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THE CITY OF THE CLYDE.
LETTER FROM HENRY D'ARCY, ESQ., -TH LIGHT DRAGOONS, TO CHARLES
VERNON, ESQ. , RUE DE LA PAIX, A PARIS. DEAR VERNON,- It surprises me, I own, that among the enehantments of the gayest -capital in the world, you 'care to be informed of any impressions made on me, in exile, in the least so. But, as I agree with you that the reminiscences of cities are among the most striking and permanent of the results of travel, and as every city has something peculiar, it may be worth while to help out your list by transmitting to you my experience of the great metropolis of western Scotland; for as there are books that we rather borrow than buy, and places that we would more willingly visit in panoramas, or accept in description, than at the sacrifice of personal ease, I do not invite you to join me here; though, if the particulars I shall have to touch upon shall unexpectedly perform that office, I may possibly be summoned one day to your hotel, on your arrival at this πολιν οικουμενην, μεγαλην και ευδαιμονα. Yes! cities we are sure to remember; countries, except when they have been the scene of some memorable joy or sorrow, are seen from the coachwindow and forgotten. Rocks and glaciers, waterfalls and old castles, are all alike, or differ only by a few hundred feet; but every city has something sui generis, and without question, this, in which I now most reluctantly reside, is in full possession of its share. Every city makes its first and most permanent impression through the organs of sense, an impression which long precedes and long outlasts any other relation we may afterwards bear to it; and as every city has of its own to be seen and heard, it is only when we have first seen all, and heard all, that we come to the men and women, the habits, customs, and dispositions of social life, compare, conclude, and depart.
As I am not going to send you an essay, but a letter, I must not be bound to any exact order in my details. Know then that like most other cities where a settlement has been made on the banks of a great river, Glasgow, consisting of main streets, many in number, intersected by others, the first are found to follow the course of that river, and the others are disposed at right or other angles, in relation to these. The whole city, including the new, together with the old parts of it, rises from the river upwards, to a considerable height, through rectangular streets, that take a northern direction, while the greater highways, in the course of a mile, are found to have attained a considerable elevation westward. During the perambulation of these streets, of either class, there is very little indeed worthy of remark. The churches are consummately ugly without being old, and the college is old without being imposing or venerable. Its new museum, well enough without, is within, like many others, an ill-constructed building, into which light is so penuriously or indirectly admitted, that it squints upon the contained objects and reveals them very imperfectly. They have what they call an arcade here, about as warm and light as the Thames tunnel, (on reflection I beg the Tunnel's pardon,) nor must I forget to mention, that the great coercive construction, in which men are not tenants at will, has all the architectural charms that could be reasonably expected, and is admired accordingly. The simple fact is, that there is only one fine building in Glasgow; and that building, the Exchange, not without defects, is really much superior to your over celebrated Bourse, with its 'mille colonnes.': It might be taken for a bit of the Louvre, stolen from Paris, and deposited in Glasgow by mistuke for Edinburgh, by some of those felonious angels who carried off the Sunta Casa from Palestine to Loretto.
Among the first agreeable impressions made on us in new places are those which arise from the cheerfulness and activity of the moving and outof-door population, and from the quantity which these places may possess of natural and of artificial light. A city in the enjoyment of a good deal of sunshine, and of which the shops and streets are well lighted up at
night, may always be endured for a short time. Now as to the light of day,
114. Quod latus mundi nebulæ, malusque 10
as you go
bu go' to 'your evening party, is not an object , ' will always able to suppress a sigh, even during the day season, that Providence has not placed him ubi soles melius nitent.
Before I'have quite done with this luminous subject, let me tell you, that in a dark night you will be surprised at seeing the eastern horizon relieved at intervals of its obscurity, by measured bursts or gushes of vivid and diffused light, as if from some great volcano, or from a city in flames.-- Don't be alarmed, it is only the Clyde iron-works!
Having thus compendiously disposed of the sights of Glasgow, or at least of some of the more striking impressions made upon the nerve of vision, I wish to claim your sympathy for a few of the many irritations with which it is accustomed to afflict the auricular 'apparatus of the stranger. I own that I am impatient of noise. I believe I was born without a membrana tympani (if that be a protective construction) and that harsh sounds penetrate at once into my brain. It is only by this physiological supposition that I can comprehend how it happened to me to feel a sort of physical necessity of inditing a paper (not unknown to you) in Blackwood, of and concerning "Londom noises, in which, as you recollect; among many other particulars, the performances of certain tall fellows id livery, on pieces of hinged iron, attached, by the instigation of the devil, to house doors, for the disturbance of the inmates, invited my particular attention: Happily there are few knockers in Glasgow, but it is nevertheless wer! intoxiww, the city of discord. Let us take them one at a time, in the order in which they present themselves. First, you must make up your mind at this season of the year, at three o'clock in the morning, when it is difficult to make up one's mind to anything, to the afflicting visitation' (curse them !) of the writes ; next, at about seven, to the yell of '“ Caller haddies" ; " this double suffering will shortly be succeeded by a very peculiar, perfectly epichorial - and most distracting method of separating dust from carpets (of which more anon); while you must, at all times, be prepared for the infernal bagpipe, modulated by the blind for the benefit of the deaf, to say nothing of the stridulous flute, which it hath pleased Pan, Apollo, or Nemesis, hitherto to restrain to the classical region of the college. All these constitute an experiment in harmonics that cannot be enjoyed in imagination Listen (can you help yourself?) to the watchman! Every watchman in every place is a monster, owing his preferment to some nasal or guttural peculiarity ;- a monster whom one would too gladly bribe, were it possible to corrupt him into silence, or
Oct.-VOL. XXXIX. NO. CLIV.
slay, on plea of justifiable homicide. His duties here are however more than commonly exhilarating; wherefore do these excellent citizens take pleasure in having the wet complexion of the winter day announced to them some hours before they rise to enjoy it? All tastes are doubtless respectable, and the Scotch we know are a matter-of-fact people, coretous of prerise information on all topics, but why convey needless information to one's pillow, and throw a damp over one's spirits by anticipation ? does not every body in Glasgow know that yesterday was, and to-morrow will be a wet day? The watch-dog in the country bays and barks, or howls, by paroxysms : but the detestable functionary in question comes with horrid punctuality to assert his impertinent vigilance, and compel you to join in it; and while, elsewhere, his unwelcome tramp is heard but once every hour, here, every half hour does he insist on depriving you of the best gift of heaven.
Yet do not suppose that the office of the Glasgow watchman is restrained to the observation of the single element of water : far from unfrequently you are indebted to him for the announcement of fire, no Proximus Ucalegun forming the excuse. Fire in Nelson-street ! and then a twist of the infernal crotalus or rattle, with which the demon of discord has furnished him ! Presently another rattle-snake regales you with fire in Nile-street! Fire in the Gallowgate! Fire in the Gorbals !--all, a league or two from your house, which is not on fire, and does not intend to be! In short, the whole corps, catching the signal from one station to another, you have soon an uproar which could not well have been greater when Rome was sacked by Brennus and the Gauls !
That wherever fires are lighted, chimneys must be swept, is a proposition that appears to require no limitation; but there is a “ time for all things," except for sweeping chimneys in Glasgow : the singularly melancholy invitation of this child of misery is, I assert it, to be heard here at all hours; ne can you, for your own particular relief, ourse him and have done with it; for I defy anybody to curae a chimney-sweeper from the bottom of his heart, though he wake him from his most blissful dreams !-no! not even when his lugubrious treble is conveyed to your ear through the damp and dreary fog of a November morning!-on such a morning is there anything more de pressing than the wheezing cough of a consumptive chimney-sweeper? – But I am forgetting the waites !-What shall we say or not say of the waites? those agreeable missionaries happily let loose upon us only for a season ?-Are not all night noises, especially during winter nights, a frightful violence offered to nature? To have one's loyalty appealed to, at three o'clock in the morning by the “ National Anthem," would, in truth, (as the king is probably sound asleep,) require us to be “plus rayalistes que le roi." This custom, it is much to be feared, is but a remnant of those popish abo minations which, of all British subjects, the Scotch should be the least disposed to tolerate. Who would expect to find Christmas thus heralded among the descendants of the Covenanters ? That to the mere instinctive love of music is to be referred this patronage of a great nuisance, I confess myself disinclined to admit. In the first place I am rather a disbeliever in the subject of Scottish music at all, (a southern heretic may still incline to the opinion, that this divine art came to Holyrood with Mary, and expired on the harp of Rizzio :) at any rate, music is unwelcome in the hours of repose; and when the “prima quies mortalibus ægris incipit," who would exchange it for the finest voluntary of the organ of Haarlem, or the cadences of Pasta herself? In some nations, an accumulated gaiety of constitution from climate, must, I admit, explode, and it breaks forth safely as well as naturally into musical utterance; but does the sun sink into the ocean too soon for our Venetian revels ? or do these inexorable perpetrators of uncouth sounds accomplish any one purpose, unless it be that, perhaps, of comforting the professors of divinity and church history, by the recollection, that when thus awakened in the night-watches, they have no litanies to sing and no midnight masses to perform? We can endure the Piperari at Rome: we listen not merely without resentment to the shepherd minstrels of Calabria,
when in the wild and immemorially ancient strains of their native mountains, they announce the Advent along the moon-lit streets of the Campagna Felice. There, the genius loci invites and justifies a custom, which here, is an impertinent and preposterous anomaly. It is not many nights ago that these amiable peripatetics, hearing that I had just returned from London by the mail, judiciously proceeded to tune their instruments under my particular window, before proceeding to the concert itself: I think it required a full quarter of an hour before the instruments were of one mind; in another, I should have been out of mine. But should this happen again, I will pay them back their airs in kind with an air gun.
If midnight music be not a pleasure, it is a penalty--we all object to pay penalties unequally imposed; the thrice-blest, who enjoy companionship by night as well as by day, may, it is presumed, when thus restored to consciousness, console each other, and take sweet counsel together ; while those unfortunates to whom Providence still permits the privilege, or appoints the dispensation, of lying, if it please them, diagonally in bed, must resort to all kinds of curvilinear figures, and in vain, for relief; that married people sleep sounder than others, they know very well; for me, not in possession of that heroic remedy, (on whatever principle it may operate,) I have tried all sorts of “ poppy and mandragora " in vain, nor have I found the beautiful invocation of Sophocles in a single instance successful :
“Υπή αδυνας αδαής, ύποι δ' αλγίων,
ευαιων, εναιων αναξ. Seven o'clock ! The sleep of exhausted sensibility, a poor substitute for that of nature, now lies heavy on the lids; but a blast is about to be blown, to which the trumpet of Alecto were a trifle, though its sounds pervaded central Italy and punetrated into the valley of the Nar!-Oli
, if Saint Peter could but be induced to remove the pinch of his black finger and thumb from the shoulders of the fish to the throat of the vociferator | One, two, threeten-twenty,- here they come! Hark to that fellow's Irish trachea of no common calibre ! I know it is not generally thought that Burking will be legalised during the first session of the reform parliament, but really an organ of that diameter neatly suspended in alcohol, would be an acquisition to any museum. There is no other chance of getting it; for I know, by long experience, that the people who make loud noises in the streets never die; the cries, and of course the criers, in the highways and byways of great cities are immortal ;– the blind obviously live for ever ; and the orbless man who sells boot-laces in Piccadilly may have carried on that branch of commerce during the Trojan war, when, as we may conjecture from a Homeric epithet or two, the article of leathern thongs was much in request. A finer arena for the discord in question could not be selected than Blythswood Square, of which the four sides repeat the various inflexions of unequal voice, with singularly fine effect! As, however, in this opera, the female performers are not the favourites, and have little chance with the males, let me then throw out a hint :-the municipal Authorities of Glasgow, were they men of any gallantry, should really furnish the weaker sex, or at any rate one or two of the prima donnas employed in this engaging commerce, with ship trumpets; the effeét would be very grand. What! has a shoal of whales invaded the Clyde ? --what ! all this explosion for haddocks only! It begins, I said, at seven; it ends-no! it never ends. Some tons of the delicate fish in questiop have been assimilated and identified with the animal economy, while the immortal ery of " Caller haddlips" affords the assurance that there is still a considerable stock on hand. Ecoutez !-a method has occurred to me by which, as far at least as the male sex are concerned, the evil under discussion (if it be an evil, but perhaps some people like it) might be brought within some bounds of moderation. If his Lordship the Provost, and his Baillie confraternity, would but consent to edueate the future herdles of the haddock mart in an Italian conservatorio-(and there are many vessels in Clyde that trade to Leghorn)-the joint assistance of the music-master and another functionary would, in a few years, furnish the banks of the Clyde (though the Irish performers might object to the discipline) with excellent soprani.
Eight o'clock ;-a lull to the storm ! at least to that storm; but imagine not that you shall even now enjoy tranquillity, and sleep one little hour in peace ! -carpets are to be beaten.-Oh, that the loom in which that dust-retaining web is wrought had never been invented! The small battery of these accursed sharp-shooters now opens at either corner of the square ; clatter, clatter, clatter, for a full quarter of an hour, without a moment's repose, by Shrewsbury clock! The interesting delegates who execute this order of domestic despotism, thick-legged, red-elbowed, loosely-zoned, sub-masculine figures-are perfect adepts; the rhythm is faultless; time is rigorously kept. You might wait for the dissipation of the cloud they raise, in the hope of beholding the Venus it might conceal; experience has taught me not to do so ; and, with a certain quantity of cotton in my ears, and imperfectly articulated maledictions on my lips, I only wait for the slowly retiring step of the perspiring damsels with their folded carpets under their arms. I had almost forgotten to say, and it would have been an important omission, that the criers of Belfast Almanacks are among the vocal performers of this city. The months consist of the same number of days at Belfast as elsewhere; the predictions are as true; but the popularity of the Belfast Almanack consists in its being sold for a penny, and its not being fletri by a red stamp. Accidents and offences are here recommended to public sympathy or indignation by harmonies composed on the respective emergencies; a shipwreck in the Clyde employs and feeds a dozen very large mouths; the diffusion of any calamity through Glasgow is always a regular cantilena for two voices ; a murder keeps many wretches alive for another week, and the suspension of one man's respiration by the hangman, prodigiously accelerates that function in some of his blackguard survivors. The last noise that it occurs to me to mention, but it is not peculiar to Glasgow, is that of bells. I was going to say hang all bells! but that is precisely the rererse of my wish. This hateful instrument (that is when its calibre is beyond that of a sheep-bell or your Spanish muleteers') is of high antiquity Would that the invention had perished with the inventor! Every established church has its gong—not always “ flat," though“ stale and unprofitable. He that hath heard, as I have heard, the unearthly voice of the muezzin from the minaret, may think, as I do, that tintinnabulury noise is not the happiest citation to the house of prayer. The pagan temples were frequented with out any summons; people go to change and market without bells to call them; they find their way to the opera, or to the agreeable dinner party, without clocks or alarums. Bells in taverns are really useful, and accordingly, in Scotland, out of the great cities, you seldom find them; as to the church bells here, they sound as if they were muffled in wet blankets, and ringing a knell at the sun's funeral !
The ancilla genus is very scarce and indifferent in Glasgow. Your neat, succinct lady's maid, your comely nursery-maid of the Green Park, who hath learned to keep her eye on the little wretches she conducts, and yet can occasionally afford her ear to any conversation that may interest her,this sort of thing does not exist in Glasgow. As to the mere nudity of the lower extremities, for which the handmaidens of this city are conspicuous, were it without the reproach of nastiness, why as your taste and mine have been exercised a little on classical models, we are not likely to be offended : au contraire, while it recalls primeval manners, and puts you in mind of the Odyssey, it has, as I occasionally observe, certain agrémens. Shoes and stockings are monstrous inventions; and I should say, that the noiseless step of a well-turned naked foot on Brussels or Turkey carpet would be very agreeable, and a decided improvement in our domestic interior; a positive refinement! It is pretty, too, (this foot,) on the turf or heather-very pretty ! while it positively offends when trampling in mud, or lacerated by gravel.