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The New York Times, May 31, 1854, p. 2:|
CANADA.A Railroad Journey to Montreal--Aspect of the City, &c.
Correspondence of the New York Daily Times
Quebec, Wednesday, May 24, 1854.
It seems somewhat of a change to jump from Summer back again into Spring. To leave the apple blossoms falling through a still atmosphere in New-York, and find after two days' journey the larch tassels not yet unfolded. This has been my experience, and the rapid journey from the Chambers-street Station to Sword's Hotel has accomplished this vegetable change.
What shall I say of a railroad journey? How find incidents in it sufficiently exciting to gratify the cultivated people who read the Daily Times?
An oblong box with a certain number of seats; so many square inches of glass to look through, or if preferred, a square aperture capable of admitting hazy clouds of dust that float and sway through the whole length of the car, until at length settling in the crevices of passengers' garments, the reign of despair commences. Then people begin to dust themselves vainly with ineffectual pocket-handkerchiefs. Every crevice of the body capable of being occupied is taken possession by a thousand minute particles... When one is covered with dust, breathing dust, smelling dust, and seeing dust, one has very little eye for the beauties of Nature.
And so to Albany and Troy. There a change of cars and a ride across the Remington Bridge. I saw the first model of this bridge which that clever, but I believe unfortunate American built. It was erected in the Surrey Zoological Gardens, London, and thousands passed over it daily... It swayed with every step... This model was then the source of much controversy among scientific men... That his invention met with public approbation, however, the bridge at Troy testifies.
From Troy to Whitehall may be summed up in a few words. Dust, rattle, stations, steam-whistles and a break-down. This last detained us some two hours on the road in a lonely and not very picturesque spot. There it was discovered that one of the valves leaked, and there took place a vast expedition of time and cotton to set it right again. The passengers walked moodily up and down the track, or gathered round the engineers and watched them screwing and unscrewing nuts and plugging the leak. One or two individuals of economical tendencies muttered that it was the duty of the company to return the passage money, but whether they carried their theory into practice I know not.
We labored on slowly with our lame engine as far as Saratoga, when we got one warranted sound in wind and limb, and so sped on to Whitehall, that nestles on the bosom of Lake Champlain.
I consider it rather fortunate that Lake Champlain has been considerably "done," because as I passed through it by night I could give only an imaginative description of it. This, however, is not difficult. I may tell you in confidence that I once wrote an account of travels in Turkey for the North American Review, although my experience of the Orientals was confined to the wooden Turks that stand opposite the doors of tobacconists' stores, and I am now the Eastern correspondent for an important but disreputable daily paper in New-York. You may have seen in its columns the other day an elaborate statement of the vast expense about to be entered into for Eastern correspondence. It will no doubt astonish you, Sir, when I inform you that I am that expense. I have no doubt that I shall be able from my attic in the Bowery to supply most important news from the seat of war.
Passing over Lake Champlain--I have a conscience, you see, sometimes--and the railway whirl from Rouse's Point to the St. Lawrence, we come to Montreal.
I am not going to bore you with any historical recollections. I could get them up easily enough, but I will spare you for once. Montreal presents the aspect of a city of jails. The houses are all built of gray stone, with little or no ornament; small windows and doors, and are, altogether, so stern and prison like in their appearance, that one naturally expects to see pale, hopeless faces peering out through iron stanchions, and looking wistfully into the sunny streets.
The people of Montreal are, I understand, proud of their public buildings. The Cathedral, a prosaic kind of Notre Dame in design, occupies nearly a side of their great square. It is rather imposing exteriorly, but within--Heavens, how paltry! Wooden pillars, not even cunningly painted in imitation of marble; stained plaster roof, colored in the worst possible taste, ugly pews, and an insignificant organ. I had heard great things of this Cathedral, and I confess, expected something in the continental style. Not exactly a Cologne or Duomo, but still a temple in which economy did not regulate all the ornaments. It is the largest church, they say, on this Continent; but I fear that the Montrealers will get credit only for its size.
The square on which it stands is another amiable delusion of the citizens. They believe it to be of vast extent and romantic aspect. It is about a couple of hundred feet square, nattily cut up into little flower-beds, in which a pretty crowd of purple Irises were blooming. Thre is a small syringe in the centre, which plays on holidays, and its slender stream of water is a source of great pride and pleasure to the innocent citizens.
The Town Hall is a pretty building, and some of the Banks are far superior to the conglomerate erections of a similar nature in New-York.
Whether it was the sudden change from the active bustle and din of commerce in the Empire City to this quiet trading-place, or not, but Montreal had an air of stagnancy for me that I have seldom seen equalled. There appeared to be no life in the town. The business men moved along in a sort of half torpid state. The business houses looked as if a sudden large consignment of goods would have astonished them into a fit of apoplexy. A lazy, sleepy vapor seemed to hang over the entire city. A commercial Tennyson might have written a second lotus-eating poem with the scene laid in Montreal.
During the few hours I remained there I wandered about, seeing all that was to be seen, which was not much; then, after a bad dinner, proceeded to the wharves, which are very fine, and took my passage on board the Lady Elgin for Quebec.
My experiences on board of this wretched boat, and my adventures in Quebec, I reserve for my next.
The New York Times, June 6, 1854, p. 2:|
From Montreal to Quebec.
Correspondence of the New York Daily Times
Quebec, Friday, May 26, 1854.
From Montreal to Quebec, one steams along the Saint Lawrence in a miserable boat known by the high-sounding title of the Lady Elgin. Human ingenuity could not have invented a more wretched conveyance. The state-rooms are mere chinks into which two people are squeezed, so limited in size that one of them has to get into bed while the other washes. The idea of slumber in those terrible cells is a mockery. One lays awake all night listening to the throbbing of the engine, and wondering when the laths that support your companion's mattress above will break, and allow him suddenly to descend upon your upturned face. Meals are a matter of form, and are served out on a dirty tablecloth, by the light of a fetid oil lamp. Cleanliness appears to be a sin on board this boat, and speed looked upon as a downright sacrilege against the Deity of Quertia, to which the vessel seems consecrated.
This wondrous boat starts from the Montreal wharf for Quebec at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, consequently the river between the two cities is traversed in a the night time. Standing on the for'ard deck with a good cigar, one can see shadowy cliffs and dusky forest patches fleeting by. But that is all. You retire to your state-coffin grumbling at missing such fine scenery, and arise each morning at about 6 o'clock, just in time to catch some beautiful bits of the stream as you approach Quebec.
Cap Rouge, with its mantle of rich pine and wild cherry foliage, from between which the red soil that gives it a name peeps out, like an Indian's skin through the forest boughs. The cleft where the waters of the Chaudiere foam over the steep rocks; Spencer Wood, the vice regal residence; the steep scarp up which Wolfe laboriously hauled his cannon,--all these attract one's vision until Cape Diamond, the most prominent and formidable point of that tremendous fortress for which Quebec is famous, comes in sight.
Quebec, as you approach it, seems to cling to the steep face of the cliff with a despairing grasp. It literally seems to overhang what is called the lower town, and which runs along the base of the impending heights. The houses of the upper town are nearly all of a white color, or at least present that appearance from the river, and this and the fact of their precarious looking suggested to me a whimsical idea as I stood on deck. It was that the houses, from continuously hanging on the face of the precipice, had grown gray with terror, like those men we read of who were suspended by a single strand of rope over an awful ravine, and who came up with their auburn curls changed to white.
Every one knows that Quebec is divided into what are called the upper and lower towns. The latter is devoted to Irishmen and commerce,--the former contains the residences of the gentry, the public offices, the principal military quarters, &c. The lower town seems devoid of interest, but from it one gets the best idea of the impregnability of the Citadel, which towers above at an enormous height. The upper town is very picturesque and neat. The houses are small and rather sombre in appearance; the last owing to the fact of their being built of a gray stone, and the windows being unusually diminutive. I was immediately struck on entering the town with the number of blackened ruins, evidently the remains of fire, that were scattered about. Prominent above all these stand the remnants of the Parliament Houses, which have been recently totally destroyed by fire. The Parliament then took refuge in a temporary building, which was also destroyed in the same manner.
The Quebec Music Hall is now fitting up for the Assembly, which will be opened by Lord Elgin on the 13th of this month. Thus the Canadian Government seems to have in its possession some of that Tholosan gold, which Aulus Gellius speaks of as being ill-luck on all who hold it. I have no doubt but that their new sanctuary will be burned down before the year is out. These misfortunes are greedily seized upon by other cities, claimants themselves for the seat of Government. Toronto points scornfully to the charred ruins of the Parliament buildings, and demands that the governmental authority shall be restored to its ancient seat, where a fitting house will await. Quebec says nothing, but fits up its Music Hall, and keeps a firm hold on the Governor General. It is probable, however, that a Federal Union will ere long take place between the two Canadas, and thus afford to each its share of importance.
Quebec is essentially a garrison town. It has no public buildings of any architectural importance, and all its lions are military. Soldiers stroll along the streets, rattan in hand, or walk with servant maids on the ramparts of Sunday evenings. Officers, in undress uniforms, lounge in barrack windows and puff their meerschaums; or else whirl past in a knowing dog-cart and flannel jacket bound for the cricket-ground on the plains of Abraham. Even the civilians of the town have a certain military air about them. There is a smallness in the cap, and ease in the shooting-coat, a studied thickness in the shoe-soles, that all breathe of the English officer...
The great lion of Quebec is of course the Citadel, reputed to be one of the strongest forts in the world. It covers forty acres of ground, and is built upon the highest point of land in the vicinity, called Cape Diamond. It is said to be provisioned for a siege of seven years, while the fortifications, batteries, guns, magazines, &c., are kept in the most perfect working order. The view from that portion of the Citadel that overhangs the river is superb, embracing, as it does, the broad curve of the St. Lawrence, the distant hills of New-Ireland, and the picturesque course of the St. Charles that forms in its path the exquisite Falls of Lorette, which are perfectly Alpine in their beauty.
The Citadel has its anecdotes of course. One rather amusing one about a young American girl struck me as peculiarly characteristic of the Yankee idea of the purchasability of everything. This damsel, after having been shown all over the fort, and astonished by the exhibitions of its huge armory and ammunition store, expressed her conviction to the officer on duty, who was her cicerone, that "the Yankees would have this fortress some day or other."
"Do you think they will be able to take it?" demanded the officer, rather nettled at such a hypothesis.
"Well, I don't know about their taking it," replied the maided, "but I guess you'd sell!"
History does not relate what the officer said in answer to this bold suppostion as to the marketability of the Queen's garrisons.
The New York Times, June 13, 1854, p. 2:|
CANADA.Quebec and its Vicinity.
Correspondence of the New York Daily Times
Quebec, Thursday, June 1, 1854.
The environs of Quebec are well worth more than one visit. Every year in the Summer time, hosts of our countrymen descend upon that devoted city and "do" it. They rush madly from the boat to Sword's Hotel, or Russell's, frantically inscribe their names and whereabouts on the books, and after swallowing a sort of railway breakfast, proceed to "do" the lions.
Never are the peculiarities of the Yankee character more magnificently developed than in the process of seeing Quebec and its vicinity. There are no small number of places worthy of a visit in the neighborhood. There are the Indian village of Lorette, with its picturesque cascade; the waterfall of Montmorenci; ditto, Chaudiere. There are the Plains of Abraham, with Wolfe's monument; the Citadel. The ramparts, to finish with a brief glance at the town itself, and its inhabitants.
Yet all these things our impatient compatriots insist on seeing in the interval between 8 o'clock A.M., when they arrive, and 5 o'clock P.M., when the boat by which they return leaves for Montreal. The hotel keepers are in dismay. It is vain that they explain that all these places are widely separated, and that a day might be profitably spend at any one of them. That by no number of relays of the most rapid cab-horses could this acrobatic sight-seeing be performed.
The Yankees insist. They have dollars they say, and are willing to spend them. Dollars will do almost anything. They cannot see all the sights before 5 o'clock. So away they rush on panting cab-horses to Lorette and Montmorenci, and after having contemplated for both the space of two minutes and a half, they arrive at the hotel just in time to swallow a bowl of scalding soup and catch the steamboat as she is moving. They have seen nothing, thought of nothing but performing what Dickens would call "a rapid act" of sight-seeing. They know nothing whatever of Quebec, except that they have been there, and their idea of Montmorenci Fall is a white table cloth hanging out to dry, with a good deal of noise in the neighborhood.
Now, I am what is generally called "a slow fellow." I take things easy, and do not care about going through life as M. Franconi does through the Hippodrome, when he is performing "The Courier of St. Petersburg." I love to loiter ofer places. To spend whole days in one spot, and dive into its works. I have therefore seen the lions of Quebec, not "done" them.
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