List Of Contents | Contents of Winter Sunshine, by John Burroughs
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drink everywhere,--along all the boulevards, and streets, and quays,
and byways; in the restaurants and under awnings, and seated on the
open sidewalk; social and convivial wine-bibbing,--not hastily and in
large quantities, but leisurely and reposingly, and with much
conversation and enjoyment.

Drink, drink, drink, and, with equal frequency and nearly as much
openness, the reverse or diuretic side of the fact. (How our
self-consciousness would writhe! We should all turn to stone!) Indeed,
the ceaseless deglutition of mankind in this part of the world is
equaled only by the answering and enormous activity of the human male
kidneys. This latter was too astonishing and too public a fact to go
unmentioned. At Dieppe, by the reeking tubs standing about, I suspected
some local distemper; but when I got to Paris, and saw how fully and
openly the wants of the male citizen in this respect were recognized by
the sanitary and municipal regulations, and that the urinals were
thicker than the lamp-posts, I concluded it must be a national trait;
and at once abandoned the theory that had begun to take possession of
my mind, namely, that diabetes was no doubt the cause of the decadence
of France. Yet I suspect it is no more a peculiarity of French manners
than of European manners generally, and in its light I relished
immensely the history of a well-known statue which stands in a public
square in one of the German cities. The statue commemorates the
unblushing audacity of a peasant going to market with a goose under
each arm, who ignored even the presence of the king, and it is at
certain times dressed up and made the centre of holiday festivities. It
is a public fountain, and its living streams of water make it one of
the most appropriate and suggestive monuments in Europe. I would only
suggest that they canonize the Little Man, and that the Parisians
recognize a tutelar deity in the goddess Urea, who should have an
appropriate monument somewhere in the Place de la Concorde!

One of the loveliest features of Paris is the Seine.  I was never tired
of walking along its course. Its granite embankments; its numberless
superb bridges, throwing their graceful spans across it; its clear,
limpid water; its paved bed; the women washing; the lively little
boats; and the many noble buildings that look down upon it,--make it
the most charming citizen-river I ever beheld. Rivers generally get
badly soiled when they come to the city, like some other rural
travelers; but the Seine is as pure as a meadow brook wherever I saw
it, though I dare say it does not escape without some contamination. I
believe it receives the sewerage discharges farther down, and is no
doubt turbid and pitchy enough there, like its brother, the Thames,
which comes into London with the sky and the clouds in its bosom, and
leaves it reeking with filth and slime.

After I had tired of the city, I took a day to visit St. Cloud, and
refresh myself by a glimpse of the imperial park there, and a little of
Nature's privacy, if such could be had, which proved to be the case,
for a more agreeable day I have rarely passed. The park, toward which I
at once made my way, is an immense natural forest, sweeping up over
gentle hills from the banks of the Seine, and brought into order and
perspective by a system of carriage-ways and avenues, which radiate
from numerous centres like the boulevards of Paris. At these centres
were fountains and statues, with sunlight falling upon them; and,
looking along the cool, dusky avenues, as they opened, this way and
that, upon these marble tableaux, the effect was very striking, and was
not at all marred to my eye by the neglect into which the place had
evidently fallen. The woods were just mellowing into October; the
large, shining horse-chestnuts dropped at my feet as I walked along;
the jay screamed over the trees; and occasionally a red
squirrel--larger and softer-looking than ours, not so sleek, nor so
noisy and vivacious--skipped among the branches. Soldiers passed, here
and there, to and from some encampment on the farther side of the park;
and, hidden from view somewhere in the forest-glades, a band of buglers
filled the woods with wild musical strains.

English royal parks and pleasure grounds are quite different.  There
the prevailing character is pastoral,--immense stretches of lawn,
dotted with the royal oak, and alive with deer. But the Frenchman loves
forests evidently, and nearly all his pleasure grounds about Paris are
immense woods. The Bois de Boulogne, the forests of Vincennes, of St.
Germain, of Bondy, and I don't know how many others, are near at hand,
and are much prized. What the animus of this love may be is not so
clear. It cannot be a love of solitude, for the French are
characteristically a social and gregarious people. It cannot be the
English poetical or Wordsworthian feeling for Nature, because French
literature does not show this sense or this kind of perception. I am
inclined to think the forest is congenial to their love of form and
their sharp perceptions, but more especially to that kind of fear and
wildness which they at times exhibit; for civilization has not quenched
the primitive ardor and fierceness of the Frenchman yet, and it is to
be hoped it never will. He is still more than half a wild man, and, if
turned loose in the woods, I think would develop, in tooth and nail,
and in all the savage, brute instincts, more rapidly than the men of
any other race, except possibly the Slavic. Have not his descendants in
this country--the Canadian French--turned and lived with the Indians,
and taken to wild, savage customs with more relish and genius than have
any other people? How hairy and vehement and pantomimic he is! How his
eyes glance from under his heavy brows! His type among the animals is
the wolf, and one readily recalls how largely the wolf figures in the
traditions and legends and folklore of Continental Europe, and how
closely his remains are associated with those of man in the bone-caves
of the geologists. He has not stalked through their forests and
fascinated their imaginations so long for nothing. The she-wolf suckled
other founders beside those of Rome. Especially when I read of the
adventures of Russian and Polish exiles in Siberia--men of aristocratic
lineage wandering amid snow and arctic cold, sleeping on rocks or in
hollow trees, and holding their own, empty-handed, against hunger and
frost and their fiercer brute embodiments do I recognize a hardihood
and a ferity whose wet-nurse, ages back, may well have been this gray
slut of the woods.

It is this fierce, untamable core that gives the point and the splendid
audacity to French literature and art,--its vehemence and impatience of
restraint. It is the salt of their speech, the nitre of their wit. When
morbid, it gives that rabid and epileptic tendency which sometimes
shows itself in Victor Hugo. In this great writer, however, it more
frequently takes the form of an aboriginal fierceness and hunger that
glares and bristles, and is insatiable and omnivorous.

And how many times has Paris, that boudoir of beauty and fashion,
proved to be a wolf's lair, swarming with jaws athirst for human
throats!--the lust for blood and the greed for plunder, sleeping,
biding their time, never extinguished.

I do not contemn it.  To the natural historian it is good.  It is a
return to first principles again after so much art, and culture, and
lying, and chauvinisme, and shows these old civilizations in no danger
of, becoming effete yet. It is like the hell of fire beneath our feet,
which the geologists tell us is the life of the globe. Were it not for
it, who would not at times despair of the French character? As long as
this fiery core remains, I shall believe France capable of recovering
from any disaster to her arms. The "mortal ripening" of the nation is

The English and Germans, on the other hand, are saved by great breadth
and heartiness, and a constitutional tendency to coarseness of fibre
which art and civilization abate very little. What is to save us in
this country, I wonder, who have not the French regency and fire, nor
the Teutonic heartiness and vis inertiae, and who are already in danger
of refining or attenuating into a high-heeled, shortjawed, genteel
race, with more brains than stomach, and more address than character?


I had imagined that the next best thing to seeing England would be to
see Scotland; but, as this latter pleasure was denied me, certainly the
next best thing was seeing Scotland's greatest son. Carlyle has been so
constantly and perhaps justly represented as a stormy and wrathful
person, brewing bitter denunciation for America and Americans, that I
cannot forbear to mention the sweet and genial mood in which we found
him,--a gentle and affectionate grandfather, with his delicious Scotch
brogue and rich, melodious talk, overflowing with reminiscences of his
earlier life, of Scott and Goethe and Edinburgh, and other men and
places he had known. Learning that I was especially interested in
birds, he discoursed of the lark and the nightingale and the mavis,
framing his remarks about them in some episode of his personal
experience, and investing their songs with the double charm of his
description and his adventure.

"It is only geese who get plucked there," said my companion after we
had left,--a man who had known Carlyle intimately for many years;
"silly persons who have no veneration for the great man, and come to
convert him or to change his convictions upon subjects to which he has
devoted a lifetime of profound thought and meditation. With such
persons he has no patience."

Carlyle had just returned from Scotland, where he had spent the summer.
The Scotch hills and mountains, he said, had an ancient, mournful look,
as if the weight of immeasurable time had settled down upon them. Their
look was in Ossian,--his spirit reflected theirs; and as I gazed upon
the venerable man before me, and noted his homely and rugged yet
profound and melancholy expression, I knew that their look was upon him
also, and that a greater than Ossian had been nursed amid those lonely
hills. Few men in literature have felt the burden of the world, the
weight of the inexorable conscience, as has Carlyle, or drawn such
fresh inspiration from that source. However we may differ from him (and
almost in self-defense one must differ from a man of such intense and
overweening personality), it must yet be admitted that he habitually
speaks out of that primitive silence and solitude in which only the
heroic soul dwells. Certainly not in contemporary British literature is
there another writer whose bowstring has such a twang.

I left London in the early part of November, and turned my face
westward, going leisurely through England and Wales, and stringing upon
my thread a few of the famous places, as Oxford, Stratford, Warwick,
Birmingham, Chester, and taking a last look at the benign land. The
weather was fair; I was yoked to no companion, and was apparently the
only tourist on that route. The field occupations drew my eye as usual.
They were very simple, and consisted mainly of the gathering of root
crops. I saw no building of fences, or of houses or barns, and no
draining or improving of any kind worth mentioning, these things having
all been done long ago. Speaking of barns reminds me that I do not
remember to have seen a building of this kind while in England, much
less a group or cluster of them as at home; hay and grain being always
stacked, and the mildness of the climate rendering a protection of this
kind unnecessary for the cattle and sheep. In contrast, America may be
called the country of barns and outbuildings:--

       "Thou lucky Mistress of the tranquil barns,"

as Walt Whitman apostrophizes the Union.

I missed also many familiar features in the autumn fields,--those given
to our landscape by Indian corn, for instance, the tent-like stouts,
the shucks, the rustling blades, the ripe pumpkins strewing the field;
for, notwithstanding England is such a garden, our corn does not
flourish there. I saw no buckwheat either, the red stubble and little
squat figures of the upright sheaves of which are so noticeable in our
farming districts at this season. Neither did I see, any gathering of
apples, or orchards from which to gather them. "As sure as there are
apples in Herefordshire" seems to be a proverb in England; yet it is
very certain that the orchard is not the institution anywhere in
Britain that it is in this country, or so prominent a feature in the
landscape. The native apples are inferior in size and quality, and are
sold by the pound. Pears were more abundant at the fruit stands, and
were of superior excellence and very cheap.

I hope it will not be set down to any egotism of mine, but rather to
the effect upon an ardent pilgrim of the associations of the place and
its renown in literature, that all my experience at Stratford seems
worthy of recording, and to be invested with a sort of poetical
interest,--even the fact that I walked up from the station with a
handsome young countrywoman who had chanced to occupy a seat in the
same compartment of the car with me from Warwick, and who, learning the
nature of my visit, volunteered to show me the Red Horse Inn, as her
course led her that way. We walked mostly in the middle of the street,
with our umbrellas hoisted, for it was raining slightly, while a boy
whom we found lying in wait for such a chance trudged along in advance
of us with my luggage.

At the Red Horse the pilgrim is in no danger of having the charm and
the poetical atmosphere with which he has surrounded himself dispelled,
but rather enhanced and deepened, especially if he has the luck I had,
to find few other guests, and to fall into the hands of one of those
simple, strawberry-like English housemaids, who gives him a cozy, snug
little parlor all to himself, as was the luck of Irving also; who
answers his every summons, and looks into his eyes with the simplicity
and directness of a child; who could step from no page but that of
Scott or the divine William himself; who puts the "coals" on your grate
with her own hands, and, when you ask for a lunch, spreads the cloth on
one end of the table while you sit reading or writing at the other, and
places before you a whole haunch of delicious cold mutton, with bread
and homebrewed ale, and requests you to help yourself; who, when
bedtime arrives, lights you up to a clean, sweet chamber, with a
high-canopied bed hung with snow-white curtains; who calls you in the
morning, and makes ready your breakfast while you sit with your feet on
the fender before the blazing grate; and to whom you pay your reckoning
on leaving, having escaped entirely all the barrenness and publicity of
hotel life, and had all the privacy and quiet of home without any of
its cares or interruptions. And this, let me say here, is the great
charm of the characteristic English inn; it has a domestic, homelike
air. "Taking mine ease at mine inn" has a real significance in England.
You can take your ease and more; you can take real solid comfort. In

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