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CHAPTER XVI. NUREMBERG - ST. PETERSBURG - DANNEMORA.
In the autumn of 1842 I had occasion to make a journey to Nuremberg in company with my partner Mr. Gaskell. We had been invited to a conference with the directors of the Nuremberg and Munich Railroad as to the supply of locomotives for working their line. As this was rather an important and extensive transaction, we thought it better not to trust to correspondence, but to see the directors on the spot. We found that there were several riskful conditions attached to the proposed contract, which we considered it imprudent to agree to. We had afterwards good reason to feel satisfied that we had not yielded to the very tempting commercial blandishments that were offered to us, but that we refrained from undertaking an order that required so many important modifications.
Nevertheless, I was exceedingly delighted with the appearance of the city of Nuremberg. It carries one back to the mediaeval times! The architecture, even of the ordinary houses, is excellent. St. Lawrence, St. Sebald's, and the Frauenkirche, are splendid specimens of Gothic design. The city is surrounded by old walls and turrets, by ramparts and bastions, enclosed by a ditch faced with masonry. Very few cities have so well escaped the storm of war and sieges in the Middle Ages, and even in modern times.
Everything has been carefully preserved, and many of the best houses are still inhabited by the families whose fore-fathers originally constructed them. But "progress" is beginning to affect Nuremberg. It is the centre of railways; buildings are extending in all directions; tram-cars are running in the streets; and before long the ditch will be filled up, the surrounding walls and towers demolished, and the city thrown open to the surrounding country.
I visited the house of Albert Durer, one of the greatest artists who ever lived. He was a man of universal genius — a painter, sculptor, engraver, mathematician, and engineer. He was to Germany what Leonardo da Vinci was to Italy. His house is wonderfully preserved. You see his entrance hall, his exhibition room, his bedroom, his studio, and the opening into which his wife - that veritable Xantippe — thrust the food that was to sustain him during his solitary hours of labour. I saw his grave, too, in the old church yard beyond the Thiergarten gate. I saw the bronze plate commemorating the day of his death. "Emigravit 8 idus April 1528." "Emigravit" only, for the true artist never dies. Hans Sachs's grave is there too - the great Reformation poet of Luther's time.
Adam Krafft must have been a great sculptor, though his name is little known out of Nuremberg. Perhaps his finest work is in St. Lawrence Cathedral the Sacraments-hauslein, or the repository for the sacred wafer — a graceful tapering stone spire of florid Gothic open work, more than sixty feet high, which stands at the opening of the right transept. Its construction and decoration occupied the sculptor and his two apprentices no less than five years; and all that he received for his hard labour and skilful work was 770 gulden, or about £80 sterling. No wonder that he died in the deepest distress. St. Sebald's and the Frauenkirche also contain numerous specimens of his admirable work.
In the course of the following year (1843), it was necessary for me to make a journey to St. Petersburg. My object was to endeavour to obtain an order for a portion of the locomotives required for working the line between that city and Moscow. The railway had been constructed under the engineership of Major Whistler, father of the well-known artist and it was shortly about to be opened. It appeared that the Emperor Nicholas was desirous of securing a home supply of locomotives, and that, like a wise monarch, he wished to employ his own subjects rather than foreigners in producing them. No one could object to this.
The English locomotive manufacturers were not aware of the Emperor's intention. When I arrived in the city I expected an order for locomotives. The representatives of the principal English firms were there like myself; they, too, expected a share of the order. It so happened that at the table d'hote dinner, I sat near a very intelligent American, with whom I soon became intimate. He told me that he was very well acquainted with Major Whistler, and offered to introduce me to him. By all means! There is nothing like friendly feelings in matters of business.
The Major gave me a frank and cordial reception, and informed me of the position of affairs. The Emperor, he said, was desirous of training a class of Russian mechanics to supply not only the locomotives but to keep them constantly in repair. He could not solely depend upon foreign artisans for the latter purpose. The locomotives must be made in Russia. The Emperor had given up the extensive premises of the Imperial China Manufactory, which were to be devoted to the manufacture of engines.
The Major appointed Messrs. Eastwick, Harrison, and Wynants, with the approval of the Government, to supply the entire mechanical plant of the railway. I saw that it would be of no use to apply for any order for locomotives; but I offered to do all that I could to supply the necessary materials. In the course of a few days I was introduced to Joseph Harrison, the chief mechanic of the firm and I then entered into a friendship which proved long and lasting. He gave me a very large order for boilers, and for other detail parts of the Moscow engines, — all of which helped him forward in the completion of the locomotives. We also supplied many of our special machine tools, without which engines could not then be very satisfactorily made or kept in repair.
The enjoyment of my visit to St. Petersburg was much enhanced by frequent visits to my much valued friend General Alexander Wilson. He was a native of Edinburgh, and delighted to enjoy cracks with me upon subjects of mutual interest. His sister, who kept house for him, joined in our conversation. She had been married to the Emperor Paul's physician, who was also a Scotsman, and was able to narrate many terrible events in relation to Russian Court affairs. The General had worked his way upwards, like the rest of us. During the principal part of his life he had superintended the great mechanical establishments at Alexandrosky and Colpenha, where about 3,000 operatives were employed. These establishments were originally founded by the Empress Catherine for the purpose of creating a native manufacturing population capable of carrying on textile and mechanical works of all kinds. The sail-cloth for the Russian navy was manufactured at Alexandrosky by excellent machinery. Cotton fabrics were also manufactured, as well as playing cards, which were a Crown monopoly. The great establishment at Colpenha consisted of a foundry, a machine manufactory, and a mint—where the copper money of the empire was coined. General Wilson was the directing chief officer of all these establishments.
Through him I had the happiness of being introduced to General Greg, son of the great admiral who shed such honour on the Russian flag during the reign of the Empress Catherine. He was then well advanced in years, but full of keen intelligence and devoted to astronomical pursuits. He was in a great measure the founder of the Imperial Observatory at Pulkowa, situated on an appropriate eminence about eight miles from St. Petersburg. The observatory was furnished under his directions with the most magnificent astronomical instruments. I had the honour to be introduced by him to the elder Struve, whose astronomical labours procured him a well-earned reputation throughout Europe. I had the rare happiness of spending some nights with Struve, when he showed me the wonderful capabilities of his fine instruments. The observatory is quite imperial in its arrangement and management, and was supported in the most liberal manner by the Emperor Nicholas. Indeed, it is a perfect example of what so noble an establishment should be.
Struve most kindly invited me to come whenever the state of the weather permitted him to show forth the wonderful perfection of his instruments, — a rare chance, which I seized many opportunities of enjoying. It was quite a picture to see the great pleasure, but intense enjoyment, with which the profound astronomer would seat himself at his instrument and pick out some exquisite test objects, such as the double stars in Virgo, Cygnus, or Ursa Major. The beautiful order and neatness with which the instruments were kept in their magnificent appropriate apartments, each having its appropriate observer proceeding quietly with his allotted special work, with nothing to break the silence but the "tick, tack!" of the sidereal clock this was indeed a most impressive sight! And the kindly companionable manner of the great master of the establishment was in all respects in harmony with the astronomical work which he conducted in this great Temple of the Universe!
Through my friendship with General Wilson I was enabled to extend my acquaintance with many of my countrymen who had been long settled at St. Petersburg in connection with commercial affairs. I enjoyed their kind hospitality, and soon found myself quite at home amongst them. I remained in the city for about two months. During that time I was constantly about. The shops, the streets, the houses, the museums, were objects of great interest. The view of the magnificent buildings along the sides of the quay is very imposing. Looking from the front of the statue of Peter the Great you observe the long facade of the Admiralty, the column of Alexander, the Winter Palace, and other public buildings. The Neva flows in front of them in a massive volume of pure water. On an island opposite stands the citadel. The whole presents a coup d'oeil of unexampled architectural magnificence.
I was much interested by the shops and their signboards. The latter were fixed all over the fronts of the shops, and contained a delineation of the goods sold within. There was no necessity for reading. The pictorial portraits told their own tale. They were admirable specimens of what is called still-life pictures not only as regards the drawing and colouring of each object, but with respect to the grouping, which was in most cases artistic and natural. Two reasons were given me for this style of artistic sign-painting: one was that many of the people could not read the written words defining the articles sold within; and the other was that the severe and long-continued frosts of the St. Petersburg winter rendered large shop windows impossible for the proper display of the goods. Hence the small shop- windows to keep out the cold, and the large painted signboards to display the articles sold inside.
I was also greatly pleased with the manner in which the Russians employ ivy in screening their windows during summer. Ivy is a beautiful plant, and is capable of forming a most elegant window-screen. Nothing can be more beautiful than to look through green leaves. Nearly every window of the ground flat of the houses in St. Petersburg is thus screened. The neat manner in which the ivy plants are trained over ornamental forms of cane is quite a study in its way. And though the ivy is very common, yet a common thing, being a thing of beauty, may be a "joy for ever." In the finer and most important mansions, the sides of the flight of wide steps that lead up to the reception rooms were beautifully decorated by oleander plants, growing in great vigour, with their fine flowers as fresh as if in a carefully-kept conservatory. Other plants of an ornamental kind were mixed with the oleander, but the latter appeared to be the favourite. 
About the end of my visit I was about to call upon one of my customers with reference to my machine tools; for though I pursued pleasure at occasional times, I never lost sight of business. It was a very dull day, and the streets about the Winter Palace were almost deserted. I was sitting in my drosky with my roll of drawings resting on my thigh somewhat in the style of a commander-in-chief as represented in the old pictures when I noticed a drosky coming out of the gates of the Winter Palace. I observed that it contained a noble-looking officer in a blue military cloak sitting behind his drosky driver. My driver instantly took off his hat, and I, quickly following his example, took off my hat and bowed gracefully, keeping my extended hand on the level of my head — a real royal salute. The person was no other than the Emperor Nicholas! He fixed his peculiarly fine eyes upon me, and gave me one of the grandest military salutes, accompanied, as I thought, with a kindly smile from his magnificent eyes as he passed close by me.
As I had been lunching with a Dutch engineer about half an hour before, and had a glass or two of champagne, this may have had something to do with my daring to give the Emperor, in his own capital, what I was afterwards told was not a bow but a brotherly recognition between potentates, and only by royal usage allowed to be so given, — namely, swaying off the hat at arm's length level with the head, so as to infer royal equality, or something of that sort. When I narrated to some Russian friends what I had done, they told me that I need not be surprised if I received a visit from the chief of police next morning for my daring to salute the Emperor in such a style. But the Emperor was doubtless more amused than offended, and I never received the expected visit.
To anticipate a little. Soon afterwards the Emperor sent me a present of a magnificent diamond ring through his ambassador in England Baron Brunow. It was also accompanied, as the Baron informed me, with the Emperor's most gracious thanks for the manner in which my steam hammer had driven the piles for his new forts at Cronstadt, which he had seen with his own eyes. The steam-hammer pile- driver had also been used for driving the piles of the great bridge at Kieff. I next received an order for one of my largest steam hammers for the Imperial Arsenal, and it was followed by many more. It is a singular fact, as showing the readiness of the Russian and other foreign Governments to adopt at an early date any mechanical improvement of ascertained utility, that I supplied steam hammers to the Russian Government twelve months before our Admiralty availed themselves of its energetic action. But Athelstane the Unready has always been found dreadfully slow - in peace, as well as in war.
Before I leave this part of my subject, I must not omit to mention my friend Mr. Francis Baird, the zealous son of Sir Charles Baird. The latter was among the first to establish iron foundries and engine works at St. Petersburg. At the time of my visit he was far advanced in years, and unable to attend personally to the very large business which he had established. But he was nevertheless full of geniality. He greatly enjoyed the long conversations which he had with me about his friends in Scotland, many of whom I knew. He also told me about the persons in his employment. He said that the workmen were all serfs, or the sons of serfs. The Empress Catherine had given them to him for the purpose of being trained in his engine foundry, and in his sugar refinery, which was another part of his business. I had rarely seen a more faithful and zealous set of workmen than these Russian serfs. They were able and skilful, and attached to their employers by some deeper and stronger tie than that of mere money wages. Indeed, they were treated by Sir Charles Baird and his son with the kindest and most paternal care, and they duly repaid their attachment by their zeal in his service and the excellent quality of their work.
The most important business in hand at the time of my visit to the foundry was the moulding and casting of the magnificent bronze capitals of the grand portico of the Izak Church. This building is one of the finest in St. Petersburg. It is of grand proportions, — simple, noble, and massive. It is built upon a forest of piles. The walls of the interior are covered with marble. The malachite columns for the screen are fifty feet high, and exceed everything that has yet been done in that beautiful fabric. The great dome is of iron overlaid with gold. This, as well as the Corinthian capitals of bronze, was manufactured at the foundry of the Bairds. The tympanum of the four great porticos consisted of colossal groups of alto-relievo figures, many of which were all but entirely detached from the background of the subject. It was a kind of foundry work of the highest order, all the details and processes requiring the greatest care. To my surprise every one engaged in this gigantic and refined metal work was a serf. The full-sized plaster models which they used in moulding were executed by a resident French artist. He was a true artist, and of the highest order. But to see the skilful manner in which these native workmen, drawn from the staff of the Bairds' ordinary foundry workers, performed their duties, was truly surprising. It would make our best bronze statuary founders wince to be asked to execute such work. Judging from what I saw of the Russian workmen in this instance, I should say that Russia has a grand future before it.
Having satisfactorily completed all my business arrangements in St. Petersburg, I prepared to set out homewards. But as I had some business to transact at Stockholm and Copenhagen I resolved to visit those cities. I left St. Petersburg for Stockholm by a small steamer, which touched at Helsingfors and Abo, both in Finland. The weather was beautiful. Clear blue sky and bright sunshine by day, and the light prolonged far into the night. Even in September the duration of the sunshine is so great and the night so short that the air has scarcely time to cool till it gets heated again by the bright morning rays. Even at twelve at night the sun dips but a little beneath the bright horizon on the north. The night is so bright in the Abo latitude that one can read the smallest print.
Nothing can be more beautiful than the charming scenery we passed through in our tortuous voyage to Stockholm. We threaded along and past the granite islands which crowd the shores of the Baltic. They are covered with pines, which descend to the water's edge. We swept them with our paddle-boxes, and dipped their bright green fronds into the perfectly clear sea. For about two days our course lay through those beautiful small islands. It seemed like a voyage through fairyland. And it continued in this exquisite tranquil way until we reached that crowning feature of all — the magnificent city of Stockholm, sleeping, as it were, on the waters of the Malar Lake, and surrounded by noble mountains clad with pines. With the exception of Edinburgh, Genoa, and Naples, I had never beheld so noble a city with such magnificent surroundings.
I spent but a short time in Stockholm, but quite sufficient to enable me to see much that was grandly beautiful in its neighbourhood. Lakes, rocks, and noble trees abounded, and exquisite residences peeped out through the woods, giving evidences of high civilisation. Elegance of taste and perfect domestic arrangements supplied every form of rational comfort and enjoyment. My old friend Sir John Ross, of Arctic celebrity, was settled at Stockholm as chief consul for Her Majesty. He introduced me to several of the leading English merchants, from whom I received much kind attention. Mr. Erskine invited me to spend a day or two at his beautiful villa in the neighbourhood. It was situated on the side of a mountain, and overlooked a lake that reminded me very much of Loch Latrine. Fine timber grew about, in almost inaccessible places, on the tops of precipices, and in shelves and cliffs among the rocks. The most important result of my visit was an introduction to Baron Tam, the proprietor and chief director of the great Dannemora Iron Mine.
I was at once diverted for a time from my voyage to Copenhagen. I was most desirous of seeing with my own eyes this celebrated mine. The baron most willingly furnished me with letters of introduction to his managers, and I proceeded to Dannemora by way of Upsala. I was much interested by this city, by its cathedral, containing the tomb of Gustavus Vasa, and by its many historical associations. But I was still more impressed by Old Upsala, about three miles distant. This is a place of great antiquity. It is only a little hamlet now, though at one time it must have been the centre of a large population. The old granite church was probably at one time a pagan temple. Outside, and apart from it, is a wooden bell-tower, erected in comparatively modern times. In a wooden box inside the church is a wooden painted god, a most unlikely figure to worship. And yet the Swedes in remote parts of the country carefully preserve their antique wooden gods.
The great sacrifices to Odin were made at Old Upsala. Outside the church, in a row, are three great mounds of earth, erected in commemoration of Odin, Thor, and Freia - hence our Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. These mounds, of about 60 feet high and 232 feet in diameter, were in former times used as burying-places for the great and valiant. I went down into a cottage near the tumuli, and drank a bumper of mead to the memory of Thor from a very antique wooden vessel. I made an especial reverential obeisance to Thor, because I had a great respect for him as being the great Hammerman, and one of our craft, the Scandinavian Vulcan.
I drove back to Upsala, and remained there for the night. It is a sleepy silent place. The only sound I heard was the voice of the watchman calling out the small hours of the morning from his station on the summit of the cathedral tower. As the place is for the most part built of wood, this precaution in the shape of a watchman who can see all points of the city is a very necessary one.
Next morning I hired a small sort of gig of a very primitive construction, with a boy for driver. His duty was to carry me to the next post-house, and there leave me to be carried forward by another similar conveyance. But the pony No. 2 was about a mile off, occupied in drawing a plough, so that I had to wait until the job was over. In about an hour or so I was again under weigh. And so on, ‘da capo’, until about six in the evening, when I found myself within sight of the great mine.
The post-house where I was set down was an inn, though without a signboard. The landlady was a bright, cheery, jolly woman. She could not speak a word of English, nor I a word of Dannemora Swedish. I was very thirsty and hungry, and wanted something to eat. How was I to communicate my wishes to the landlady? I resorted, as I often did, to the universal language of the pencil. I took out my sketch-book, and in a few seconds I made a drawing of a table, with a dish of smoking meat upon it a bottle and a glass, a knife and fork, a loaf, a salt-celler, and a corkscrew. She looked at the drawing and gave a hearty laugh. She nodded pleasantly, showing that she clearly understood what I wanted. She asked me for the sketch, and went into the back-garden to show it to her husband, who inspected it with great delight. I went out and looked about the place, which was very picturesque. After a short time, the landlady came to the door and beckoned me in, and I found spread out on the table everything that I desired - a broiled chicken, smoking hot from the gridiron, a bottle of capital home-brewed ale, and all the et ceteras of an excellent repast. I made use of my pencil in many other ways. I always found that a sketch was as useful as a sentence. Besides, it generally created a sympathy between me and my entertainers.
My visit to the Dannemora Mine at Osterby was one of peculiar interest. I may in the first place say that the immense collection of iron at that point has been the result of the upheaval of a vast volume of molten igneous ore, which has been injected into the rock, or deposited in masses under the crust of the earth. In some cases the quarried rock yields from 50 to 70, and even as much as 90 Per cent of iron. The Dannemora Mine is a vast quarry open to the sky. When you come near it the place looks like a deep pit, with an unfathomable bottom. Ghostlike, weird-looking pinnacles of rocks stand out from its profound depths; but beyond these you see nothing but wreaths of smoke curling up from below. The tortuous chasm in the earth, caused by the quarries beneath, is about half a mile long, and about a thousand feet wide.
The first process of the workmen in the quarries below is devoted to breaking into small fragments the great masses of ore scattered about by the previous night's explosions. These are sent to the surface in great tubs attached to wire ropes, which are drawn up by gins worked by horses. Other miners are engaged in boring blast holes in the ore, which displays itself in great wide veins in the granite sides of the vast chasm. These blast holes are charged with gunpowder, each with a match attached. At the end of the day the greater number of the miners are drawn up in the cages or tubs, while a few are left below to light the slow-burning matches attached to about a hundred charged bore holes. The rest of the miners are drawn up, and then begins the tremendous bombardment. I watched the progress of it from a stage projecting over the wild-looking yawning gulph. It was grand to hear the succession of explosions that filled the bottom of the mine far beneath me. Then the volumes of smoke, through the surface of which masses of rock were sometimes sent whirling up into the clear blue sky, and fell back again into the pit below. Such an infernal cannonade I have never witnessed. In some respects it reminded me of the crater of Vesuvius, from which such dense clouds of steam and smoke and fire are thrown up. In the course of the night, the suffocating smoke and sulphureous gases had time to pass away, and next morning the workmen were ready to begin their operations as before.
The wonderfully rich iron ore extracted from this great mine is smelted in blast furnaces with wood charcoal. The charcoal is, of course, entirely free from sulphur. When sent to Sheffield the iron is placed in fire brick troughs closely surrounded by powdered charcoal. After a few days' exposure to a red heat, the iron is converted into splendid steel, which has given such a reputation to that great manufacturing town. It is also the steel from which the firm of Stubbs and Company, of Warrington (to which I have already referred), produce their famous P. S. files.
After the explosions had ceased at the mine, I went with one of the managers to see the great forge. It was a most picturesque sight to see the forgemen at work with the tilt hammers under the glowing light of the furnaces. I inspected the machinery and forge works throughout, and had thus the opportunity of seeing the whole proceeding, from the blasting and quarrying of the ore in the mine, the forging and rolling of the worked iron into their proper lengths, down to the final stamp or "mark" driven in by the blow of the tilt hammer at the end of each bar. Having now thoroughly examined everything connected with this celebrated iron mine, I prepared to set out for Stockholm in the same way as I had come. To prepare the landlord for my setting out, I again resorted to my pencil. I made a drawing of the little gig and pony, with the sun rising, and the hour at which I wished to start. He understood it in a moment, and next morning the trap was at the door at the specified time.
Before I left Stockholm I made a careful and elaborate panoramic sketch of the city, as a companion to the one I had made of Genoa from the harbour a few years before. I made it from the summit of the King's Park, which is the favourite pleasure-ground of the people. I was ferried across in a little paddle-wheel boat, worked by Dalecarlian women in their peculiar costumes. The King's Park, or Djurgard, is doubly beautiful, not only from its panoramic view of the city, the Malar Lake, and the aria of the Baltic, which comes up to the Skeppsbron Quay, but also from the magnificent oak trees with which it is studded. These noble trees, as foreground objects, are perfect pictures. The masses of rock are grand, and the drives are beautifully kept. No wonder that the Swedes are so proud of this beautiful park, for it is the finest in Europe.
I left Stockholm for Gottenburg by steamer. This is one of the most picturesque routes in Sweden. First, we passed through the Malar Lake — one of the most beautiful pieces of water in the world. It contains no less than fourteen hundred islands, mostly covered with wood. Of course we did not see one twentieth part of the lake we only steamed along its eastern shore for about twenty miles on our way to Sodertelye, where the Gotha Canal begins. We then reached the small Maren Lake, and afterwards an arm of the Baltic. We passed numberless islands and rocks and reached the Slatbacken Fiord, which we entered. Beautiful scenery surrounds the entrance to the fiord. In the morning, after rising up the locks between Mariehop and Wenneberga, and passing through Lakes Roxen and Boren, we found ourselves at Motala, near the entrance to the Wettern Lake.
Motala is a place of great importance in the manufacturing industry of Sweden. When I visited it the iron-foundry was in charge of my friend Mr. Caulson. I had known him several years before in London, and had the highest opinion of his ability as a constructive engineer. He was surrounded at Motala with everything in the way of excellently arranged workshops, good machine tools, as well as abundant employment for them. Indeed, this is the largest iron foundry in Sweden, where iron steamers, steam-engines, and rolling mills are made. From its central position it has a great future before it.
The steamer crosses the lake to Carlsborg, at the entrance to the fiord and canal that leads to Lakes Wiken and Wenern. The latter is an immense lake — in fact, an inland sea. During a great part of the time we were out of sight of land. At length we reached Wenersborg, and passed down the Charles Canal. A considerable time is required to enable the steamer to pass from lock to lock — nine locks in all — down to the level of the Gotha River. During that time an opportunity was afforded us for seeing the famous Trollhatten Falls — a very fine piece of Nature's workmanship.
Before leaving the subject of Sweden, I feel that I must say a word or two about the Swedish people. I admired them exceedingly. They are tall, fair, good-looking. They are among the most civil and obliging people that I have ever met. I never encountered a rude word or a rude look from them. In their homes, they are simple and natural. I liked the pleasing softness of their voices, so sweet and musical— "a most excellent thing in woman." There was a natural gentleness in their deportment. All classes, even the poorest, partook of it. Their domestic habits are excellent. They are fond of their homes; and, above all things, they are clean and tidy. They strew the floors of their ground apartments with spruce pine twigs, which form a natural carpet as well as give out a sweet balsamic perfume. These are swept away every morning and replaced with new. With all their virtues the Swedes are a most self-helping people.
They are hard-working and honest, true and straightforward. In matters of commerce they are men of their word. They are clear-keen headed, honest-minded, and in their desire for knowledge. Their natural simple common sense enables them to clear away all parasitical and traditional rubbish from their minds, and to stand before us as men of the highest excellence. All happiness and prosperity to dear old Sweden!
I set out from Gottenburg to Helsingborg, along the shores of the Kattegat. From Helsingborg I crossed the Sound by a small steamer to Elsinore, famous for its connection with Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. The old dreary-looking castle still stands there. From Elsinore I went to Copenhagen, and occupied myself for a few days in visiting the wonderful museums. There I saw, in the Northern Antiquities Collection, the unwritten history of civilisation in the stone, bronze, and iron tools which have brought the world to what it is now. This museum is perfectly unrivalled. I saw there the first section of kitchen-middens - that is, the refuse of oyster shells, fish-bones, and other stuff thrown out by the ancient inhabitants of the country after their meals; then the accumulations of rude stone implements, kelts, arrow-heads, and such like; then the articles of the Bronze Age, with war trumpets and then the articles of the early Iron Age, which also contain sonic remarkable golden war horns. These are followed by the middle Iron Age, and then by the later Iron Age. This part of the collection is superb. But it is impossible for me to describe the wonders of the museum.
I was greatly interested too by the collection of articles at the Rosenburg Castle. This is the only museum at Copenhagen which is not free; but the price charged is very small. It contains an extraordinary collection of royal clothes (what would Sartor Resartus say?), armour, furniture, drinking vessels, and all manner of antiquities connected with the Kings of Denmark.
I was especially interested by the collection of royal drinking vessels, from the earliest, made of wood, down to the latest, grand gold and silver flagons. What most amused me in respect to these boozing implements was the pegs that marked the depths down to which the stalwart Dane was able to swig at one pull an enormous draught of wine. In some cases the name and date of the heavy drinker was engraved on the flagon to record his topical feat. "Take him a peg down" was the ordinary saying, and the words have become a proverb amongst ourselves. For we unquestionably have derived a great deal of our drinking capabilities from our ancestors the Danes.
The whole of the museums at Copenhagen are excellent. Besides those I have mentioned, are the Ethnographic Museum — the best of its kind; the Museum of Coins, the most complete I have seen; the Thorwaldsen Museum; the Mineralogical Museum; the Zoological Museum, and many more. The custodians are always most kind and civil; and when they see any visitor interested in the collection, they take the greatest pleasure in going round with him and pointing out the beauty and rarity of the articles, imparting at the same time most interesting information.
Holding the memory of Tycho Brahe in the highest regard, as one of the great pioneers of astronomy, I was much interested by a contemporary portrait of him in the Town Hall; but still more so by the remains of his observatory at the top of the great Round Tower, where he carried on his careful observations by instruments of his own making and design. These, with many additions, he afterwards transported to the island of Hveen, where the remains of his castle and observatory are still to be seen. While I was mounting the Round Tower I could not but think of the footsteps of the great astronomer who has made it classic ground.
I left Copenhagen for Hamburg by coach. After passing through the island of Zealand, I was ferried across to the island of Fyen, and after that proceeded along the mainland of Sleswick and Holstein. I was much pleased with what I saw of the people of these provinces. Their farmhouses and cottages were wonderfully clean and neat. The women were all engaged in scrubbing and polishing. I believe I saw more brass, in the shape of bright door-knockers, during my journey than I had seen in all England. Even the brass and iron hoops round the milk pails, by constant scrubbing, looked like gold and silver. Every window had its neat dimity curtains edged with snow-white trimming. The very flower-pots were painted red, to fetch up their brightness to the general standard. I never saw a more cheerful and happy-looking people than those whom I saw between Copenhagen and Hamburg. They seemed to me to be very like the people of England — especially in the northern and eastern parts — in their oval faces, their bright blue eyes, and their light and golden hair, as well as their active minds and bodies, which enable them to do their work with hearty cheerful energy.
I went from Hamburg to Amsterdam by steamer and after doing a few days' business I went to take a peep at the fine collections of pictures there, as well as at the Hague. Then I proceeded to Rotterdam, and took ship for England by the Batavian steamer. I reached home safely after my prolonged tour. Everything was going on well at the Bridgewater Foundry. The seeds which I had sown in the northern countries of Europe were already springing up plentifully in orders for machine tools; and the clang of the hammer and the whirl of the lathes and planing machines were never still from morning till night.