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
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