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boat appeared to be longer in coming than it really was, and when it came it was almost too well laden with the Bank-holiday folk whom we had been instructed to dread. At Cowes, more young men and young girls of a like sort came on board, but beyond favoring us with their loud confidences they did us no harm, and it was quite practicable to get supper. They were of the chorus-girl level of life, apparently, and there was much that suggested the stage in their looks and behavior, but they could not all have been of the theatre, and they were better company than the two German governesses who had travelled towards Ventnor with us, and filled the compartment with the harsh clashing of their native consonants. The worst that you could say of the trippers was that they were always leaving the saloon door open, and letting in the damp wind, which had now become very bitter, but English people of every degree are always leaving the door open, and these poor trippers were only like the rest of their nation in that. One young lady lay with her feet conspicuously up on the lounge which she occupied to the exclusion of four or five other persons, but by-and-by she took her feet down, and the most critical traveller could not have affirmed that it was characteristic of Easter Bank-holiday ladies to stretch themselves out with their feet permanently up on the cushions. When we landed at Southampton, and drove away in a cab, we had an experience which was then novel, but ceased to be less and less so. It seemed that the pier was a private enterprise, and you must pay toll for its use, or else not arrive or depart on that boat.
So many of our fellow-countrymen come ashore from their Atlantic liners at Southampton, and rush up to London in two hours by their steamer trains, without
any other sense of the place than as a port of entry, that I feel as if I were making an undue claim upon their credulity in proposing it as a city having a varied literary and historical interest. Yet Southampton is a city of no mean memories, with a history going back into the dark of the first invasions, and culminating early in the fable of King Canute's failure to browbeat the Atlantic. The men who won Cressy, Poictiers and Agincourt set sail from it, and fifty ships and more made ready there for the Armada. In turn it was much harried by the French, but the Dutch, whom Alva drove into exile, settled in the town and helped prosper it with their industries, till the Great Plague brought it such adversity that the grass, which has served the turn of so much desolation, grew in its streets. With the continuous wars of England and France it rose again, and now it is what every American traveller fails to see as he hurries through it. I have not thought it needful to mention that in the ages when giants abounded in Britain, Southampton had one of the worst of that caitiff race, who was baptized against his will, but afterwards eloping with his liege lady, was finally slain.
The place was so attractive socially, a hundred-odd years ago, that Jane Austen's family, when they came away from Bath, could think of no pleasanter sojourn. She wrote some of her most delightful letters from Southampton, and of course we went and looked up the neighborhood where she had lived. No trace of that precious occupancy is now left beside the stretch of the ancient city wall from which the Austens' garden overlooked a beautiful expanse of the Solent, but we made out the place, and for the rest we gave ourselves to the pleasure of following the course of the old
city wall, which, with its ivied arches, its towers and battlements all agreeably mouldering and ruinous, is better, as far as it goes, than the walls of either Chester or York, conscious of their entirety, and of their claim upon the interest of travel. Southampton is so very modern in the prosperity which has made it the rival of Liverpool as the chief port of entry from our country, that we ought rather to have devoted ourselves to its docks than its walls, and we did honestly try for them. But there is always something very disappointing about docks, and though I went more than once for a due impression of them at Southampton, I constantly failed of it. I tried coming upon them casually at first; at last I drove expressly to them, and when I dismounted from my cab, and cast about me for the sensation they should have imparted, and demanded of my cabman, "Where are the docks?" and he said, "Here they are, sir,” I could not make them out, and was forced to conclude that they had been taken in for the time.
I had no such difficulty with the prison into which Dr. Isaac Watts's father was put for some of those opinions which in former times were always costing people their personal liberty. In my mind's eye I could almost see his poor wife bringing their babe and suckling the infant hymnologist under the father's prison window; and I was in such rich doubt of Dr. Watts's birthplace in French Street, that with two houses to choose from, I ended by uncovering to both. I think it was not too much honor to that kind, brave soul, who got no little poetry into his piety, and was neither very severe about theology on earth, nor exigent of psalm-singing in heaven, where he imagined a pleasing conformity in the conditions to the tastes and habits of the several saints in this life. If the reader thinks that I overdid my reverence
in the case of this poet, let him set against it my total failure to visit either the birthplace or the baptismal church of another Southampton poet, that Charles Dibdin, namely, whose songs were much on British tongues when Britain was making herself mistress of the seas, and which possibly breathe still from the lips of
"The sweet little cherub who sits up aloft,
Keeping watch o'er the life of poor Jack."
Early in my English travels I found it well to leave something to the curiosity of after-seekers, and there is so much to see in every English city, town, village, country neighborhood, road, and lane that I could always leave unseen far more than I saw. I suppose it was largely accidental that I gave so much of my time to the traces of the Watts family, but perhaps it was also because both the prison and the house (in which, whichever it was, the mother kept a boarding-house while she nurtured her nine children, and the good doctor began his Greek and Latin at five years of age), were in the region of the old church of St. Michael's which will form another compensation at Southampton for the American who misses the docks. Its architecture was amongst my earliest Norman, and was of the earliest Norman of any, for the church was built in 1100 by monks who came over from Normandy. It was duly burned by the French two centuries later in one of their pretty constant incursions; they burned only the nave of the church, but they left the baptismal font rather badly cracked, and with only the staple of the lock which used to fasten the lid to keep the water from being stolen. I do not know why the baptismal water should have been stolen, but perhaps in those ages of faith
it was a specific against some popular malady, leprosy or the black death, or the like. The sacristan who showed me the font, showed me also the tomb of a bad baronet of the past, a very great miscreant, whose name he could not remember, but who had done something awful to his wives; and no doubt he could easily have told me why people stole the water. He was himself an excellent family man, or at least highly domesticated, if one might judge from his manner with his own wife, who came in demanding a certain key of him. Husband-like, he denied having it; then he remembered, and said, "Oh, I left it in the pocket of my black coat.” He was not at all vexed at being interrupted in telling me about the bad baronet, whose tomb, he made me observe, had not a leaf or blossom on it, though it was Easter Sunday, and the old church, which was beautifully rough and simple within, was decked with flowers for the festival.
Outside, the prevalence of Easter was so great that we had failed of a street cab, and had been obliged to send to the mews (so much better than a livery-stable, though probably not provided now with falcons) for a fly, and we felt by no means sure that we should be admitted to the beautiful old Tudor house, facing the church of St. Michael's, which goes by the name of King Henry VIII.'s Palace. They are much stricter in England concerning the holy days of the church than the non-conforming American imagines. On Good Friday there were neither cabs nor trams at Southampton in the morning, and only Sunday trains were run on the Great Southwestern to London; though on the other hand the shops were open, and mechanics were working; perhaps they closed and stopped in the afternoon. But we summoned an unchurchly courage for the Tudor