nature had made no difference between
blacks and whites, excepting in complexion; and this she expected
to prove by giving an education perfectly equal to a class of
black and white children. Could this fact be once fully
established, she conceived that the Negro cause would stand on
firmer ground than it had yet done, and the degraded rank which
they have ever held amongst civilized nations would be proved to
be a gross injustice.

This question of the mental equality, or inequality between us,
and the Negro race, is one of great interest, and has certainly
never yet been fairly tried; and I expected for my children and
myself both pleasure and information from visiting her
establishment, and watching the success of her experiment.

The innumerable steam boats, which are the stage coaches and fly
waggons of this land of lakes and rivers, are totally unlike any
I had seen in Europe, and greatly superior to them. The fabrics
which I think they most resemble in appearance, are the floating
baths (les bains Vigier) at Paris. The annexed drawing will give
a correct idea of their form. The room to which the double line
of windows belongs, is a very handsome apartment; before each
window a neat little cot is arranged in such a manner as to give
its drapery the air of a window curtain. This room is called the
gentlemen's cabin, and their exclusive right to it is somewhat
uncourteously insisted upon. The breakfast, dinner, and supper
are laid in this apartment, and the lady passengers are permitted
to take their meals there.

On the first of January, 1828, we embarked on board the
Belvidere, a large and handsome boat; though not the largest or
handsomest of the many which displayed themselves along the
wharfs; but she was going to stop at Memphis, the point of the
river nearest to Miss Wright's residence, and she was the first
that departed after we had got through the customhouse, and
finished our sight-seeing. We found the room destined for the
use of the ladies dismal enough, as its only windows were below
the stem gallery; but both this and the gentlemen's cabin were
handsomely fitted up, and the former well carpeted; but oh! that
carpet! I will not, I may not describe its condition; indeed it
requires the pen of a Swift to do it justice. Let no one who
wishes to receive agreeable impressions of American manners,
commence their travels in a Mississippi steam boat; for myself,
it is with all sincerity I declare, that I would infinitely
prefer sharing the apartment of a party of well conditioned pigs
to the being confined to its cabin.

I hardly know any annoyance so deeply repugnant to English
feelings, as the incessant, remorseless spitting of Americans.
I feel that I owe my readers an apology for the repeated use of
this, and several other odious words; but I cannot avoid them,
without suffering the fidelity of description to escape me. It
is possible that in this phrase, "Americans," I may be too
general. The United States form a continent of almost distinct
nations, and I must now, and always, be understood to speak only
of that portion of them which I have seen. In conversing with
Americans I have constantly found that if I alluded to anything
which they thought I considered as uncouth, they would assure me
it was local, and not national; the accidental peculiarity of a
very small part, and by no means a specimen of the whole. "That
is because you know so little of America," is a phrase I have
listened to a thousand times, and in nearly as many different
places. _It may be so_--and having made this concession, I
protest against the charge of injustice in relating what I have


Company on board the Steam Boat--Scenery of the Mississippi--
Crocodiles--Arrival at Memphis--Nashoba

The weather was warm and bright, and we found the guard of the
boat, as they call the gallery that runs round the cabins, a very
agreeable station; here we all sat as long as light lasted, and
sometimes wrapped in our shawls, we enjoyed the clear bright
beauty of American moonlight long after every passenger but
ourselves had retired. We had a full complement of passengers on
board. The deck, as is usual, was occupied by the Kentucky
flat-boat men, returning from New Orleans, after having disposed
of the boat and cargo which they had conveyed thither, with no
other labour than that of steering her, the current bringing her
down at the rate of four miles an hour. We had about two hundred
of these men on board, but the part of the vessel occupied by
them is so distinct from the cabins, that we never saw them,
except when we stopped to take in wood; and then they ran, or
rather sprung and vaulted over each other's heads to the shore,
whence they all assisted in carrying wood to supply the steam
engine; the performance of this duty being a stipulated part of
the payment of their passage.

From the account given by a man servant we had on board, who
shared their quarters, they are a most disorderly set of persons,
constantly gambling and wrangling, very seldom sober, and never
suffering a night to pass without giving practical proof of the
respect in which they hold the doctrines of equality, and
community of property. The clerk of the vessel was kind enough
to take our man under his protection, and assigned him a berth in
his own little nook; but as this was not inaccessible, he told
him by no means to detach his watch or money from his person
during the night. Whatever their moral characteristics may be,
these Kentuckians are a very noble-looking race of men; their
average height considerably exceeds that of Europeans, and their
countenances, excepting when disfigured by red hair, which is not
unfrequent, extremely handsome.

The gentlemen in the cabin (we had no ladies) would certainly
neither, from their language, manners, nor appearance, have
received that designation in Europe; but we soon found their
claim to it rested on more substantial ground, for we heard them
nearly all addressed by the titles of general, colonel, and
major. On mentioning these military dignities to an English
friend some time afterwards, he told me that he too had made the
voyage with the same description of company, but remarking that
there was not a single captain among them; he made the
observation to a fellow-passenger, and asked how he accounted for
it. "Oh, sir, the captains are all on deck," was the reply.

Our honours, however, were not all military, for we had a
judge among us. I know it is equally easy and invidious to
ridicule the peculiarities of appearance and manner in people of
a different nation from ourselves; we may, too, at the same
moment, be undergoing the same ordeal in their estimation; and,
moreover, I am by no means disposed to consider whatever is new
to me as therefore objectionable; but, nevertheless, it was
impossible not to feel repugnance to many of the novelties that
now surrounded me.

The total want of all the usual courtesies of the table, the
voracious rapidity with which the viands were seized and
devoured, the strange uncouth phrases and pronunciation; the
loathsome spitting, from the contamination of which it was
absolutely impossible to protect our dresses; the frightful
manner of feeding with their knives, till the whole blade seemed
to enter into the mouth; and the still more frightful manner of
cleaning the teeth afterwards with a pocket knife, soon forced us
to feel that we were not surrounded by the generals, colonels,
and majors of the old world; and that the dinner hour was to be
any thing rather than an hour of enjoyment.

The little conversation that went forward while we remained in
the room, was entirely political, and the respective claims of
Adams and Jackson to the presidency were argued with more oaths
and more vehemence than it had ever been my lot to hear. Once a
colonel appeared on the verge of assaulting a major, when a huge
seven-foot Kentuckian gentleman horse-dealer, asked of the
heavens to confound them both, and bade them sit still and be
d--d. We too thought we should share this sentence; at least
sitting still in the cabin seemed very nearly to include the rest
of it, and we never tarried there a moment longer than was
absolutely necessary to eat.

The unbroken flatness of the banks of the Mississippi continued
unvaried for many miles above New Orleans; but the graceful and
luxuriant palmetto, the dark and noble ilex, and the bright
orange, were every where to be seen, and it was many days before
we were weary of looking at them. We occasionally used the
opportunity of the boat's stopping to take in wood for a ten
minutes' visit to the shore; we in this manner explored a field
of sugar canes, and loaded ourselves with as much of the sweet
spoil as we could carry. Many of the passengers seemed fond of
the luscious juice that is easily expressed from the canes, but
it was too sweet for my palate. We also visited, in the same
rapid manner, a cotton plantation. A handsome spacious building
was pointed out to us as a convent, where a considerable number
of young ladies were educated by the nuns.

At one or two points the wearisome level line of forest is
relieved by _bluffs_, as they call the short intervals of high
ground. The town of Natches is beautifully situated on one of
these high spots; the climate here, in the warm season, is as
fatal as that of New Orleans; were it not for this, Natches would
have great attractions to new settlers. The beautiful contrast
that its bright green hill forms with the dismal line of black
forest that stretches on every side, the abundant growth of
pawpaw, palmetto and orange, the copious variety of sweet-scented
flowers that flourish there, all make it appear like an oasis in
the desert. Natches is the furthest point to the north at which
oranges ripen in the open air, or endure the winter without
shelter. With the exception of this sweet spot, I thought all
the little towns and villages we passed, wretched looking, in the
extreme. As the distance from New Orleans increased, the air of
wealth and comfort exhibited in its immediate neighbourhood
disappeared, and but for one or two clusters of wooden houses,
calling themselves towns, and borrowing some pompous name,
generally from Greece or Rome, we might have thought ourselves
the first of the human race who had ever penetrated into this
territory of bears and alligators. But still from time to time
appeared the hut of the wood-cutter, who supplies the steam-boats
with fuel, at the risk, or rather with the assurance of early
death, in exchange for dollars and whiskey. These sad dwellings
are nearly all of them inundated during the winter, and the best
of them are constructed on piles, which permit the water to reach
its highest level without drowning the wretched inhabitants.
These unhappy beings are invariably the victims of ague, which
they meet recklessly, sustained by the incessant use of ardent
spirits. The squalid look of the miserable wives and children of
these men was dreadful, and often as the spectacle was renewed I
could never look at it with indifference. Their complexion is of
a blueish white, that suggests the idea of dropsy; this is
invariable, and the poor little ones wear exactly the same
ghastly hue. A miserable cow and a few pigs standing knee-deep
in water, distinguish the more prosperous of these dwellings, and
on the whole I should say that I never witnessed human nature
reduced so low, as it appeared in the wood-cutters' huts on the
unwholesome banks of the Mississippi.

It is said that at some points of this dismal river, crocodiles
are so abundant as to add the terror of their attacks to the
other sufferings of a dwelling there. We were told a story of
a squatter, who having "located" himself close to the river's
edge, proceeded to build his cabin. This operation is soon
performed, for social feeling and the love of whiskey bring all
the scanty neighbourhood round a new corner, to aid him in
cutting down trees, and in rolling up the logs, till the mansion
is complete. This was done; the wife and five young children
were put in possession of their new home, and slept soundly after
a long march. Towards daybreak the husband and father was
awakened by a faint cry, and looking up, beheld relics of three
of his children scattered over the floor, and an enormous
crocodile, with several young ones around her, occupied in
devouring the remnants of their horrid meal. He looked round for
a weapon, but finding none, and aware that unarmed he could do
nothing, he raised himself gently on his bed, and contrived to
crawl from thence through a window, hoping that his wife, whom he
left sleeping, might with the remaining children rest
undiscovered till his return. He flew to his nearest neighbour
and besought his aid; in less than half an hour two men returned
with him, all three well armed; but alas! they were too late! the
wife and her two babes lay mangled on their bloody bed. The
gorged reptiles fell an easy prey to their assailants, who, upon
examining the place, found the hut had been constructed close to
the mouth of a large hole, almost a cavern, where the monster had
hatched her hateful brood.

Among other sights of desolation which mark this region,
condemned of nature, the lurid glare of a burning forest was
almost constantly visible after sunset, and when the wind so
willed, the smoke arising from it floated in heavy vapour over
our heads. Not all the novelty of the scene, not all its
vastness, could prevent its heavy horror wearying the spirits.
Perhaps the dinners and suppers I have described may help to
account for this; but certain it is, that when we had wondered
for a week at the ceaseless continuity of forest; had first
admired, and then wearied of the festooned drapery of Spanish
moss; when we had learned to distinguish the different masses of
timber that passed us, or that we passed, as a "snag," a "log" or
a "sawyer;" when we had finally made up our minds that the
gentlemen of the Kentucky and Ohio military establishments, were
not of the same genus as those of the Tuilleries and St. James's,
we began to wish that we could sleep more hours away. As we
advanced to the northward we were no longer cheered by the
beautiful border of palmettos; and even the amusement of
occasionally spying out a sleeping crocodile was over.

Just in this state, when we would have fain believed that every
mile we went, carried us two towards Memphis, a sudden and
violent shock startled us frightfully.

"It is a sawyer!" said one.

"It is a snag!" cried another.

"We are aground!" exclaimed the captain.

"Aground? Good heavens! and how long shall we stay here?"

"The Lord in his providence can only tell, but long enough to
tire my patience, I expect."

And the poor English ladies, how fared they the while?

Two breakfasts, two dinners, and a supper did they eat, with the
Ohio and Kentucky gentlemen, before they moved an inch. Several
steam-boats passed while we were thus enthralled; but some were
not strong enough to attempt drawing us off, and some attempted
it, but were not strong enough to succeed; at length a vast and
mighty "thing of life" approached, threw out grappling irons; and
in three minutes the business was done; again we saw the trees
and mud slide swiftly past us; and a hearty shout from every
passenger on deck declared their joy.

At length we had the pleasure of being told that we had arrived
at Memphis; but this pleasure was considerably abated by the hour
of our arrival, which was midnight, and by the rain, which was
falling in torrents.

Memphis stands on a high bluff, and at the time of our arrival
was nearly inaccessible. The heavy rain which had been falling
for many hours would have made any steep ascent difficult, but
unfortunately a new road had been recently marked out, which
beguiled us into its almost bottomless mud, from the firmer
footing of the unbroken cliff. Shoes and gloves were lost in the
mire, for we were glad to avail ourselves of all our limbs, and
we reached the grand hotel in a most deplorable state.

Miss Wright was well known there, and as soon as her arrival was
announced, every one seemed on the alert to receive her, and we
soon found ourselves in possession of the best rooms in the
hotel. The house was new, and in what appeared to me a very
comfortless condition, but I was then new to Western America, and
unaccustomed to their mode of "getting along," as they term it.
This phrase is eternally in use among them, and seems to mean
existing with as few of the comforts of life as possible.

We slept soundly however, and rose in the hope of soon changing
our mortar-smelling-quarters for Miss Wright's Nashoba.

But we presently found that the rain which had fallen during the
night would make it hazardous to venture through the forests of
Tennessee in any sort of carriage; we therefore had to pass the
day at our queer comfortless hotel. The steam-boat had wearied
me of social meals, and I should have been thankful to have eaten
our dinner of hard venison and peach-sauce in a private room; but
this, Miss Wright said was impossible; the lady of the house
would consider the proposal as a personal affront, and, moreover,
it would be assuredly refused. This latter argument carried
weight with it, and when the great bell was sounded from an upper
window of the house, we proceeded to the dining-room. The table
was laid for fifty persons, and was already nearly full. Our
party had the honour of sitting near "the lady," but to check the
proud feelings to which such distinction might give birth, my
servant, William, sat very nearly opposite to me. The company
consisted of all the shop-keepers (store-keepers as they are
called throughout the United States) of the little town. The
mayor also, who was a friend of Miss Wright's, was of the party;
he is a pleasing gentlemanlike man, and seems strangely misplaced
in a little town on the Mississippi. We were told that since the
erection of this hotel, it has been the custom for all the male
inhabitants of the town to dine and breakfast there. They ate in
perfect silence, and with such astonishing rapidity that their
dinner was over literally before our's was began; the instant
they ceased to eat, they darted from the table in the same moody
silence which they had preserved since they entered the room, and
a second set took their places, who performed their silent parts
in the same manner. The only sounds heard were those produced by
the knives and forks, with the unceasing chorus of coughing, &c.
No women were present except ourselves and the hostess; the good
women of Memphis being well content to let their lords partake of
Mrs. Anderson's turkeys and venison, (without their having the
trouble of cooking for them), whilst they regale themselves on
mash and milk at home.

The remainder of the day passed pleasantly enough in rambling
round the little town, which is situated at the most beautiful
point of the Mississippi; the river is here so wide as to give it
the appearance of a noble lake; an island, covered with lofty
forest trees divides it, and relieves by its broad mass of shadow
the uniformity of its waters. The town stretches in a rambling
irregular manner along the cliff, from the Wolf River, one of the
innumerable tributaries to the Mississippi, to about a mile below
it. Half a mile more of the cliff beyond the town is cleared of
trees, and produces good pasture for horses, cows, and pigs;
sheep they had none. At either end of this space the forest
again rears its dark wall, and seems to say to man, "so far shalt
thou come, and no farther!" Courage and industry, however, have
braved the warning. Behind this long street the town straggles
back into the forest, and the rude path that leads to the more
distant log dwellings becomes wilder at every step. The ground
is broken by frequent water-courses, and the bridges that lead
across them are formed by trunks of trees thrown over the stream,
which support others of smaller growth, that are laid across
them. These bridges are not very pleasant to pass, for they
totter under the tread of a man, and tremble most frightfully
beneath a horse or a waggon; they are, however, very picturesque.
The great height of the trees, the quantity of pendant vine
branches that hang amongst them; and the variety of gay plumaged
birds, particularly the small green parrot, made us feel we were
in a new world; and a repetition of our walk the next morning
would have pleased us well, but Miss Wright was anxious to get
home, and we were scarcely less so to see her Nashoba. A clumsy
sort of caravan drawn by two horses was prepared for us; and we
set off in high spirits for an expedition of fifteen miles
through the forest. To avoid passing one of the bridges above
described, which was thought insecure, our negro driver took us
through a piece of water, which he assured us was not deep "to
matter" however we soon lost sight of our pole, and as we were
evidently descending, we gently remonstrated with him on the
danger of proceeding, but he only grinned, and flogged in reply;
we soon saw the front wheels disappear, and horses began to
plunge and kick most alarmingly, but still without his looking at
all disturbed. At length the splinter-bar gave way, upon which
the black philosopher said very composedly, "I expect you'll best
be riding out upon the horses, as we've got into an unhandsome
fix here." Miss Wright, who sat composedly smiling at the scene,
said, "Yes, Jacob, that is what we must do;" and with some
difficulty we, in this manner, reached the shore, and soon found
ourselves again assembled round Mrs.

Pages: | 1 | | 2 | | 3 | | 4 | | 5 | | 6 | | 7 | | 8 | | 9 | | 10 | | 11 | | 12 | | 13 | | 14 | | 15 | | 16 | | 17 | | Next |

Main -> Trollope, Fanny -> Domestic Manners of the Americans