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Contrasted Travelling
by [?]

When our parents went to Europe fifty years ago, it was the event of a lifetime–a tour lovingly mapped out in advance with advice from travelled friends. Passports were procured, books read, wills made, and finally, prayers were offered up in church and solemn leave-taking performed. Once on the other side, descriptive letters were conscientiously written, and eagerly read by friends at home,–in spite of these epistles being on the thinnest of paper and with crossing carried to a fine art, for postage was high in the forties. Above all, a journal was kept.

Such a journal lies before me as I write. Four little volumes in worn morocco covers and faded “Italian” writing, more precious than all my other books combined, their sight recalls that lost time–my youth–when, as a reward, they were unlocked that I might look at the drawings, and the sweetest voice in the world would read to me from them! Happy, vanished days, that are so far away they seem to have been in another existence!

The first volume opens with the voyage across the Atlantic, made in an American clipper (a model unsurpassed the world over), which was accomplished in thirteen days, a feat rarely equalled now, by sail. Genial Captain Nye was in command. The same who later, when a steam propelled vessel was offered him, refused, as unworthy of a seaman, “to boil a kettle across the ocean.”

Life friendships were made in those little cabins, under the swinging lamp the travellers re-read last volumes so as to be prepared to appreciate everything on landing. Ireland, England and Scotland were visited with an enthusiasm born of Scott, the tedium of long coaching journeys being beguiled by the first “numbers” of “Pickwick,” over which the men of the party roared, but which the ladies did not care for, thinking it vulgar, and not to be compared to “Waverley,” “Thaddeus of Warsaw,” or “The Mysteries of Udolpho.”

A circular letter to our diplomatic agents abroad was presented in each city, a rite invariably followed by an invitation to dine, for which occasions a black satin frock with a low body and a few simple ornaments, including (supreme elegance) a diamond cross, were carried in the trunks. In London a travelling carriage was bought and stocked, the indispensable courier engaged, half guide, half servant, who was expected to explore a city, or wait at table, as occasion required. Four days were passed between Havre and Paris, and the slow progress across Europe was accomplished, Murray in one hand and Byron in the other.

One page used particularly to attract my boyish attention. It was headed by a naive little drawing of the carriage at an Italian inn door, and described how, after the dangers and discomforts of an Alpine pass, they descended by sunny slopes into Lombardy. Oh! the rapture that breathes from those simple pages! The vintage scenes, the mid-day halt for luncheon eaten in the open air, the afternoon start, the front seat of the carriage heaped with purple grapes, used to fire my youthful imagination and now recalls Madame de Stael’s line on perfect happiness: “To be young! to be in love! to be in Italy!”

Do people enjoy Europe as much now? I doubt it! It has become too much a matter of course, a necessary part of the routine of life. Much of the bloom is brushed from foreign scenes by descriptive books and photographs, that St. Mark’s or Mt. Blanc has become as familiar to a child’s eye as the house he lives in, and in consequence the reality now instead of being a revelation is often a disappointment.

In my youth, it was still an event to cross. I remember my first voyage on the old side-wheeled Scotia, and Captain Judkins in a wheeled chair, and a perpetual bad temper, being pushed about the deck; and our delight, when the inevitable female asking him (three days out) how far we were from land, got the answer “about a mile!”