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But in bad seasons the traveler had to encounter inconveniences still more serious. Thoresby, who was in the habit of traveling between Leeds and the capital, has recorded, in his Diary, such a series of perils and disasters as might suffice for a journey to the Frozen Ocean or to the Desert of Sahara. On one occasion he learned that the floods were out between Ware and London, that passengers had to swim for their lives, and that a higgler 1 had perished in the attempt to cross. In consequence of these tidings, he turned out of the high-road, and was conducted across meadows, where it was necessary for him to ride to the saddle-skirts in water. In the course of another journey he narrowly escaped being swept away by an inundation of the Trent. He was afterward detained at Stamford four days, on account of the state of the roads, and then ventured to proceed only because fourteen members of the House of Commons, who were going up in a body to Parliament with guides and numerous attendants, took him into their company. The markets were often inaccessible 2 during several months. It is said that the fruits of the earth were sometimes suffered to rot in one place, while in another place, distant only a few miles, the supply fell far short of the demand. The wheeled carriages were, in this district, generally pulled by oxen. When Prince George of Denmark 3 visited the stately mansion of Petworth in wet weather, he was six hours in going nine miles ; and it was necessary that a body of sturdy hinds 1 should be on each side of his coach, in order to prop it. Of the carriages wliich conveyed his retinue, several were upset and injured. A letter from one of the party has been preserved, in which the unfortunate courtier complains that, during fourteen hours, he never once alighted, except when his coach was overturned or stuck fast in the mud.
i higgler, one who carries about | 1708) married the Princess Anne of provisions for sale.
England (daughter of James II.), 2 inaccessible. Define.
and when she became queen he was 8 George of Denmark (1653- I made lord higli admiral of England. 1 hinds, peasants.
On the best highways, heavy articles were, in the time of Charles the Second, generally conveyed from place to place by stage-wagons. In the straw of these vehicles nestled a crowd of passengers who could not afford to travel by coach or on horseback, and who were prevented by infirmity, or by the weight of their luggage, from going on foot. The expense of transmitting heavy goods in this way was enormous. From London to Birmingham the charge was seven pounds a ton; from London to Exeter, twelve pounds a ton. This was about fifteen pence a ton for every mile, more by a third than was afterward charged on turnpike roads, and fifteen times what is now demanded by railway companies. The cost of conveyance amounted to a prohibitory tax2 on many useful articles. Coal in particular was never seen except in the districts where it was produced, or in the districts to which it could be carried by sea, and was, indeed, always known in the South of England by the name of sea-coal.
On by-roads, and generally throughout the country north of York and west of Exeter, goods were carried by long trains of pack-horses. These strong and patient beasts, the breed of which is now extinct, were attended by a class of men who seem to have borne much resemblance to the Spanish muleteers. A traveler of humble condition often found it convenient to perform a journey mounted on a pack-saddle between two baskets, under the care of these hardy guides. The expense of this mode of conveyance was small. But the caravan moved at a foot's pace, and in winter the cold was often insupportable.
2 prohibitory tax. Explain.
The rich commonly traveled in their own carriages, with at least four horses. Cotton, the facetious poet, attempted to go from London to the Peak with a single pair, but found at St. Albans that the journey would be insupportably tedious, and altered his plan. A coach and six is in our time never seen, except as part of some pageant. The frequent mention, therefore, of such equipages in old books is likely to mislead us. We attribute to magnificence what was really the effect of a very disagreeable necessity. People in the time of Charles the Second traveled with six horses, because with a smaller number there was great danger of sticking fast in the mire. Nor were even six horses always sufficient. Vanbrugh, in the succeeding4 generation, described with great humor the way in which a country gentleman, newly chosen a member of Parliament,
1 extinct. Give a synonym. 3 Vanbrugh, an eminent archi
2 Cotton. Charles Cotton (1630- tect and dramatist of the eigh1687) had considerable celebrity in teenth century. his day as a humorous poet.
4 succeeding. Give a synonym.
went up to London. On that occasion all the exertions of six beasts, two of which had been taken from the plow, could not save the family coach from being embedded in a quagmire.
Public carriages had recently been much improved. During the years which immediately followed the Restoration, a diligence2 ran between London and Oxford in two days. The passengers slept at Beaconsfield. At length, in the spring of 1669, a great and daring innovation was attempted. It was announced that a vehicle, described as the Flying Coach, would perform the whole journey between sunrise and sunset. This spirited 3 undertaking was solemnly considered and sanctioned by the heads of the university, and appears to have excited the same sort of interest which is excited in our own time by the opening of a new railway. The vice-chancellor, by a notice affixed in all public places, prescribed the hour and place of departure. The success of the experiment was complete. At six in the morning the carriage began to move from before the ancient front of All Souls' College; and at seven in the evening the adventurous gentlemen who had run the first risk were safely deposited at their inn in London.
The emulation 4 of the sister university 5 was moved; and soon a diligence was set up which in one day car
1 the Restoration: that is, the 3 spirited. Note the irony, and restoration of the Stuart dynasty in point out subsequent examples. the person of Charles II. (1660). 4 emulation, rivalry.
2 diligence, the early name for 5 the sister university: that is, stayc-coach.
ried passengers from Cambridge to the capital. At the close of the reign of Charles the Second, flying carriages ran thrice a week from London to the chief towns. But no stage-coach, indeed no istage-wagon, appears to have proceeded farther north than York, or farther west than Exeter. The ordinary day's journey of a flying coach was about fifty miles in the summer; but in winter, when the ways were bad and the nights long, little more than thirty. The Chester coach, the York coach, and the Exeter coach generally reached London in four days during the fine season, but at Christmas not till the sixth day. The passengers, six in number, were all seated in the carriage; for accidents were so frequent that it would have been most perilous? to mount the roof. The ordinary fare was about twopence-halfpenny a mile in summer, and somewhat more in winter.
This mode of traveling, which by Englishmen of the present day would be regarded as insufferably slow, seemed to our ancestors wonderfully and indeed alarmingly rapid. In a work published a few months before the death of Charles the Second, the flying coaches are extolled as far superior to any similar vehicles ever known in the world. Their velocity? is the subject of special commendation, and is triumphantly contrasted with the sluggish pace of the Continental posts. But with boasts like these was mingled the sound of complaint and invective. The interests of large classes had been unfavorably affected by the establishment of the i perilous. Give a synonym.
I crimcomplaint and invective. Dis2 velocity. Sce Glossary.