Friday, June 07, 2013


Antipathy to the Metropolis

A Memoir of Thomas Bewick, Written by Himself...A New Edition, Prefaced and Annotated by Austin Dobson (London: Bernard Quaritch, 1887), p. 105 (editor's footnote):
Bewick seems to have been perfectly consistent in his antipathy to the metropolis. "For my Part," he says in a letter to Christopher Gregson, dated April 1803, "I am still of the same mind that I was in when in London, and that is, I would rather be herding sheep on Mickley bank top than remain in London, although for doing so I was to be made the Premier of England." "Bewick"—says a writer who knew him within the last ten years of his life—"often dwelt upon his trip to London, and, with facetious wit and great drollery, was wont to dilate upon his uncomfortable feelings during this sojourn from his own calf-yard. 'I was,' said he, 'quite overpowered by the coldness and selfishness of everything I witnessed. In every direction there was a hurry-scurry; and all the softer and more amiable feelings of man's nature seemed to me to be obliterated from the scene. I felt my personal pride humbled. I was nothing in the great mass of moving humanity. The whole affair was contrary to everything I had felt or thought previously. I never saw a single recognition of acquaintanceship or friendship in the streets; every single unit of humanity was moving in rapid succession as if it had no connection with anything around it. How different from what I had all my life been accustomed to! Why, in Newcastle, I could not get from my own door to Mr. Charnley's shop in Bigg Market without having twenty enquiries made by friends in my route, about my health and comfort of my household. But in London life is cheap; the hearts of even good men get hardened; and that mutual regard and sympathy, which are the real balsams of life, are seldom tasted. I was delighted beyond measure when I turned my back on the place.'" ("Memoirs of Dr. Robert Blakey," 1879.)

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