John L. Stoddard's Lectures Volume 1_ Norway, Switzerland, Athens, Venice
Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the original document have been preserved. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.
JOHN L. STODDARD'S
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John L. Stoddard's
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By John L. Stoddard
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John L. Stoddard was born in Brookline, Mass., April 24, 1850. Hegraduated at Williams College, as valedictorian of his class, in 1871, andthen studied theology for two years at Yale Divinity School. Next he taughtLatin and French in the Boston Latin School. In 1874 he was able to gratifya long cherished desire to travel in foreign lands, and not only made thecustomary tour of Europe, but visited Greece, Asia Minor, Palestine andEgypt as well. He then studied in Germany, and upon his return to America,began his career as a lecturer, which for about twenty years has known nointerruptions save those due to his repeated visits to remote countries. Histravels embrace nearly all the habitable parts of the globe.5
A witty French abbé was once asked why he kept upa country-seat which he never visited. "Do younot know," he answered, "that I must have someplace, where, though I never go to it, I can always imaginethat I might be happier than where I am?" The world islike the abbé. Most of us are not living, we are anticipatinglife. We are always "going to our country seats." It isthe land we have not visited that is to give to us our greatesthappiness. If we have not yet found it in America, it isawaiting us in Europe; if not in Europe, surely in Japan.As the Germans say, "Da wo ich nicht bin, da ist dasGlück." Hence travel is attractive, if only as a means ofacquiring that happiness which here seems so elusive. Allof us hope to some day visit Europe and the Orient, andfor that reason everything pertaining to their beauty, art,and history seems alluring. But when these have been seen,the wished-for goal of the untraveled world again recedes,and the desire is just as strong to visit other and more distantlands.
This love of travel is not caused by ordinary restlessness.It springs originally from the universal craving of the soulfor something different from its usual environment.
It also comes from a legitimate longing for that broadereducation which only personal study of other races, civilizationsand religions can bestow. And, finally, it arises from ayearning for the joy and benefit of realizing history by visitingthe ancient shrines of art, the homes or sepulchres ofheroes, and the arenas of heroic deeds. When such desires6are once awakened, to travel is to live, to remain continuallyin one place is to stagnate.
Thousands of books of travel have been written, but notwithstandingthat the scenes described in them are practicallythe same, and though the streets and buildings which adorntheir text are perfectly familiar to their readers, such works areusually welcome, and always in proportion to the degree inwhich mere figures and statistics are subordinated to the ideassuggested by such travel to the writer's mind, which, of course,vary infinitely according to the culture, sympathy and enthusiasmof the individual. Thus, in a similar way, the keys ofall pianos are the same; yet it is not the bits of ivory themselvesthat hold us spell-bound, but the magnetic fingers thatmove over them, and the musical interpretation and expressiongiven by the performer.
If only accurate statistics and detailed descriptions weredesired, guide-books would be sufficient; but who ever readsa guide-book for amusement?
Such thoughts have encouraged the author of these volumesto present in printed form lectures which for eighteenyears have been received with never-failing kindness by anindulgent public. Verba volant; Scripta manent (Words arefleeting, but what is written remains). The voice of thespeaker dies away, and what he says is soon forgotten, but onthese printed pages, that which has really caused whateversuccess the "Stoddard Lectures" have achieved, may berecalled precisely as the lectures were heard, accompaniedtoo by even more embellishment than illustrated themat the time of their delivery. It has always given the writera singular sensation to meet his audiences season after seasonafter the separation of a year. Were they the same individualswhom he had last addressed? He could not tell. Theycould be absolutely sure of his identity, but he was quiteunable to determine theirs. Beyond the curve of platform7or of stage, he could not distinguish the auditors of formeryears from those who were seated there for the first time.Sometimes they seemed to him scarcely more real and tangiblethan were the views that came and went so noiselesslyupon the screen. He looked for a few moments at an amphitheatreof expectant faces, then darkness would transformthem into rows of phantoms, and at the end he saw themrise and disappear, like a great fleet of ships that separatesand scatters on a trackless sea.
In these volumes, however, he hopes to meet his audiencesmore frequently, and for a longer time than ever before.If, then, the oral lectures may have given the public someenjoyment in the past, it is the author's hope that when hehimself no longer greets his former listeners, year by year,these souvenirs of travel may in this form find a more enduringplace among the pleasures of their memories.
In that case he will not be utterly forgotten, for pleasantmemories can never be taken from us; they are the only joysof which we can be absolutely sure.
Of all the countries on our globe, Norway, in somerespects, must rank as the most wonderful. Fromthe North Cape to its most southern limit the distanceis about eleven hundred miles. Nearly one-third of thisgreat area lies within the Arctic circle. One would expectits climate to be that ofGreenland; but Naturesaves it, as a habitationfor the race, by sendingthither the mysteriousGulf Stream, which crossesthe Atlantic for fivethousand miles, and,although far spent on thatdistant shore, fulfills itsmission, transforming, byits still warm breath, anotherwise barren region toa fertile land. But this isonly the beginning of Norway'swonders. Exposedto all the fury of the North Sea, Arctic and Atlantic, thenavigation of its coast would be well-nigh impossible had notindulgent Nature made here countless breakwaters, by meansof a vast fringe of islands more than a thousand miles inlength, behind which are smooth, sheltered channels for thelargest ships.
Again, Norwegian mountains come directly to the sea.On this account, one might suppose that the interior wouldbe inaccessible. But Nature does here one more act of kindness,and penetrates these mountain walls at many pointswith ocean avenues, sometimes a hundred miles in length,and with such depth that, at their farthest limits, steamersmay come directly to the shore. Moreover, to enhance itsmystery and beauty, Nature bestows on this, her favorite,a day that is a summer long,—a light that never elsewherewas on land or sea,—andmakes itssplendid vistas stillmore glorious by amidnight sun.
There have beenfew experiences inmy life more joyousand exhilaratingthan my arrivalin Christiania. Itwas six o'clock inthe morning as oursteamer glided up its noble harbor. The sky was cloudless;the water of the deepest blue; a few white sails rose here andthere, like sea-gulls, from the waves. The forest-coveredislands, emerald to the water's edge, seemed gems upon thebosom of the bay. Beyond, were mountains glistening inan atmosphere, the like of which, for clearness, I had neverseen: while the first breath of that crisp, aromatic air (amost delicious blending of the odors of mountain, sea, andforest) can never be forgotten.13
"This, thisis Norway!"we exclaimed,"and it is allbefore us; first,in the joy ofexploration; thenin the calmer,though perpetual,pleasure ofits retrospection."
Excited byour anticipations,we disembarkedasspeedily as possible, and hastened to the Hotel Victoria. Itis a well-kept, comfortable hostelry, whose chief peculiarityis a spacious courtyard, where frequently, in summer, tabled'hôte is served beneath a mammoth tent of gorgeous colors.Moreover, it is a pleasant rendezvous for travelers; forwhile some tourists are here setting forth upon their inlandjourney, others have just completed it,and with bronzed faces tell strangestories of the North, which sound liketales invented by Munchausen.
Impatient to arrange our route, aftera breakfast in the hotel courtyard wewent directly to the individual knownas "Bennett." "Bennett? Who isBennett?" the reader perhaps exclaims.My friend, there is but one Norway,and Bennett is its prophet. Bennettis the living encyclopædia of Norway;14its animated map; its peripatetic guide-book. Nor is thisall. He is the traveler's guide, philosopher, and friend.He sketches lengthy tours back and forth as easily as sailorsbox the compass; tells him which roads to take and whichto avoid; sends word ahead for carriages and horses;engages rooms for him within the Arctic circle; forwardshis letters, so that he may read them by the midnightsun; gives him a list of carriage-coupons which thecoachmen cry for; and (more important still) so plans hisnumerous arrivals and departures on thecoast that he may always find a train or steamer thereawaiting him. This is a most essential thing in Norway.
As a rule, Norwegian time-tables are about as difficultto decipher as the inscriptions on a Chinese tea-caddy. EvenBradshaw, the author of that English railway guide whichis the cause of so much apoplexy, came here to Norwaya few years ago, and died in trying to make out its post-roadand railway system. Some think that it was a judgment17upon him. At all events, his grave is near Christiania, and hesleeps, while the "globe-trotter," whom he long befriended,still rushes to and fro.
Although an Englishman by birth, "Bennett" has beenfor fifty years a resident of Norway, and is a blessing to alltravelers in that country. At first he gave his services gratuitously;but as the tourists began to multiply, he found thatsuch disinterestedness was impossible. He at length madea business of it, and year by year it has steadily increased.
A new edition of his guide-book comes out every season;and to still further help the public, he has begotten fouryoung Bennetts, who act as courteous agents for theirfather, in Bergen, Trondhjem, and Christiania. He hasno "personally conductedparties." He has no wishto go outside of Norway.But here, on account ofthe peculiar style of traveling,and the difficulty of thelanguage, it certainly is agreat convenience to employhim.
Our arrangements withthis guardian of Norwegiantourists having at lengthbeen concluded, we strolledfor some time throughChristiania's streets.It is a cleanand cheerful city, though itcan boast of little architecturalbeauty. The RoyalPalace is its finest building,but even this, on close inspection,proves to be more18useful than ornamental,andwell suited to anation forced topractice stricteconomy. Ininspecting thestructure it isinteresting toremember howindependentNorway is of Sweden, although both countries are governedby one King. The Parliament in Christiania is wholly separatefrom that of Stockholm. No Swede may hold politicaloffice here. Even the power of the King is limited; forif a bill is passed three times in the Norwegian Parliament,then, notwithstanding the royal veto, it becomes law.