NEW YORK CITY. May 19, 1828. Evening Ball; Fashion of American Women.
We did not come home from Mr. Hone's till nearly one o'clock. We went at half past nine and found a terribly formal circle of ladies and a group of gentlemen in the middle of the room. There were two large rooms open, communicating by folding doors and handsomely furnished and lighted. Quadrilles were danced in both rooms, the same set with very slight variation that is danced in Edinburgh. I danced once, for it would be thought quite strange here that any married lady should decline dancing. They marry so very young, generally about sixteen or seventeen, that they would have no enjoyment at all if they ceased to dance on that account. Between the dances we had a song or two from a Madame Mallibran. She was a Madame Garcia and is here thought the most surprising singer that ever was heard. I should think that in London she would be considered third, fourth, or fifth rate. And the most disagreeable part of the manners of the Americans is that you are called upon to admire and be surprised to such a degree that by the time I came home, I was perfectly worn out. Another thing, too, which is very puzzling is the constant appeal that is made whether manners and society are not exactly the same as those in London. What can I say? I can't tell people who are doing their best to amuse and please me that they are not within a hundred degrees of the polish and refinement of English society; the very question shows their deficiency, for what can be more ill-bred than to ask anyone what they think of yourself, and it is, in fact, neither more nor less. I am extremely interested by seeing and hearing the progress of their institutions, their desire to acquire knowledge, and the quiet, sensible, and at the same time enthusiastic conversation of clever men upon the state of the country, and the many improvements, but when they come to light ballroom conversation nothing can be so ponderous, and, as for an attempt at a joke, the weight of it is enough to crush you to atoms. The women do not bear the test of evening dress. They have no air, and, tho' they have plenty of good clothes on, the taste is not good. There was too great a mixture of flowers and pearls and different kinds of ornaments in the hair. They hold themselves ill, I saw but one person who danced well.
LEBANON, NEW YORK. June 10, 1827. Visit to the Shaker Village.
I feel quite hopeless of being able to give you any idea of the extraordinary exhibition we witnessed to-day and which Basil, who has seen a good many varieties of religious ceremonies, declares to be the strangest way of worshipping God that ever l fell under his notice. I do not believe you ever heard of a sect l of Quakers denominated Shakers; I know I never did till I came to this country where there are several establishments of them The principal one is at Lebanon, about twenty-five miles from here and only two miles from Lebanon Springs, a fashionable watering place in this State. We had resolved to return to Albany by that road, and, accordingly, in Mr. Ashburner's waggon and accompanied by George and Anne Ashburner, we set out from Stockbridge yesterday between three and four o'clock. I ought first to tell you what I know of the faith and forms of the Shakers. Their founder was a woman of the name of Ann Lee, whom they call Mother. She was, as far as I can understand, perfectly mad from fanaticism, at least it is charitable to suppose her so, for if she had her senses she was profane to a degree in accepting homage as if she were a divine person, which her followers believed her to have been, and that in her was a second manifestation of the coming of Christ. She was persecuted in England for her religious opinions, and, in consequence, made her escape to this country where very shortly she was joined by men there as wild as herself. They now, of course, get leave to do they please and are an exceedingly orderly and quiet part of he community neat to a degree in their houses and persons. They do not allow of marriages, and married persons who join hem must dissolve their connection. Unfortunately a thunder- storm detained us so long on the road that by the time we reached the village we had only time to go into the Shop, or Store, as they call it, to buy a few little knick-knacks of their making. We wished much to have seen one of their houses, but by this time it was sunset, at which hour on Saturday night they have a meeting, so we were obliged to drive on to the Springs for the night. to-day we again went to the village at half past ten to see their service. The Church is a large handsome room eighty-four feet by ninety, with the best kept and most beautifully polished floor I have seen in this country, and in the corners are spitting boxes that the boards may be preserved from such contamination. A place is set apart for strangers, the ladies and gentlemen sitting separately. There were few of the Shakers assembled when we went in, but very shortly they all arrived, the females ranged themselves on one side and the males on the other on benches. Everything was done with the greatest quietness, the women walked on their toes, seemingly afraid to make even the noise of moving to their places. After sitting for a few moments, the whole assembly rose up and one of the men gave a short discourse on the reason of their meeting, namely to worship God, and spoke of the great privilege they were allowed in meeting for that purpose. They all sung a hymn and when that was finished they knelt and sung another. This went on for some time, an occasional discourse, or rather a conversation, for many spoke, both males and females, and now and then a hymn. So far all all as well, nothing ridiculous was said and no absurd thing was done, but by and by the person who had first spoken and seemed to be a kind of leader said, "Now let us refresh our souls with a little exercise," Upon which there was a general throwing off of coats on the part of the men, the women only put aside their pocket handkerchieves, which they had hitherto held over the their arm, and to work they went with one accord, singing or rather screaming, tunes of a kind of jig time, at the same time walking round the room with a swinging step somewhat between a walk and a dance and flapping their hand with a penguin kind of motion. At the end of the first act of this folly there was a universal clapping of hands like the applause in a theatre, and to work they went again occasionally stopping for a few minutes, discoursing a little on the merits of Mother, as they call Ann Lee, and then starting off on a new song led by any of the party, male or female. Occasionally they stamped violently with their feet in the course of their march and sometimes with their hands. At length they ceased and again resumed their seats on the benches, when the orator who had spoken most stepped forward and addressed the strangers whom he laboured to convince that the Shakers are the elect people of God, and tried to prove that being . concerned in the Government of the World or in the increase of its population or, in short, having anything whatever to do with it, is against the spirit of Christianity, for that Christ had nothing to do with any of those things, and a great deal more he said that I cannot repeat, but after another hymn or two notice was given that it was time for the meeting to break up and each man to return to his own residence.
Basil was spoken to by one of the men as we left the Church, and this made him suppose that he might converse with any oi them, so he walked after a man who was going up the hill and began with, "May I speak a few moments with you ?" The person addressed made no answer, but took to his heels and ran as fast as he could, and we then learnt that they do not choose to be spoken to on Sunday. The women are the ugliest set of females I ever saw gathered together, perhaps their particularly unbecoming dress added to the plainness of their appearance; it seems to be adapted to make them look as ugly as art can possibly devise in the Quaker fashion, only totally devoid of any of the trigness which generally accompanies the dress of that order, for their petticoats are long and trolloping, and there is nothing to mark the waist. They are however, most scrupulously clean.
ALBANY, NEW YORK. September 15, 1827. Separation of Women and Men during Evening Entertainments
I do not remember whether I have described to you at any time the extreme stiffness of an American party, at least as far as we had an opportunity of judging. We were last night at one at Mrs. Clinton's Mr. Clinton, you know, is Governor of this State of which this place is the capital. Consequently the specimen we had may be clearly reckoned a sample of quite the haut ton of this part of the Union. We were invited to tea and went at eight o'clock. On entering the first drawing room both Basil and I started back, for we saw none but gentlemen, not a single lady, and we thought there must be some mistake in asking us in theree but in a moment the Governor came forward and giving me his arm hurried me into the adjoining room at the top of which sat Mrs Clinton who placed me on the seat next to herself. Round the room were placed as many chairs as could be crammed in and a lady upon each, a most formidable circle, and I had to go through the not less formidable ordeal of an introduction to at least a dozen of those who were nearest me. In the course of the evening the gentlemen did venture into the room and stood for a short time talking to one or other of the ladies, but there was seldom a chair vacant for any of the males to seat themselves upon, and altho' occasionally the ladies had courage to cross the room and change places with each other I never saw any lady standing during the whole evening, and the Mistress of the House alone seemed to enjoy the privilege of moving at her ease about the rooms. We had abundance of refreshments with several editions of tea and cake, then came two servants, one with a tray full of beautiful, china plates of which he gave each lady one, another man followed bearing a tray covered with dishes of peaches and grapes which were in like manner handed round, then followed another course of plates and in their rear a magnificent pyramid of ice, supported on each side by preserved pineapple and other sweetmeats. Then came wine, and again more plates and more ice. In short, Mrs. Clinton seemed to be of the opinion of a lady of whom I have been told by some of my friends at home, that the easiest way to entertain her guests was to keep thcm eating. I was introduced to many persons during the course of the evening, the Chancellor of the State of New York, and Mr. Van Buren, one of the most eminent men in this State.
ALBANY, NEW YORK. September 20, 1827. Titles and Courtesies in America.
It is not the custom, in Albany at least, to spend the evening where you dine, indeed it would not answer at all, for the dinner hour is four o'clock even at their most dressed parties, and it wouId be a weary long time to stay. There are two little traits in their manners that bespeak very old-fashioned ways. In handing a lady to dinner the gentleman literally presents his hand, not his arm, and altho' he may transfer her hand to his arm I have frequently been led along by the fingers, much as Sir Charles Grandison might have done. Then the gentlemen always call a lady Madam, and any thing so appalling to freedom and ease you cannot imagine, and they make use of it so perpetually too. We sat with our friends on Tuesday evening (the eighteenth) till eight o'clock and had a great deal of very agreeable conversation, chiefly on the difference between American and English society and the peculiarities we are struck with in this country, for altho' they are very sensitive to criticism they have too much sense to swallow unqualified praise. As for Mr. Bloodgood, he really presses me so hard to tell him what I consider their defects that I have more than once been tempted to give him a hint about the spitting, tho' I never saw him guilty of it.
MOUNT HOLYOKE, MASSACHUSETTS. October 4, 1827 Marriage Ceremony.
We meant to have set out an hour earlier, but just as the carriage came to the door a lady who was in the room happened to mention that there was to be wedding in the house in half an hour, one of the daughters of the innkeeper. We have often wished to see a marriage in this country but none ever before came so opportunely in the way. Basil got hold of the Master of the House, and a little civility and speechifying about our being strangers travelling through the country and anxious to see everything relating to the manners and customs of it, promised us admittance to witness the ceremony. The company were seated according to the American fashion as if they were pinned to the wall, and the gentlemen divided from the ladies, whether by design or accident I do not know. The Bride and Bridegroom were placed at the bottom of the room, so upon chairs, the Bridesmaid next the Bride and the Best Man next the Bridegroom. The Clergyman was a merry looking little mannie in a pair of top boots. When the ceremony was to be performed he placed himself about the centre of the room with a chair before him, on the back of which he leant. It was by the Presbyterian form they were married, which I never witnessed before. All the company rose up whilst he repeated a prayer in commendation of the Institution of Marriage. He then made the couple join hands whilst he asked them nearly in the words of the Episcopalian form whether they would "love, cherish, etc," and then followed another prayer, after which we all resumed our seats and a most funereal silence prevailed, not a soul going near the Bride to wish her joy. In a few minutes the solemnity of the scene was in some measure relieved by the entrance of a boy bearing a tray covered with plates and two beautiful wedding cakes, of which each guest helped him or herself to a large piece, even the newly married pair seemed to have retained their appetite for plum cake, and the gentleman had still his senses sufficiently about him to take proper care of his wedding suit and followed the examples of the other males of the party in spreading his pocket handkerchief over his knees to protect his trousers from the grease of the cake. We next had wine handed round, and I thought that now surely we should hear a few congratulations, but, except the Best Man and Basil, not a soul drank their health. The ladies for the most part wore white, thick, muslin gowns without any sort of pretence at finery, some of them were in black, and the father of the Bride himself wore a black coat. This was a great relief to me as I am travelling in black, and I was afraid that my dingy dress might give offence, but they have no such superstition in this country. As soon as we could decently get away we left the quiet party and set off on this expedition. We return to Northampton in a little while and shall not proceed towards Boston till to-morrow morning.
LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS. October 13, 1827. Development of the manufacturing town.
Yesterday we were up betimes and off at nine o'clock to the great manufacturing establishment at Lowell, which has grown up in the last five years. The journey was twenty-five miles, and we made it out by one o'clock. We went at once to the house of Mr. Kirke Boott under whose immediate superintendence the works are. We rather expected that we should have had time to visit the manufacturies before dinner, which by the way was somewhat young in us, considering the experience we have had of American hours, but we were not prepared to find (altho' we arrived at one) we had kept the family waiting beyond their usual dining hour. In ten minutes we were seated at table, and such is the capability of one's appetite to accommodate itself to any hour, that, dining at one or at six, I always feel equally hungry. We swallowed our dinner with somewhat of American speed, as the days are short now and we had a great deal to see before dark. Five years ago Mr. and Mrs Kirke Boott took up their residence at Lowell where there was then no building except one or two little hovels, but last night we went over very extensive cotton manufacturies that have sprung up since that time, and on every side fresh ones are starting into life. This State is so very bad for agricultural purposes that they are driven to manufactures to gain a livelihood, but as yet they have neither skill nor capital to attempt anything fine or expensive, and the finest cottons they make at Lowell (printed ones I mean) are not beyond the value of fifteen pence a yard I should think. But with time and their desire to improve they will soon advance the quality.
HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT. October 25, 1827. Visit to the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb; Visit to the Prison.
The next place we went to was of a very different character, the Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb. The head teacher, Mr. Gallaudet, went both to London and Edinburgh, where he met with but little cordiality. There seemed to be a jealousy of letting a foreigner into their secret, so he went next to Paris, and there he was taken at once into the Abbe Sicard's school, got all the information and instruction he wished, and brought out with him a young man who had been educated there to be one of the teachers at this institution. Four of the teachers are deaf and dumb the other five have all their faculties. This happened to be the last day of vacation, so that the schools were not in operation, but most of the pupils had returned, and a more cheerful or more intelligent looking group I never saw. Mr. Gallaudet brought three of the girls and two boys into the school room to give us a specimen of their advancement. One of the young men, nineteen years old, is now a teacher. He is uncommonly intelligent and has read a great deal. There was no trick, nothing got up in the exhibition. We wrote down questions on the slate and they answered them, sometimes off hand, at other times they required a little reflection. We then wrote a word, an adjective, or adverb, or any part of speech we chose which they brought in in a sentence and always so as to show that they understood the meaning perfectly. There was generally a great deal of imagination in the form of their replies. The system of signs is very quick. They use the alphabet very little and entirely with one hand. One poor girl we saw who is deaf, dumb, and blind, of course she cannot be taught much, but I saw her knit and thread a needle. They do not teach their pupils to speak, in which I think they show their sense, for nothing can be more unearthly than the sound made by those who have lost the organ of hearing by which to modulate their voices. At first when they go to the Institution the children are in the habit of making disagreeable sounds, but the masters check them immediately, and except for one boy who had been there a very short time I did not hear a single sound except a hearty laugh, which had nothing strange in it. Mr. Gallaudet married one of his own pupils and Mr. Clerc, the teacher who came from France, also married a deaf and dumb person. He was extremely anxious to ascertain after the birth of his eldest child whether it heard, and it was sometime before they could persuade him that it did. He has since had two more equally gifted. Having gone through his own hobby Mr. Gallaudet next asked us if we would not go to the Retreat, the asylum for the insane, which is also particularly well conducted. We went there, accordingly, and were fortunate in finding the physician, Dr. Tod, who by the by is almost insane upon the subject, at home. His treatment of his patients is very different from that generally followed. Unless the person is in a state not to listen to anything, he tells him why he is sent there, that he is mad, and sent to be cured. He treats them all with the most perfect frankness, never resorts to confinement so long as the patient can be at large with safety to himself and others, provides amusement and occupation for them, and to those whom he thinks it will benefit carries strangers to visit them in their sitting room, where they have the companionship of those in an equal state of convalescence with themselves. The result of this system has been hitherto the cure of ninety-five persons out of a hundred. This appears a great many, but it is to be hoped that there will be no relapses, for as yet the establishment has only existed three years. It was delightful to see the three men at the head of those three institutions, each equally enthusiastic in his own department. Mr. Pilsbury at Weathersfield seemed to have no thought but for the Improvement of prison discipline and reformation of prisoners; Mr. Gallaudet's whole soul is wrapped up in the sharpening of the remaining faculties of his interesting charges; whilst Dr. Tod when speaking of the happy effects produced on the insane by gentle treatment, lashes up and kindles into a degree of enthusiasm which might lead one to think he may one day be a fit subject for his own experiments, especially when we are told that his father and only sister have both been mad and many other relations more or less deranged. Imagination carries one a great way while visiting such places. At the prison I saw crime in every countenance though the Prisoners proved often to be very trustworthy keepers. At the Deaf and Dumb I started when I heard anyone speak, and at the Retreat (having the first impression of the prison still on my mind) I wondered to see the women allowed to sit together and talk, forgetting that solitary confinement was not necessary there as a punishment.
NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT. October 27, 1827. American Mortality and Grave Yards.
The first thing he [Professor Sillman of Yale] took us to see was the grave yard, as they call their burying grounds in America. They cannot in fact call them church yards, for I do not in fact ever remember to have seen such a place attached to the Church. This grave yard is the neatest and most cheerful looking I have seen at the same time quite free from ornament that would be out of place with the purpose to which it was appointed. It covers twenty acres of ground and is divided into streets along which the relations attending a funeral may drive. The lot belonging to each family is staked out with little poles, and there were many very neat little monuments. Talking of grave yards leads me to mention what I have observed of the careless way in which people in this country speak of their dead relatives. Now to-day, for instance, Mr. Silliman said in passing one part owhere four little stones were ranged alongside of each other, "There are some of my family. I had the misfortune to bury four of them." The sight of the little graves was sufficiently affecting to me, even altho' those who occupied them were nothing to me, but the father gave the information as if he had been pointing out beds of cabbages or cauliflowers, and I mention this as the more extraordinary because he is a man of taste, and good feeling generally accompanies taste I think. In like manner you will hear gentlemen talk carelessly of their dead wives, first or second, and widowers constantly joke about their being candidates for matrimony. I know innumerable instances of this. Now I do know that people marry for a second time in England, and are not ashamed of doing so, of course, but I don't think one hears gentlemen in society talking of their first wife as if she were in the next room, whilst she is snug in her grave.
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA. December 12, 1827. Visit to the Orphan Asylum; Visit to the Asylum for Poor Widows.
Our next visit was of a much more agreeable nature, the Orphan Asylum, an admirable institution, where upwards of sixty children are well taken care of and educated until they are twelve years old, when they are bound into different trades, the boys at least, and the girls go into service. Close to the Orphan Asylum is another excellent institution totally unconnected with it, an Asylum for Poor Widows, where for thirty dollars of entrance money, a sum easily procured amongst friends if the individual possesses it not, any widow of reduced circumstances and too infirm to better them, can gain admittance to a comfortable home for the rest of her life. There are forty-three now in the establishment, and really the old ladies look most comfortable, fifteen of them are unable to leave their rooms, at all events not able to go downstairs, but one story there is a gallery round the centre of the building where each can take exercise without having the fatigue of climbing the stair. Some have a room entirely to themselves, in other rooms here are two persons, but all of them look neat and clean and comfortable. It would be an excellent establishment in England for old housekeepers and such like.
WASHINGTON. January 3, 1828. The Custom of Calling Cards; Inadequacy of Evening Entertainment.
I have been out since I began to write. Miss Baker took me in her carriage to return some visits, fortunately at Washington it is the custom to leave cards instead of going in; many persons even send round their cards by their servants. Anything is better than having to go into every house and say the same thing twenty times over, and here where the distances are so great and the visits are so numerous, one's whole time would be taken up in this most uninteresting and profitless occupation.
The hours at Washington are particularly well-suited to the style of life. Dinner is at five universally, and there is no sitting after dinner, so that by half past seven everybody is ready to go to the evening party wherever it may chance to be, and there are few evenings without one. They, again, are over by half past ten or eleven. Dancing is the universal amusement, with a couple of whist tables in the corner for those who are so disposed, of whom Mr. Vaughan is always one. A change since you and I knew him! The parties, to judge by the two I have been at, are of the most shabby description, small, ill-lighted rooms and bad, dirty-looking refreshments, carried through the crowded dancers by nasty black boys, on old japanned trays, to the great detriment, I doubt not, of the ladies' dresses. The music, too, is defective; in short, nothing could be worse in all respects. I hope we shall find things better arranged at the Dutch Minister's, where we go to-night.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA. February 26, 1828. Witness to a Slave Auction.
I went to one sight to-day which I had not before had an opportunity of witnessing-an auction of slaves. There was an immense collection of them gathered together near the Post Office, from the balcony which I saw it. A table was placed in the centre on which stood the auctioneers and the different lots as they were set up and knocked down to the highest bidder like so many books, chairs, or bullocks. There were multitudes of infants, little unconscious things, sleeping In their mothers' arms or smiling and laughing merrily, quite unaware of their own degradation.
They were sold in families, which so far it was pleasant to see, but still it was a horrible sight. Close by were auctions of horses and carriages going on, so near indeed that it was impossible to distinguish whether the last bid was for the four-footed or the human animal. There was an expression of dogged indifference about the poor blacks, but I am told they do not at all like to be removed from the place where they have been brought up.
CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA. March 2, 1826. Absence of Women at Dinner Parties.
Yesterday we had another stroll about the town which I admire the more I see of it, and when the trees which ornament the side of the streets are quite out the effect must be very pretty. It is a remarkably cheerful looking place, Charleston. The dinner at Mr. Pettigrew's consisted of thirteen gentlemen and three ladies, Mrs. Pettigrew, Mrs. Nott, who is living in the house, and myself, the others were all gentlemen without their wives, according to the fashion of the place and of many other places in the Union. Women are just looked upon as house-keepers in this country, and as such are allowed to preside at the head of their own table, that they may see that all goes right.
FIFTY MILES WEST OF CHARLESTON. Mr. Skirving's Plantation on the Combahee River. March 8, 1828. Provisions for slaves; Labor of Slaves.
Having settled ourselves a little, we proceeded with Solomon to see the Negro huts about five hundred yards from the house. They are twenty-nine in number very neatly arranged. In each hut there are two apartments, one for sleeping in. Some of the huts had windows but very few, most of them having no light but what was admitted by the open door or an occasional separation between logs. In one of the largest were assembled all the children under the age of fourteen, whom they consider too young to work. They were under the charge of one woman who prepares their meals for them and takes care of them whilst their parents are at work in the fields. The children, as well as the men and women, are fed upon Indian corn which is served out to them at the beginning of each week; to each man and woman a peck in the week. The children have their allowance measured daily. After dinner we went to see them at their work, making a dam to prevent the Combahee from overflowing the rice fields to a greater degree than is wished, for they are always kept under water, which is what makes a rice plantation so peculiarly unhealthy during the hot weather. Indeed, even at this season when there is no such danger, it is quite easy to imagine how deadly it must be to inhale the noxious vapours rising from such immense beds of stagnant water. All the way that we have come from Norfolk, were we to travel it in the months of May and so on, we should meet with certain and sudden death, for the swamps are as pernicious as the rice fields. Along with those at work there were two other drivers, each with his wand of office in his hand, that is to say, a cart-whip with which to keep their human cattle under subjection. The slaves on this plantation are, I believe, as well used as any that we could see. They have a doctor to attend them when they are ill, and tho' not sumptuously fed and clothed they have both food, clothing, and weather-tight houses, but still it makes one melancholy to see them, even at their best. There was no laughing or talking in the field, no sign whatever of merriment or happiness; they seemed to work on mechanically, aware that the slightest relaxation was watched by the driver and would be followed by the infliction of his cart whip. The scene looked out of place on such a heavenly day when everything looked smiling and happy except the human beings. Solomon is an intelligent man, for his caste, and we have asked him many questions, but frequently he stops and says that he does not like to answer such and such a question, a man may get into trouble by saying too much. He told us that he has belonged to four masters in succession. It sounded very strange to hear a man tell that formerly he used to sell for from six to seven hundred dollars but that now he does not suppose he would fetch more than four hundred.
24 MILES SOUTH OF SAVANNAH, GEORGIA. Mrs. Fulton's Tavern. March 13, 1828 Receiving Company during the Day; Domestic Labor of Married Women.
I have mentioned more than once how much time morning visit occupies in this country owing to the bad habit the ladies have of never being ready to receive company. I have found this to be the practice exscept at Washington where company alone is their occupation. English persons who have lived many hears in this country say that they too have observed this want of being ready to be quite universal. Mrs. Wardrobe, of Savannah, whose experience of the ways of this country is great, says that when anyone calls the lady called upon is probably Iying down quite in dishabille and has to dress, from her stays inclusive. She also confirmed what I have before heard of the active part they take in kitchen and other menial duties. The other day, for instance, in Savannah we drove past a house where there had been a great dinner on the preceeding day, and thro' the windows saw the ladies, with their white aprons on, busy washing up the glasses and tea-cups. If this were really necessary it might be all very meritorious, although even in that case I should think a better plan would be not to give parties, but Mrs. Wardrobe says that it is only bad management and that she never finds it necessary to give herself so much trouble. Another opinion which she also confirms is the low estimation in which women are held. She says that when a man marries the only qualification he looks for in his wife is that she should be a good housekeeper. There appears to be no sort of sympathy between the sexes. They have no subjects of conversation in common and at a dinner table, for instance, instead of sitting alternately even if there be but three or four of them to a dozen gentlemen, all get together. This, I think, a very great bore and always take care to avoid as much as I can. Hitherto I have observed in the slaveholding States the most utter disregard to religion, more especially on the part of the gentlemen; not only to the spirit but even to outward forms and observances.
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA. April 20, 1828. Ceremony at the Ursuline Convent
We were pretty well fatigued by our walk and our climb and were preparlng to go to bed when we were informed that the Governor of the State of Louisiana, Mr. Johnson, was below waiting to see us, and, accordingly, down we went and found a quiet, modest. looking man of between thirty and forty. He sat an hour with us and is certainly the most attentive and polite governor we have met with since poor De Witt Clinton. He told us that he had that morning received an invitation from the nuns of the only Convent here inviting him to be present at the ceremony of two young ladies taking the black veil. He had just got our letters of introduction and immediately wrote to ask leave of the Superior that we should accompany him, which was granted. This, we have since learnt, was a greater piece of good luck than I, at least, was aware of, for those nuns of the order of Ursulines are very strict and rarely admit even ladies within the grate. The ceremony was to take place very early, and at eight o'clock on the seventeenth the Governor accompanied by Judge Porter, an Irishman by birth but now an American citizen, called for us to go to the convent, which is about two miles distant. Here we found a good many ladies assembled and were introduced to the nuns, who as I have always seen persons of their calling, were delighted to have strangers to talk to. They occupy a delightful house charmingly situated down the river and have abundance of rational occupation, having no less than one hundred and seven young ladies as boarders, whom they educate with the assistance of a few masters. We soon adjourned to the chapel, where we had Mass and then the ceremony took place. No one can forget that part of it when the funeral service is said over them as they lie extended on the ground under a black pall, figuratively buried to the world, but I am afraid my days of romance have gone by for I felt no emotion altho' both the young women were pretty and only nineteen years old, but in this country it is impossible to connect any idea of force on the part of friends with the sacrifice, owing that at any time, even after pronouncing the last vows, they may quit their retirement and return the world if they have the smallest wish to do so. More than one lady has availed herself of this privilege and one married after having been a nun for ten or twelve years. After the ceremony we were shown through all the house, and finally had cake and wlne before going away. The Superior is a fine, old lady nearly eighty years of age, a native of France but who has been in this country forty-two years.
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY. May 7, 1828. Attitudes toward European Fashion.
We then took a walk along the river bank thro' a most beautiful avenue of beech and elm and returned home at five o'clock supposing that long ere that time Eliza must have finished her walk. But no! Whilst we had been thus soberly engaged the young lady had been exciting a much greater sensation in the place than her Papa or Mama are likely to do. We had all gone out together but after walking about a hundred yards Mrs. Cownie and her little charge parted with us and turned into a shop in search of something they wished to purchase. This proved to be a milliner's shop, and the old lady was so delighted with Eliza's frock-one which her Aunt Katherine worked for her-that she begged Mrs. Cownie as the greatest favour to let her see some more of her dresses.
Cownie very good-naturedly returned home for three of the child's prettiest frocks and nothing could exceed the admiration, not only of the milliner, but of the numerous ladies for whom she sent to see these beautiful things. Now you must know that they have all been worn and washed for a twelvemonth, and I could not but imagine what would be the amazement of the Louisville ladies could they have seen the clothes of the children of some of my friends who understand the subject so much better than I do that my little girlie's modest equipment could not possibly bear comparison with their's However, as those ladies knew no better they were sufficiently astonished with what they saw. Patterns were taken and a request made that one of the frocks might be sent to a lady at some distance, but Mrs. Cownie not liking to lose sight of her property could not carry her good nature so far. They had seen Basil and me walk past and the next petition was for the loan of my bonnet to copy, a bonnet which I got the beginning of last summer, but the milliner says that a thing being made from an English pattern or from what is worn by anyone well known gets sale so much distance.
STEAMBOAT CLINTON ON THE OHIO. May 31, 1828. Character of travel by steamboat.
Our first inquiry at Louisville was about the stage to Lexington, but it was so full, and several persons well acquainted with the road gave such discouraging accounts of it that tired as we were with the jolting we had experienced from St. Louis and our bones still aching we had little mind to encounter such another journey, we next walked down to the wharf to learn what steamboats were going to Cincinnati. We found that there were three named to start as yesterday so we stepped on board the Clinton, whose time of starting the clock told us would be four in the afternoon. She was already crammed full of passengers, and there seemed to be no way of stowmg us so we walked off, not well knowing what to do. However, on a second visit Basil interested the clerk so much in us that he volunteered to give up his own little stateroom to Mrs. Cownie and Eliza whilst Basil and I were to be accommodated with two berths in the gentlemen's cabin, which we were to screen off as we best could. We were suffering under an attack of the travellers' fever and I believe would have taken our passage under any circumstances, so we dined, got ready, and were on board and off by half past four. The boat and its accommodations are of the same description of magnificence as in all the other much vaunted boats in these western waters. We were disturbed by the dressing bell at half past four this morning and to try to sleep longer was in vain for the passengers began walking and clattering like the hens and geese in a poultry yard roused by the first crowing of the cock. To be sure it was two hours and a half before we got breakfast and then not a drop of milk was there to be had altho' they had stopped several times in the night and might have procured it, I think, had they been desirous of doing so. But they are not anxious to provide any such luxuries, and it is not surprising that they should be indifferent when they find their passengers put up with anything they choose to give them. The Americans are the most extraordinary people in that respect I ever saw. I have seen them over and over again sit down and eat a dinner barely eatable as to cookery or diet and not above half sufficient for the size of the party without uttering a word of complaint or seeming to find out that anything was wrong.