The Manchester and Glasgow Road, Volume 1 (of 2) This Way to Gretna Green
The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.
THE MANCHESTER AND
|WORKS BY CHARLES G. HARPER|
|LONDON TO MANCHESTER|
|LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS|
|ILLUSTRATIONS IN THE TEXT|
|THE MANCHESTER AND GLASGOW ROAD|
WORKS BY CHARLES G. HARPER
The Portsmouth Road, and its Tributaries: To-day and in Daysof Old.
The Dover Road: Annals of an Ancient Turnpike.
The Bath Road: History, Fashion, and Frivolity on an OldHighway.
The Exeter Road: The Story of the West of England Highway.
The Great North Road: The Old Mail Road to Scotland. Two Vols.
The Norwich Road: An East Anglian Highway.
The Holyhead Road: The Mail-Coach Road to Dublin. Two Vols.
The Cambridge, Ely, and King’s Lynn Road: The Great FenlandHighway.
The Newmarket, Bury, Thetford, and Cromer Road: Sport andHistory on an East Anglian Turnpike.
The Oxford, Gloucester, and Milford Haven Road: The Ready Wayto South Wales. Two Vols.
The Brighton Road: Speed, Sport, and History on the ClassicHighway.
The Hastings Road and the “Happy Springs of Tunbridge.”
Cycle Rides Round London.
A Practical Handbook of Drawing for Modern Methods ofReproduction.
Stage Coach and Mail in Days of Yore. Two Vols.
The Ingoldsby Country: Literary Landmarks of “The IngoldsbyLegends.”
The Hardy Country: Literary Landmarks of the Wessex Novels.
The Dorset Coast.
The South Devon Coast.
The Old Inns of Old England. Two Vols.
Love in the Harbour: a Longshore Comedy.
Rural Nooks Round London (Middlesex and Surrey).
Haunted Houses; Tales of the Supernatural.
The North Devon Coast.[In the Press.
[By J. Herring, 1844.
THIS WAY TO GRETNA GREEN
By CHARLES G. HARPER
ILLUSTRATED BY THE AUTHOR, AND FROM
OLD-TIME PRINTS AND PICTURES
Vol. I.—LONDON TO MANCHESTER
CHAPMAN & HALL, LTD.
PRINTED AND BOUND BY
HAZELL, WATSON AND VINEY, LD.,
LONDON AND AYLESBURY.
The Golden Legend.
THOSE lines, instinct with the dramatic possibilities of the road infar-off days, call to mind the old engravings and wood-cuts of theDurer school, in whose back-grounds, on the Hill Terrible, sits theCity Beautiful, reached along a delectable road that wanders, nowacross open heaths and then disappears in the welcome shade of hoarywoods; reappearing to reach its goal beside mountain streams andtorrents, whose boulderous course it spans by high-arched bridges. Downsuch roads as these, in woodcuts such as those, go horsed and armedknights, very plumy and steely, ladies fair on their palfreys, withhigh-horned head-dresses;viiipages, men-at-arms, peasants,and all the mediæval traffic of the highways; while the verminoushermit in his cell by the bridge comes to his door as the wayfarersgo by, scratching himself with one hand, and in the other holding ascallop-shell for the alms he, in a pitiful voice and in the name ofGod and all the saints, implores.
Those lines, in that modern versification of the terrible old legendby Jacobus de Voragine, bring all these things vividly before theimagination. You may almost scent the hawthorn blossom on the waysidehedges, can all but feel the soft breath of the wind, or the heat o’the sun, and can even smell the hermit, rich in pietistic dirt. Joy anddisaster, love and hate, doing and daring, all had their place on thehighway in those times: Romance and the Road were terms convertible.
Now all those things are as tales that are told; but for centuriesthe Road retained that old distinction: the mediæval company hadpassed away: the knights and the ladies to their altar-tombs in theold country churches, the rest none knows whither; but after then camelater generations, all travelling, living, hating, and loving alongthe highways, and so they continued to do, through the coaching eraand until railways for aixlong series of years rendered the Road anobsolete institution.
When did the immemorial co-partnership of Romance and the Road beginto be dissolved? Let us consider. The first beginnings are found inthe introduction of telegraphic signalling, when signal-stations wereerected on the hills, and messages were passed on from one to anotherby means of revolving shutters or semaphore arms. The system originatedabout 1795, and came into use along this road in 1803. We read inthe “Observer” of that period the startling announcement: “A line ofcommunication, by means of telegraphs, is to be established betweenLondon and the north, by which intelligence will be conveyed in sixhours at the distance of 400 miles.” Here, then, we find the parting ofthe ways! Instead of the horsed messenger, performing that distance in,let us say, forty-five hours, the telegraphists sent messages throughin a fraction of that time, providing conditions were favourable. Avery serious draw-back to the system was that in dull or stormy weatherit was unworkable.
What the mechanical telegraph began the railways and the electrictelegraph completed, and the roads—save for the cycles and themotor-cars from whose presence Romance flies abashed—havexlost their intimate touch with life. They are largely removed fromthe sordid instant, and that is why we love them. Present-day romancewill only be found by the next generation when, to adopt an Americanlocution, it has become a “back number”: for ourselves, we are fain tothe poor recourse of listening to the elfin harmonies of the winds inthe wayside telegraph-poles, and to deduce romantic messages from thosesounds; but alas! so little romantic may they be that the wires areprobably flashing market reports to the effect that “grey shirtings arequiet,” or “bacon was steady.” Yet, on the other hand, a police messagemay be passing, to lead to the arrest of some fugitive: some fraudulentNapoleon of finance or one of the smaller fry: you never know!
In the old days, the criminal, visible to our physical eyes, wouldbe seen, fleeing from justice, and after him, at a decent interval,the officers of the law, tailing away in a long perspective, properlyexhausted and furious, their horses foaming and reeking with sweat inmost appropriate style. You only see that sort of thing nowadays atDrury Lane or the Adelphi, but they do it very well there, even thoughthe foam and the reek be applied with sponge and soap-suds.
He who would now find sights like these along the roads would need towait long. The fugitives are as many as ever, but they are in yondertrain. The telegraph has already outstripped such an one before he hasgone a quarter of his journey, and the police are waiting at the otherend, where, quite emotionless and regardless of dramatic necessities,they will presently arrest him.
Long stretches of the roads themselves are altered, with the growthof towns, into something new and strange, and where Terror stalkedstarkly in days of yore and Romance sped, flaunting, by, smug suburbsspread their vistas of red-brick, paved, and kerbed and lighted, andonly the doctor, the collectors of rates and taxes, and the criesof the evening newspaper-boys stir the pulses of the inhabitants.The tragedies that sometimes await the doctor’s visits are a poorsubstitute for the soul-stirring days of old—they are too domestic: andthat occasional inability to meet the demands of the tax-gatherer andthe rate-collector which even the most respectable suburbs occasionallyknow is not tragedy in the inspiring sort.
The pilgrim of the roads therefore finds his account in the past;and it is to illustrate the long leagues for him that these pagesare wroughtxiiout of long-forgotten things. Such an one, cycling,perchance, down the first few tramway-infested miles and cleansinghimself after the almost inevitable muddy skid, may make shift to calla Tapleian philosophy to his aid, and exclaim with gratitude: “Afterall, it is an improvement upon two hundred years ago. Why, if I hadbeen travelling here THEN, I should probably have beenrobbed and beaten—perhaps even murdered—by the highwaymen!”
CHARLES G. HARPER,