Letters From England 1846-1849 By Elizabeth Davis Bancroft


By Elizabeth Davis Bancroft

LIVERPOOL, October 26 - Page 1
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By Elizabeth Davis Bancroft

LETTER: TO W.D.B. AND A.B. LIVERPOOL, October 26, 1846

My dear sons: Thank God with me that we are once more on TERRA FIRMA. We arrived yesterday morning at ten o'clock, after a very rough voyage and after riding all night in the Channel in a tremendous gale, so bad that no pilot could reach us to bring us in on Saturday evening. A record of a sea voyage will be only interesting to you who love me, but I must give it to you that you may know what to expect if you ever undertake it; but first, I must sum it all up by saying that of all horrors, of all physical miseries, tortures, and distresses, a sea voyage is the greatest . . . The Liverpool paper this morning, after announcing our arrival says: "The GREAT WESTERn, notwithstanding she encountered throughout a series of most severe gales, accomplished the passage in sixteen days and twelve hours."

To begin at the moment I left New York: I was so absorbed by the pain of parting from you that I was in a state of complete apathy with regard to all about me. I did not sentimentalize about "the receding shores of my country;" I hardly looked at them, indeed. Friday I was awoke in the middle of the night by the roaring of the wind and sea and SUCH motion of the vessel.

The gale lasted all Saturday and Sunday, strong from the North, and as we were in the region where the waters of the Bay of Fundy run out and meet those of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, afterwards we had a strong cross sea. May you never experience a "cross sea." . . . Oh how I wished it had pleased God to plant some little islands as resting-places in the great waste of waters, some resting station. But no, we must keep on, on, with everything in motion that your eye could rest on. Everything tumbling about . . . We lived through it, however, and the sun of Sunday morn rose clear and bright. A pilot got on board about seven and at ten we were in Liverpool.

We are at the Adelphi. Before I had taken off my bonnet Mr. Richard Rathbone, one of the wealthiest merchants here, called to invite us to dine the next day . . . Mrs. Richard Rathbone has written that beautiful "Diary of Lady Willoughby," and, what is more, they say it is a perfect reflect of her own lovely life and character. When she published the book no one knew of it but her husband, not even her brothers and sisters, and, of course, she constantly heard speculations as to the authenticity of the book, and was often appealed to for her opinion. She is very unpretending and sweet in her manners; talks little, and seems not at all like a literary lady.

I like these people in Liverpool. They seem to me to think less of fashion and more of substantial excellence than our wealthy people. I am not sure but the existence of a higher class above them has a favorable effect, by limiting them in some ways. There is much less show of furniture in the houses than with us, though their servants and equipages are in much better keeping. I am not sorry to be detained here for a few days by my illness to become acquainted with them, and I think your father likes it also, and will find it useful to him. Let me say, while I think of it, how much I was pleased with the GREAT WESTERN. That upper saloon with the air passing through it was a great comfort to me. The captain, the servants, the table, are all excellent. Everything on board was as nice as in the best hotel, and my gruels and broths beautifully made. One of the stewardesses did more for me than I ever had done by any servant of my own . . . Your father and Louisa were ill but three or four days, and then your father read Tacitus and talked to the ladies, while Louisa played with the other children.

The Adelphi, my first specimen of an English hotel, is perfectly comfortable, and though an immense establishment, is quiet as a private house. There is none of the bustle of the Astor, and if I ring my bedroom bell it is answered by a woman who attends to me assiduously. The landlord pays us a visit every day to know if we have all we wish.

LONDON, Sunday, November 1

Here I am in the mighty heart, but before I say one word about it I will go on from Wednesday evening with my journal. On Thursday, though still very feeble, I dined at Green Bank, the country-seat of Mr. William Rathbone. I was unwilling to leave Liverpool without sharing with your father some of the hospitalities offered to us and made a great effort to go. The place is very beautiful and the house full of comfortable elegance.

The next morning we started for Birmingham, ninety-seven miles from Liverpool, on our way to London, as I am unable to travel the whole way in a day. On this railway I felt for the first time the superiority of England to our own country. The cars are divided into first, second, and third classes. We took a first-class car, which has all the comforts of a private carriage.

Just as we entered Birmingham I observed the finest seat, surrounded by a park wall and with a very picturesque old church, that I had seen on the way. On enquiring of young Mr. Van Wart, who came to see us in Birmingham (the nephew of Washington Irving), whose place it was, he said it was now called Aston Hall and was owned by Mr. Watt, but it was formerly owned by the Bracebridges, and was the veritable "Bracebridge Hall," and that his uncle had passed his Christmas there.

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